It's time for the new face of West Virginia's offense.
Geno Smith will presumably be the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL draft, and his absence will be missed at West Virginia. But while Mountaineer fans mull over this loss they should also be embracing the future of West Virginia football.
Mountaineer fans are going to be treated to an all out war for the starting quarterback spot this spring, and four guys are in it to win it: Paul Millard, Ford Childress, Chavas Rawlins and Logan Moore.
Millard will be a junior when the season officially kicks off, and while he's the most experienced in Division 1 football, that's really not saying much—Millard's career stats include throwing 16-of-34 for 211 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Millard was the primary backup to Smith last year but most of his 2012 duties came in mop-up time in the first two games of the season against Marshall and James Madison.
Childress is redshirt freshman and looks big in the pocket at 6'5" and 234 pounds—he is an NFL prototype pocket passer. He's had a year to study the offense and could be a surprise this spring. Although he isn't as mobile as previous Mountaineer quarterbacks, his mechanics are sound.
Rawlins is a true freshman and more of a dual-threat quarterback. Rawlins has good size (6'2", 210 lbs), and although he graduated high school early so he could early enroll at West Virginia, he hasn't had the same amount of time to study the playbook afforded to the other quarterbacks. Still, he has that running ability that will make him stand out among the rest. More from Scout's Kevin Kinder:
That doesn't mean, of course, that Rawlins is primarily a runner. He has shown improvement as a passer after a round of camps and offseason work, and could provide an intriguing option in quarterback battles of the future at West Virginia.
Moore is a transfer from Fairmont State—he sat out last year and has two years of eligibility remaining at West Virginia. Moore is on the small side at 5'11" and 185 pounds—remember, schools tend to exaggerate numbers—but there's a definite upside to Moore.
In his two years at Fairmont State, Moore ranked "fourth in school history in passing yards (3,546) … ranks third for career TDs (31), fourth in total offense (4,324), fifth in completions (277)," according to the school's official website. Moore was also named the WVIAC Offensive Freshman of the Year.
While Moore doesn't have any experience playing in Division I football, he does have almost two full years of experience playing quarterback at the Division II level. Moore could be a sleeper in the battle for the quarterback starting spot if he has absorbed Dana Holgorsen's playbook.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, all four have a shot, and Holgorsen calls the competition "wide open."
"Paul's got more experience, probably understands the offense better than the other guys, but that doesn't mean we're going to give him more reps," said Holgorsen. More:
Ford is very motivated at this point right now. It's hard to be a redshirt freshman quarterback, so he wasn't nearly as motivated a year ago as he is right now. He's doing good.
Chavas is where both [of] those kids were a year ago and two years ago in terms of being new, trying to soak it all in. I haven't seen him take a snap yet in college so we are going to have a lot of opportunity to evaluate these guys."
As this thing goes on, we will discuss it. We've got a lot of practices ahead of us. We won't name a starter for a while. We've got three, four guys there -- Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Chavas Rawlins, who is doing a great job in the offseason. He has got some talent to him. Logan Moore from Fairmont is doing some good things.
Holgorsen hasn't tipped his visor, but he did note Chavas Rawlins and Logan Moore either did "great" or "good" things in the offseason. It's hard to imagine that a junior—who has patiently waited behind Geno Smith—may not get the start, but Holgorsen wasn't hired by the school to play superintendent and promote, due to seniority.
Whoever gets the nod will be filling some big shoes and expectations will probably be a little tempered, but when you consider all of the great quarterbacks that have come out of Morgantown, maybe this is just another reload situation.
Then again, maybe it won't matter who gets the start at quarterback.
Not even Geno Smith could overcome a defense ranked No. 112 last year.