MORGANTOWN - After spring drills, several unsupervised summer sessions and two dozen August practices, West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen has trimmed the list of prospective starting quarterbacks by one.
Holgorsen said junior Paul Millard and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, a redshirt junior, will evenly split time this week as the Mountaineers prepare to open the season Saturday at noon against William & Mary. Red-shirt freshman Ford Childress will try to stay sharp in the event of an injury.
"I feel good about having three quarterbacks that we can put out there ready to play," Holgorsen said. "Who's going to start? I don't know. Paul or Clint will start. They will both play. Potentially, all three of them will play. At this point, they've done nothing to warrant not playing quarterback here. It's going to take some game reps and putting these guys in situations where they have to respond to really know what we're working with."
It's the first time since the 1986 season when Mike Timko, Tony Reda and John Talley all fought to be the starting quarterback for WVU. It's the first time since Pat White's red-shirt freshman season of 2005 that WVU enters the season without a clear-cut starting quarterback.
"It's competition. It's Division I football," Trickett said. "You're going to have to battle. I really don't look at it like I'm battling against the other quarterbacks. I'm battling against the defense. No matter what the other guy does, you still have to focus on your job."
Millard has spent the past three seasons backing up Geno Smith, and he thinks his time is now.
"Since my freshman year, being the backup, I think I've learned a lot," Millard said. "My arm has gotten stronger. I definitely think that I am capable of making plays."
"Would I rather have a three-year starter returning at quarterback? Yeah," Holgorsen said. "We don't live in a perfect world. What we are dealing with right now is the same as what 30-50 other schools are dealing with. It's college football, and graduations happen. That opens the door for the next star to be born. I'm not about to sit here and worry or lose sleep or gripe and moan about not having those guys. I'm excited about the guys we've got, and I'm looking forward to going out there and watching them make plays."
Childress, who recently moved in with Trickett, could still get a chance to play this season.
"The only reason we reduced Ford's reps is because he hasn't taken a snap in college," Holgorsen said. "Clint has played in high-profile games, and Paul has been put in there on several different occasions and has at least taken snaps in college. None of it will compare to running out there as the starting quarterback, which Clint has done on some occasions.
"Ford's got four years of eligibility," the coach added. "Geno Smith was thrust into game eight or nine of his freshman year, and Clint Trickett was a third-team quarterback last year and ended up starting seven or eight games. You better keep your head up, study hard and work hard because you never know when your number is going to be called. You had better be ready to make the most of it. That's Ford's mentality right now, and I expect it to be like that until his number is called. It could be this year, it could be next year, or it could be the year after that."
Holgorsen said the players will make the ultimate decision on who eventually settles in as the starting quarterback.
"The guy that we're going to give the most reps to is going to take care of the ball and make good decisions about hand-offs, interceptions and all of that," Holgorsen said. "They have to take care of the ball and minimize the negative situations, such as turnovers and giveaways."