Quarterback race hot topic for Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia University football Dana Holgorsen admits he is as interested in the quarterback race as any Mountaineer fan.

Holgorsen has a stable of young, but untested talent vying to replace the departed Geno Smith. Holgorsen said a frontrunner may emerge, but a starter won’t be named until some time in August.

“We have a lot of practices ahead of us,” Holgorsen said during Tuesday’s luncheon to announce the start of spring football practice. “We will give them a bunch of different reps and see where we end up.”

Junior Paul Millard is by far the most experienced of the four competing for the position, though that experience has been very limited as a back-up player in Smith’s large shadow. Red-shirt freshman Ford Childress, a 6-5, 234-pounder, has focused on winning the job. Scout team Player of the Year Logan Moore, who transferred to WVU after enjoying success at Fairmont State, may also find himself in the hunt, as will Chavas Rawlins, a freshman who enrolled early at WVU.

“This is the first quarterback competition I’ve had since my first year at Houston,” Holgorsen said. “They need a lot of drill work just to get comfortable with the offense.”

Holgorsen said unless one of the four separates himself from the pack during spring practice, the competition will carry through summer workouts and into August’s camp. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said there is no urgency to name a No. 1 guy until the week leading up to the opener.

“Up until that week, it’s just reps,” Dawson said. “For me to say one guy is ahead of the other guys wouldn’t be fair to the other guys. I wouldn’t want to blow one guy up.”

Gone is a trio of receivers who led the team in catches in 2012. Replacing Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and J.D. Wood will be a challenge.

“Our leading production guy going in is (running back) Andrew Buie,” Dawson said.

“He caught more passes than any receiver we have out there.”

Buie, however, is expected lead a strong group of running backs that includes returner Dustin Garrison, junior college standout Dreamius Smith and freshman Wendell Smallwood.

“We feel good about that position,” Holgorsen said.

Spring drills will begin Sunday and culminate with the annual Gold/Blue game on April 20. A starting time for the charity scrimmage game has not been set.

Following a 7-6 debut in the Big 12 Conference and having the loss of stellar seniors, Holgorsen said no position has been set in stone. There will tweaking and trading all throughout the seven weeks of practice. There also will be a learning curve for the coaching staff.

There are two new defensive coaches, two new offensive coaches, and Holgorsen will be searching for a new running backs coach following last weekend’s departure of Robert Gillespie to Tennessee.

“We have the coaches in place, the scheme in place,” Holgorsen said. “The depth charts really don’t exist. We will have open competition at every position.”

Wide receiver Dante Campbell (shoulder) and defensive back Terrell Chestnut (knee) will miss the entirety of spring practice. Defensive back Avery Williams (neck) and linebacker Jewone Snow (shoulder) will participate in non-contact drills only, and linebacker Wes Tonkery (foot) will be limited in the early going.

Offensive lineman Pat Eger, who is trying to come back from an ankle injury, will be moved to center for spring drills. Eger has played both guard and tackle in the past.