MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen knows he has a special talent in freshman William Crest but at present he is not a special quarterback, and that creates a perplexing situation for the West Virginia football coach as he heads into his fourth season.
Right now, as the Mountaineers went through their first day of hitting as they prepare for the Aug. 30 opener against Alabama in the Chic-fil-A Classic in Atlanta, he’s spoon feeding the program to Crest, admiring his talents, but fully aware that he is not ready to take charge of a football team.
When will that take place?
Holgorsen isn’t sure.
Freshmen are all different, be they academic freshmen who come with great grades out of high school or football freshmen who come with the all-star resume Crest built at Dunbar High in Baltimore, the same school that sent another rather talented package to WVU in Tavon Austin.
All those kids who look like they will have no problem grasping the academic side of college sometimes come derailed. Mama and papa are not there to set them down to do their homework or simply because they take Morgantown’s strip district down High Street too literally.
The same in football. It’s a different world and it often takes time and guidance, something Holgorsen is trying to present to Crest.
The best part of it, Holgorsen allowed, is that this is not an emergency situation.
“We got our starter,” Holgorsen said, referring to senior Clint Trickett, whom he named starter in part to deflect attention and pressure from Crest. “We don’t have to force feed him.”
No, they almost go with him like it’s the spring, and Holgorsen has even a bigger benefit in having Paul Millard on hand, a quarterback who has taken so many snaps over the past three seasons in which he has started numerous times that he doesn’t need a lot of repetitions.
That way Holgorsen can use Crest with his second unit at present, even if it winds up that he decides to redshirt him this season.
The conclusion you draw, however, listening to Holgorsen is that he really, really likes what he sees in the athletic Crest.
“I don’t now how he will continue to progress,” Holgorsen admitted, “but he’s talented. He understands he will get reps and will make mistakes. It’s all about learning from those mistakes.”
The thing is if Holgorsen can get Crest up to speed — so to speak — by the time the season comes around he would present himself with a number of options, for Crest is a different kind of quarterback than Trickett.
Would he develop a package of plays that the young Crest could master as a change of pace?
That would be out of character for Holgorsen, who likes to go with one quarterback, but he also understands the advantages that might come of that, especially if Crest is the special player he thinks he is.
Certainly at present Crest is not running the same offense that Trickett is when he is behind center. Instead, he is sort of running a quarterback starter set right now.
“That’s a little too technical for him right now,” Holgorsen said. “The plays we call with William in there are not the same plays we call with Clint out there.”
Holgorsen then made a telling observation … telling in that he understands just how difficult it is to move right in and play quarterback and telling just how talented he thinks Crest is.
“There’s a reason (Johnny) Manziel and (Jameis) Winston redshirted, and they are the last two Heisman guys,” Holgorsen said.
If they could benefit from sitting and watching and learning, certainly Crest could, too.
However, Holgorsen is certainly agreeable to putting together a package for Crest to use in games this season.
“I’d like to do that if he continues to progress because I think he’s a pretty good player,” Holgorsen said. “If he proves over the next three weeks there are specific things he can do well, I’d be more than happy to do it.”
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NOTES: WVU got fired up for the first day of hitting, which begins with going through Oklahoma drills, sort of a football tradition. Asked if he ever thought, however, or renaming the Oklahoma drill, Holgorsen laughed and admitted it had been discussed, but noted it is called that throughout football. “It is what it is,” he said. “Nothing against the great state of Oklahoma.”… Linebacker Dayron Wilson, a transfer from Lackawanna who redshirted last year, was given a scholarship on Saturday. … Offensive lineman Russell Haughton-James, who played in 11 games last year, is tending to personal issues and not in camp. Holgorsen expects him in school and to be playing this year.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel