The question that’s been debated in barber shops and on front porches around the Mountain State for months — and probably decreased production in offices from Wheeling to Welch — is about to be answered.
West Virginia University head coach Dana Holgorsen didn’t give much insight into who stands where in the battle to replace Geno Smith as the Mountaineer quarterback, but he did indicate that a decision will be made within the next two days.
“We’re close to figuring that out,” said Holgorsen prior to Thursday’s practice. “We’ve got three more days to be fair to all of them and let them play. I’ve said it since the beginning of camp. If you have a bad day, you need to be prepared to come out and have a good day. I anticipate by the end of practice on Saturday (the final session before classes begin on Monday), being 100 percent sure of the direction we’re going to go in.”
Holgorsen, who indicated earlier this summer that the decision might remain a secret, didn’t say if he’d let media and fans in on the starter once he’s named. And he didn’t give much of a hint as to whether redshirt-freshman Ford Childress, junior Paul Millard or junior Florida State transfer Clint Trickett has the edge at this point.
“Paul and Ford have elevated their game,” he said. “Is that because there’s another competitive body or because they’ve had all spring and all summer and 17 days of camp to take reps? I think they’ve gotten better, which isn’t making our job any easier.”
Holgorsen was asked about comments he made earlier in the week about the leadership on last year’s team. Some New York and national media tried to read between the lines and assumed the comments were directed toward Smith, who was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets after rewriting the WVU record books.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan came out firing, saying he was glad his son didn’t go to WVU because of the way the school was treating Smith, who he said seemed to be a good leader.
Holgorsen, who never mentioned any player by name, said Thursday that the entire situation was a misunderstanding.
“All that falls on my shoulders,” he said. “It was taken way out of context. The bottom line is I was referencing our 2012 team not having enough leaders, and that’s one thing that we’ve taken into account this year. We’ve been working on that since January. We are developing a whole room full of leaders.
“That’s how you win a championship. You don’t win a championship with just one or two guys that you look to. You win one with a whole room full of leaders that take the bull by the horns and say, ’We’re going to do some special things.’ I like where we’re at right now.”
Two Mountaineers have left the program. Redshirt freshman H-back Will Johnson and junior wide receiver Connor Arlia — the Nickolich Award winner as the team’s top walk-on, who was thought to be one of the program’s leaders — have decided to walk away.
“(They’re) great kids, but they just want to go play,” said Holgorsen. “I will release them anywhere that they want to go, so they can go get themselves in a position where they can play ball.”
Johnson, who had offers from Auburn, Miami and others, before choosing WVU, redshirted as a freshman last year and was expected to play a hybrid role for WVU as a tight end/fullback combination.
Arlia, a Weirton native, caught seven passes for 43 yards last season and was named an Iron Mountaineer for his work in the weight room during the spring.
One area that has pleased Holgorsen so far this summer is the play of his specialists.
“I am going to brag on those guys a little bit,” he said. “Josh Lambert (a sophomore kicker, expected to handle field goal duties) is doing well. John DePalma (a sophomore long snapper) is light years ahead of where he was last year. That is a very under-appreciated position until they are not very good. But he looks very good.
“Our punters are booming the ball. Nick O’Toole (a sophomore) has a strong leg. Michael Molinari (a redshirt-junior) has done a great job punting and has also been doing a lot of kickoff stuff. Huey (freshman walk-on Houstin Syvertson out of Shady Spring) is doing great things, as well, and has maybe the strongest leg of all three.”
Holgorsen said that competition will continue over the next couple of days, as well.