Take Two: Which QB advanced?

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
10:30
AM ET
This week's "Take Two" topic: Which Big 12 quarterback still in a battle for a job took the biggest step toward earning a starting role during the spring games Saturday?

Take 1: Max Olson -- West Virginia’s Paul Millard

If the season started today … well, that’s a question Dana Holgorsen doesn’t have to answer, so no way is he going to any time soon.

[+] EnlargePaul Millard
James Lang/USA TODAY SportsPaul Millard was impressive on Saturday for West Virginia, but can he nail down the QB job?
There’s no gun to the West Virginia coach’s head when it comes to his quarterback decision, not when only three of his five potential candidates played in the Gold-Blue Game. No need to commit to anything now, though the Mountaineer quarterbacks did have one important audition Saturday.

And the passer who made the best impression this weekend was Millard. Which is understandable, considering this was the senior’s fourth chance at a spring game at WVU.

Millard completed 14 of 19 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, with both of those scores coming in the red zone. With Clint Trickett out for the spring and touted freshman William Crest not yet on campus, this was a prime opportunity for Millard to what he can do with the offense.

His competition on this day was junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former Division II transfer Logan Moore, who played receiver last fall. Holgorsen wanted to see his quarterbacks do a better job of getting the ball to playmakers like Mario Alford, but it’s hard to demand that consistency when your quarterback play is ever-changing.

Millard started three games, appeared in four more and finished with 1,122 passing yards and six touchdowns last season. But all three WVU starting QBs threw as many interceptions as they did touchdowns in 2013. He knows as well as anybody it’ll be imperative for the Mountaineers to find their best guy and stick with him.

“We all know it’s a long road ahead,” Millard said after the spring game. “Just got to keep competing.”

Take 2: Jake Trotter – Iowa State’s Grant Rohach

Millard certainly had a sharp spring game. But because Trickett wasn’t on the field Saturday due to the shoulder injury, it was impossible for Millard to distinguish himself from his biggest competition.

Rohach had no such issue in the Cyclones’ spring game. With Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning also getting ample opportunity, Rohach outshined them both Saturday while taking a strong step toward locking up the starting job.

Building off how he finished last season, Rohach completed 22 of 38 passes for 171 yards. He also dashed for an 8-yard touchdown off a slick read option, and was behind center on three of the offense’s six scoring drives.

The offense wasn't nearly as crisp when Rohach was off the field. Lanning, a redshirt freshman with a lot of potential, completed only 7 of his 14 attempts with 44 yards. Richardson, who began the 2013 season as the starter before suffering an array of injuries, threw for just 55 yards while completing 8 of 13 passes.

While head coach Paul Rhoads cautioned that the derby wasn’t necessarily over and that a lot could happen until August, he admitted that Rohach was the top spring game performer among the quarterbacks.

“We will come out of spring with two leading candidates,” Rhoads later reiterated.

The Cyclones have good reason to take their time in naming a quarterback. The players are still adapting to new coordinator Mark Mangino’s offensive system. And one spring game is no reason to overreact. Rohach wasn't perfect, either, throwing two late interceptions.

But Rohach has been surging since the end of last season. As a freshman, he was on point in a 34-0 win over Kansas. Then he rallied the Cyclones from a 24-point, second-half deficit to lift them to a triple-overtime victory at West Virginia.

Rohach still has work to do to nail down the job in August. But after his spring game showing, he will head into the summer as the clear front-runner to do so.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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