DALLAS – West Virginia is now beginning year three in the Big 12 Conference and Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen says he has never been more excited about going into a season than he is right now.
“I think our players in our locker room understand what the Big 12 is all about,” Holgorsen said during Tuesday morning’s Big 12 media day gathering at the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas. “They understand how challenging it is.”
Holgorsen pointed out that 55 players on his current roster have played in at least one Big 12 game, including quarterback Clint Trickett
, recently named as the team’s starter heading into the season opener against Alabama.
All eyes are certainly going to be on Trickett, the one-time Florida State transfer who has been playing catch up here at WVU ever since he arrived on campus last August.
Trickett, the son of former West Virginia and current Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, possesses outstanding football knowledge having been around the game all of his life.
Unfortunately for Trickett, he did not possess outstanding knowledge of Holgorsen’s West Virginia system coming in, and he got further behind the eight ball when he injured his shoulder in the first half of West Virginia’s 30-21 victory over Oklahoma State – easily the best Mountaineer win in conference play since joining the Big 12 two years ago.
Trickett appeared in seven Big 12 games last season and actually finished third among all conference quarterbacks in passing yards per game (229.3 ypg.) and total offense (225.7 ypg.), but overall, West Virginia’s passing game failed to match the production that fans have come to expect from Holgorsen’s vaunted passing attack.
The Mountaineers were third in passing yards (276.3 ypg.), fourth in total offense (415.7 ypg.), seventh in passing efficiency (111.9 rating) and seventh in scoring offense (27.9) and those numbers are simply not going to make up for a defense that has consistently ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in every key category.
Not only does the defense have to perform better this year, but the quarterback position has to become more consistent and it’s Holgorsen’s hope that Trickett is the guy who can make that happen.
“Clint’s been around football his whole life,” said Holgorsen. “I think it starts with his father, Rick, who is a tremendous offensive line coach at Florida State. (Clint) played three good high school years at North Florida Christian and played at a high level down there in a pretty good football situation, backed up E.J. Manuel and backed up Jameis Winston for several years, and has been around a lot of football.
“But he joined our team in August and although he possesses a tremendous amount of knowledge when it comes to the game of football, he possessed zero knowledge when it came to our offense. So it took him a while to be able to understand that. When I finally felt like he was ready to go, we put him in against Oklahoma State and he had a tremendous game, got hurt, and was never the same the rest of the year.”
Now, hit the fast-forward button to today and Holgorsen says he is seeing a completely different Clint Trickett
“Not only does he possess the knowledge that it takes to be successful in the game of football, he understands the knowledge that needs to exist when it comes to our team,” said Holgorsen. “He’s been out there working with our guys all summer.”
Although the team and the coaches are limited with what they can do together during the summertime, Holgorsen said the cohesion Trickett is building with the receivers should be noticeable when the team reconvenes for training camp starting next Thursday, July 31.
“There’s a rapport that needs to exist with him and the receivers in order to be successful,” Holgorsen pointed out. “They need to understand each and every one of their little nuances when it comes to being able to get open and the sign language and the nod here, and a cut-off there.”
Holgorsen continued, “That’s starting to exist with him right now with him and the rest of the guys. I think that’s going to take care of itself.”
Holgorsen also touched on why he felt it was important to name Trickett the starting quarterback when he did right in the middle of the summertime.
“He’s healthy – he’s 100 percent,” said Holgorsen. “His arm strength is awesome and his body weight is good. The leadership aspect of it is something that we were missing (last season). We had a bunch of guys coming back that played a lot of football but there wasn’t any leadership that was present at the quarterback spot – at the skill spot.”
And that is where Holgorsen believes Trickett could have the biggest impact on this year’s team.
“He’ll be able to take that to another level. People follow him,” said Holgorsen. “He understands what it takes to be successful but he needs to stay healthy. I think that’s obviously the biggest thing. Right now we’re talking to him on some of the specific things he can do to be able to protect himself, which is what every quarterback needs to do out there.”
A healthy, confident and productive Clint Trickett
will go a long way in helping the Mountaineers overcome a tough schedule that Holgorsen believes is one of the most difficult in the country this year.
“We play one of the toughest - if not the toughest schedule in the country this year,” he said. We haven’t really mentioned to our guys what the challenges are ahead of because they know and they’re working hard and getting themselves ready for the challenge that exists here in 2014.”