With the Mountaineer quarterback situation the subject of such speculation, I thought who better than The SignalCaller himself, Mr. Jed Drenning, to give me a little insight into the 3 candidates vying for the job and who we might expect to emerge. If you don't already, you should familiarize yourself with Jed's multi-faceted work. He's on Twitter: @TheSignalCaller, he writes a periodic 'Hot Reads' column for WVUSports.com, he's put out the definitive WVU preseason football magazine (learn more about how to get one here) and even runs his own website where you can check out his (and my): TheSignalCaller.com.
We chatted on Sunday evening and Jed led things off with a prescient statement that was soon validated: "I think it's down to a two man race - but not the two you think. I believe it's down to Clint Trickett and Paul Millard. Ford Childress is easily the most talented of the bunch, he's a big guy back there in the pocket and can really spin it, but mentally he just isn't there yet. He's just not consistent."
This analysis was proven true when the team released the first team depth chart later that evening and listed the starter as "Paul Millard OR Clint Trickett." I can only assume Millard's position had more to do with his last name's order in the alphabet as it relates to Trickett's than his earning of the start on Saturday - but Dana Holgorsen is unsurprisingly holding his cards close to the vest for who will lead his offense on August 31st.
When we talked further, a picture emerged of two quarterbacks who each bring something different to the table, but each have their liabilities. Who can overcome those liabilities the soonest will almost certainly determine who takes the bulk of snaps from center this year.
It is an irony that one key to success for whoever wins the job could be the performance of a completely different position. "I'm looking at what happens between the guards," said Drenning, alluding to a trio of new starters at the interior offensive line and how effective they'll be at paving the way for a loaded backfield. "Nothing helps a quarterback like a 50 yard run off a draw. Now they've got to pull up their safety and that's more space to work with in the passing lanes. Especially early on this year, they've got to be able to run that ball."
Jed made another interesting statement when we discussed who will be starting on day one. "I'm not so sure that the best guy for the first 2 games may also be the best guy for all 12." It seems an odd thing to say, but quickly makes sense when you examine and contrast Trickett and Millard. "Paul's advantage over Clint is that he's been here. The advantage Clint has is he's got a certain moxie, he's got that game experience."
In short, you have one quarterback that knows the system and his teammates but lacks the in-game experience and more importantly the knowledge that brings. He is familiar enough with how things are that he can provide a short term solution, but might not have the tools it takes to be the guy for the long haul. "People get caught up in all the production that left last year, but it's really experience. And with that experience comes vitally important things like ball security. Think of Geno in 2010 and think of Geno last year. For some of his faults - things like holding on to the ball too long - he didn't throw the ball into harm's way very often."
Jed doesn't see that same quality in Paul Millard - yet. "Paul is more comfortable with where everybody is and where they're supposed to be and where the football should be going but he still has that tendency to go for the home run, to go for the big play. He puts the ball in harm's way more than he should, and it's because he hasn't played enough to understand how important avoiding turnovers is."
On the other hand with Trickett he sees a guy who has more game experience, but still isn't comfortable with the system - but who is making strides despite missing nearly all of spring practice. "Clint is making up for lost time. He's a smart kid, and the only thing between him and success is time. It's like a golf swing, you get more comfortable with reps and I just don't know if he's there yet. Can he figure it out? Oh, yeah."
The good news is that sometimes when the bullets start flying it's the best time for a QB to improve. "I remember my first start, I only threw about 15 passes. Mind you we had about 30 called, but I wasn't comfortable so I'd either run with it or scramble out of bounds. Then the second game I think I had about 300 yards at the half. So I figured some things out."
Here's hoping whoever takes the lead in this blue and gold quarterback derby can figure things out with the same rapidity. Maybe 300 first half yards in Norman is a tall order, but I'll settle for simple competency and moving the ball up and down the field with something approaching regularity.
Any history buff knows that the best generals are forged in the live fire of combat. The bullets start flying for the 2013 Mountaineers in 4 short days, so we'll all be waiting and watching to see who emerges to lead the charge.
Special thanks to Jed who was kind enough to give me his time on the eve of an AM hospital trip where his wife will be giving birth to their second child. Also congratulations to him on securing the radio spot with the new WVU IMG team. I know we're all looking forward to the expanded pre and postgame format. It's a big week for @TheSignalCaller!
More from The Smoking Musket:
- 2013 West Virginia University Football Depth Chart
- West Virginia Football 2013 Season Preview: Defensive Line
- West Virginia Football 2013 Season Preview: Offensive Line
- West Virginia Football 2013 Season Preview: Running Backs
- West Virginia Football 2013 Season Preview: Defensive Backs
- West Virginia Football 2013 Season Preview: Special Teams