The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 26, 2014

Dawson says QB decision not his to make

Depending on how one chooses to view it, West Virginia either had three quarterbacks last fall or zero.

Over the course of the 2013 season, Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Clint Trickett all saw significant action and all made at least two starts.

Trickett saw the most time on the field although he was the last of the three to earn a start. The junior transfer from Florida State made six starts and played in eight games. He threw for 1,605 yards and seven touchdowns — but he tossed just as many interceptions and was sacked 16 times. He battled injuries and a lack of familiarity with the offense and never really established himself as the clear starter.

Junior Paul Millard started the season as the No. 1 guy. He started the first two games — a win over William & Mary and a loss to Oklahoma — but after a 16-7 loss to the Sooners, where Millard threw an interception and fumbled twice, he was pulled in favor of redshirt freshman Ford Childress.

Like Millard, the Texas native fared well in his first game, a blowout win over Georgia State, but he had a miserable afternoon in a 37-0 loss to Maryland, throwing for just 62 yards and tossing a pair of interceptions.

It was revealed later in the week that Childress had suffered a pectoral injury in that game, and he didn’t play again all season.

That opened the door for Trickett, who really took the job more by process of elimination instead of winning the battle. He had some ups and downs, never really earning head coach Dana Holgorsen’s full support

As a result, the Mountaineer offense struggled, and, combined with a sub-par defense, a disappointing 4-8 finish was the ultimate outcome.

“It isn’t up to us to pick a quarterback,” said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, looking back at a season he’d probably rather forget. “I know that sounds weird, but we’re going to give them the opportunity. Win the job. Make our job easy.

“Last year, nobody made our job easy. Nobody stepped up. That’s why we played as many quarterbacks as we played. We were trying to figure out who the best guy was.”

The Mountaineers will have a few new options when spring practice begins on Sunday. Trickett won’t participate — he’s out until May after offseason shoulder surgery — and Childress has left the program.

But along with Millard, and Fairmont State transfer Logan Moore, the Mountaineers will welcome Skylar Howard. The Riverside City (Calif.) College product caught the eyes of the Mountaineer coaching staff after an exhaustive evaluation of junior college quarterbacks around the country.

Howard threw for 3,151 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, leading Riverside to a 10-2 record and an appearance in the California state championship game.

“The biggest thing, in my opinion, in evaluating a quarterback is that the throwing part has to come easy,” said Dawson. “The release has to be natural. That has to be there.

“The intangibles are what set some over the edge. How’d you get to where you are? Are you a leader? Do you care about playing quarterback? Is it the most important thing in your life? That’s the biggest intangible we look for.”

That’s what Dawson said he and the WVU staff saw in Howard, a 5-foot-11, 200-pounder, who enrolled in January and will be in the mix this spring.

It also helped that Howard played in an up-tempo spread offense with some similarities to the one head coach Dana Holgorsen has installed at WVU.

“You want to see a kid that’s in the shotgun, because that’s the majority of what we do,” said Dawson. “You’ve got to be able to function in the shotgun. No offense is identical, but everybody sits through the same offseason process. Everybody is going to evolve a different way. You see different wrinkles, even when the roots are the same.”

William Crest, an ESPN four-star recruit out of Baltimore’s Dunbar High School, will join the program this summer, giving the Mountaineers another option to consider. Crest threw for 2,232 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and ran for 672 yards and eight more scores. He had scholarship offers from Maryland, Ohio State, Virginia and Virginia Tech, among others.

Dawson admitted that Crest will be a little behind without the ability to learn during the spring, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound prospect getting in the mix.

“It’s up to the person,” said Dawson. “How much do you want to be the quarterback? If you want to be it bad, then you’ll have your tail up here a lot, and you’ll ask a lot of questions. You can learn it if you take it upon yourself to learn it. It’s like any other position.”

As the spring approaches, Dawson isn’t about to handicap the race to see who will get the start on Aug. 30 when the Mountaineers take on Alabama in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

He insists the decision is not his to make.

“You’ve got a lot of kids now that haven’t had a lot of reps,” he said. “We’re going to give them reps and see what they can do. If they prove they can do it, good. If they don’t, then we have to find who can.

“All you can ask for is an opportunity. With those reps, what do you do? Win the job. When you get an opportunity, take advantage of it.”

WVU will hold its annual Gold-Blue Spring Game April 12 at Mountaineer Field.

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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