A Difficult Decision to Make
So, Coach, who is your starting quarterback going to be? That question is probably a good way to get Dana Holgorsen to spit up his morning coffee.
Well, the question wasn’t posed quite that way to the coach during his morning news conference earlier today, but the subject was clearly on the minds of everyone in the room, and it has been on the minds of many West Virginians ever since last spring when no clear-cut starter was named.
And it has only amplified since the announcement was made late last spring that Clint Trickett was transferring in from Florida State. Presently, there are three quality guys for Holgorsen to consider and this is how he characterized the situation one week into fall training camp.
“We have nine more afternoon practices before we break camp,” he said. “I do not anticipate doing anything before that. We have started narrowing it down from where instead of 33 percent of the reps of (skeleton) and team we are going 50 percent of the reps with (skeleton) and team. (Thursday), we will pick two quarterbacks and they will get 50 percent each and then tomorrow it will be two different quarterbacks.”
Added Holgorsen with a cryptic smile, “We probably want everyone to be in the dark like everybody else does, but we won’t go into the first game without a clue who is going to be the first guy.”
So there you go, your daily West Virginia quarterback update.
We know a lot about Paul Millard - Geno Smith’s backup who saw only spot duty the last two seasons. We also know quite a bit about redshirt freshman Ford Childress, the son of former NFL football star Ray Childress and once one of Houston’s top prep quarterback prospects.
Now, we are beginning to know a little bit more about Clint Trickett, the son of former WVU assistant coach Rick Trickett who is now working on Jimbo Fisher’s staff at Florida State. Clint spent a portion of his childhood growing up in Morgantown before moving to Tallahassee, Fla., when his dad got the FSU offensive line job.
We also know that WVU assistant coach Tony Gibson helped put the Tricketts in touch with Holgorsen when Clint decided to transfer last spring.
“When Rick called me up and told me Clint was going to transfer and asked about our quarterback situation, I talked to the offensive staff and relayed the message, ‘Look, we can’t promise you anything but a chance to compete for the job,’” Gibson said. “Clint came up for the visit during the spring game and really loved it.”
These days it seems like when most kids are being recruited they want to know what a school is going to do for them. In Trickett’s case, it was what West Virginia wasn’t willing to do for him that turned out to be the most appealing thing of all.
“During the second recruiting process some of the other schools were pretty quick to say (the starting job) is yours if you want it,” Trickett said. “I didn’t really like that because you know, it’s college football. You’re going to have to compete wherever you go and I didn’t really trust what the other coaches were saying. But I trusted what Coach Holgorsen was saying, ‘Hey, I’m not promising you anything but you will get a chance’ so that’s all I could ask for.”
Gibson explained further.
“It’s unfair to the kids on your football team if you tell a kid you are recruiting, ‘Hey, you’re going to come in and be the starter.’ That’s unrealistic and a lot of people use that in recruiting,” he said. “That’s not the style we want to work with. You have a chance to compete and we’re going to give you every opportunity, and if you win the job then good for you.”
Trickett said he grew up a Mountaineer fan in Morgantown and admitted that he was somewhat disappointed when WVU wasn't that interested in him when he was being recruited out of high school.
“I wanted to come here but it didn’t work out,” Trickett said. “It was a different offense then so I went to Florida State. I wanted to come here after the fall but I didn’t have enough credits to transfer so I had to go back there in the spring and then after the spring I took a couple of visits and I knew I was coming here.”
Exactly what West Virginia is getting in Trickett is not yet fully known. The junior has some prior game experience at Florida State, completing 64.7 percent of his 34 pass attempts for 272 yards as E.J. Manuel’s backup in 2012. He saw more playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2011 when Manuel was injured in key games against Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest, with Trickett’s best performance being a 336-yard, three-touchdown effort in a 35-30 loss to Clemson.
“He’s a confident kid,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “You typically get that when it’s a coach’s kid. That’s one of the deals we look at when we recruit quarterbacks is if a kid is a coach’s kid he’s probably going to have a little different air to him as far as confidence, knowledge of the game and stuff like that. They’re raised a little different so they’re wired a little different.”
Trickett’s quarterback training has also been a little different, and what he did at Florida State for Fisher is not quite the same as what Holgorsen requires his quarterbacks to do here at West Virginia.
“Everything here is progression, that’s the hardest thing when everything down there was coverage based,” Trickett explained. “I’ve just got to go through my reads and stay on this and always be ready to throw it at a moment’s notice because you never know when you are going to have to throw it. Everything down there was pretty much set. On the fifth step the ball is out. It’s different here. You’ve got to be ready (to throw the ball) at all times.”
“I will say he probably wasn’t asked to get rid of the ball as quickly as he is asked to do here,” added Dawson. “That’s one thing that we’re working on and he’s made huge strides since he’s been here as far as the footwork. The way they taught him and the way I teach it is probably a little different.
“With that being said, I don’t know the differences with the actual offenses,” Dawson continued. “Our offense is a progression-based offense. Some of it you know where you’re going and that may be what he’s taking about. Most of our progressions are made after the snap, not before the snap. There are certain leverage things that we do when you throw, but as far as the down-the-field stuff it’s a progression. The decisions are made before the snap.”
“To the fan, as you’re just watching it, a lot of the offensive stuff looks the same, but to the actual details to what they are, there are going to be some differences everywhere,” noted Holgorsen. “What we’re asking him to do is different. He’s got game experience. He’s got quarterback experience and he’s got to adjust to that; he’s a smart kid, he’s a bright kid and he’s very intuitive.”
Holgorsen said Trickett also has a pretty good feel for the game.
“(That is) going to put him in position to be able to beat out the guys that have been taking snaps in our offense for the past two or three years. It’s a credit to him that he’s in the race,” said Holgorsen.
Whenever the decision is made, and whoever it is, Holgorsen said the media and fans are likely going to know – one way or another.
“I would be surprised if you don’t know,” he joked. “With social media – and we will try to get our guys to keep as much of what happens inside the building to the people that need to know – but with social media and emotions, I would be surprised if you don’t know.”
Holgorsen said an official announcement (or no announcement) regarding a starter could also hinge on how close the competition is.
“If it is really close then we are going to keep it as close to the vest as we can,” he said. “If it is clear cut then we will probably let you know. If it is that close it makes my job harder. It is no different here than it is anywhere else in the country. If you get one, two or three quality guys in a position battle, then obviously at some point you have to make a decision.”
According to Holgorsen, there will be a clear-cut decision to make even if there is no clear-cut choice, meaning he will not go into the opener with two starting quarterbacks.
“I have never done it and do not plan on doing it,” he said. “It does not mean that we cannot have two that are ready to play. Guys get hurt and go down all the time. That is a reality in college football, and that is one thing that the second team guy always has to keep in mind. They are a play away from getting in and playing a lot of ball.”
West Virginia Mountaineers, WVU football, Big 12 Conference, Clint Trickett, Dana Holgorsen
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