MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Redshirt freshman Ford Childress, relegated to third-team status in the preseason, will be West Virginia’s starting quarterback against Georgia State, coach Dana Holgorsen announced Thursday night.
Paul Millard started both games this season, and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett played two series in the opener against William & Mary. But when a frustrated Holgorsen re-opened the quarterback race this week in practice, Childress leap-frogged both juniors and earned the right to take his first college snap Saturday.
“It’s his time, it’s his job and we’re going to see what he can do,” Holgorsen said on his weekly call-in show. “We opened (the competition) up on Tuesday and Ford took it and ran with it. He threw the ball as well as he’s ever thrown it and he managed the huddle really good.”
Holgorsen suggested there will be no scripted quarterback rotation against Georgia State, meaning the job solidly belongs to the 6-foot-5 Childress.
“He took about 80 percent of the reps today,” Holgorsen said, adding that he doesn’t want Childress going into the game and being “scared about making a mistake.”
“It’s his time, it’s his job and we’re going to see what he can do. We opened (the competition) up on Tuesday and Ford took it and ran with it. … The dude, he’s got all the tools.” — Dana Holgorsen
In 13 previous seasons as a Division I coach, Holgorsen has stuck with his opening-day starter throughout the season. But his patience quickly dissipated after WVU (1-1) committed five turnovers and scored only four touchdowns through two games.
Millard lost a fumble in Week 1 against William & Mary when he completed 19-of-25 passes for 237 yards with one touchdown in a 24-17 comeback victory. And there was no comeback during a 16-7 loss at Oklahoma, where Millard went 21-of-41 for 218 yards with an interception and another lost fumble.
With WVU’s offense misfiring against the Sooners, Holgorsen considered replacing Millard with Trickett, who had gone 0-for-2 passing during two three-and-outs in the opener. The coach made no mention that night of Childress, whose practice reps had been curtailed after Millard and Trickett became the frontrunners in late August based on their edge in experience.
“We had to make a decision at that point (in the preseason) and it didn’t work out,” said Holgorsen, ticking off several factors that initially sank Childress to No. 3 on the depth chart.
“It was a combination of things—communication and just (not) making throws and he fumbled a couple of snaps. He did a couple things we really weren’t thrilled about.”
Holgorsen was more thrilled with the freshman’s demeanor in the three weeks since. Instead of making a knee-jerk decision to transfer before fall semester opened, Childress stayed and was quickly rewarded with his first college start.
“I loved his attitude on the sidelines last week—he was probably the most active guy we had,” Holgorsen said. “I think he sat there on the sidelines and said, ‘I think I can do this.'”
Childress possesses the strongest arm of WVU’s three quarterbacks and could stretch defenses vertically, especially with receivers Ronald Carswell and Kevin White lining up on the outside.
Said Holgorsen of his new quarterback: “The dude, he’s got all the tools.”
Middle linebacker Doug Rigg (concussion) and safety/nickel back K.J. Dillon (leg) have been ruled out for Saturday’s game, Holgorsen confirmed.