Behind 359 yards passing and three touchdowns against Georgia State, West Virginia redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress helped his case to become the long-term signal caller.
In a scenario quite like I envisioned before the season began, the solid play of Childress this past Saturday leaves West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen with no better option. Some could certainly make a case for transfer Clint Trickett at this point, but he doesn’t offer the upside Childress does.
With four years left to play, including this one, Childress has the ideal size and arm strength to become a prime pocket passer in Holgorsen’s ‘Air Raid’ attack. Although the Mountaineers only led Georgia State 20-7 going in the fourth quarter, Childress’s confidence continued to grow as the game progressed.
At one point, he took a nasty shot from a Georgia State defender and hung right in there, delivering the ball for a big gain. He showed some escapability as well, scrambling out of the pocket to evade one sure sack. While not blessed with blazing speed, Childress can move just enough if need be.
He seemed quite poised in the pocket, and his arm strength is certainly better than that of Paul Millard or Trickett. One thing he needs to improve upon, which will come with time, is going through his progressions; always searching for that second or third option. It seemed like he stayed mostly with his primary options against Georgia State, but this is to be expected with a very young quarterback.
Childress might be just the kind of guy Holgorsen is looking for to run his offense. Every game will be a learning process, no doubt, but Childress has a chance to grow into something special. The WVU coaching staff had to do something in order to spark the offense, and Childress provided just that, as the Mountaineers rolled up 604 yards of total offense by the end of the day. It was evident that he had become more comfortable by the of the game, as WVU scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.
The offensive line didn’t help him much, nor did his receivers. The line continuously struggled to open holes against Georgia State, and Childress was pressured and sacked on a few occasions. They had trouble against a Georgia State defense, which allowed 253 yards rushing on average in its first two games against FCS opponents.
The receivers had a myriad of drops throughout the game, which probably didn’t help the confidence of a redshirt freshman quarterback making his collegiate debut. With that being said, Childress still completed 25 of 41 passes and managed to get his feet wet in the process. He did under-throw and over-throw his receivers, but with more time at the position, more accurate passes should come.
Holgorsen noted that Childress did pretty well for making his first career start, saying he was very poised. Which isn’t what Holgorsen saw from his quarterback the week before, when high-pressure situations were involved at Oklahoma.
Childress will only become more poised with more starts. He’ll certainly go through some growing pains, but at this point he’s WVU’s best option. If he continues to play well, he’ll leave Holgorsen with no option, other than to play him from here on out.
He should be a lock for the starting job this week against Maryland. With another strong performance, it’ll only improve his case.
Holgorsen will have to learn to live with the growing pains that come along with developing a redshirt freshman quarterback, but soon Childress’s positives might outweigh his negatives. If the Mountaineers are going struggle, they might as well struggle with the young guy at the helm.
Allowing him to mature this season will pay big dividends during the next three.