Position breakdown: West Virginia

The Mountaineers' offense and the Sooners' defense will clash Saturday.

Oklahoma has seen Clint Trickett before. Only in 2011, the West Virginia senior quarterback was stepping in for Florida State in a losing effort to the then-No. 1 Sooners.

He’s grown up a bit since then – and switched schools.

Through three games this season, Trickett and his arsenal of receivers have accrued 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns in the air and pushed Alabama to the fourth quarter in the season opener.

He has also changed the perception of West Virginia’s offense, bringing back an older era of a more prolific Mountaineers’ attack.

“A large part of it is Trickett, but I also feel all their personnel is really good,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

There lies the problem for Oklahoma and its cornerback duo: Zack Sanchez and Julian Wilson. Both have had their flaws thus far this season, and Saturday will be a huge test for the two of them. Wilson, in particular, will likely see a bevy of passes as Sanchez has an interception in four straight games and his fifth in the past seven games.

“I go into every game assuming I'm going to get challenged,” Wilson said. “I'm new at corner so people are going to test me to see where my game is at. … When the ball's in the air, it's another chance for a DB to make a play so really when the ball's in the air, I get more excited – more chances to make plays.”

Trickett, who has received a couple mentions as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate, got to West Virginia’s campus in August last year and took time to understand the offense. With an increased level of familiarity, Trickett has the Mountaineers in position to spark some worry among the top teams in the Big 12.

“He’s at the point now where he’s always up here, he sits in a lot of our meetings, as opposed to last year, when we had to signal things three or four times, now he pretty much knows what I’m doing before I’m even done signaling the play,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.

That is the key position battle this week. Here’s a look at how each team compares across the board:

Quarterback: Knight and Trickett have been two of the better quarterbacks in the conference during the first two weeks, but it’s Trickett who leads the league passing and total offense. He’s also second in pass efficiency, leading West Virginia’s potent attack.

Running backs: With Keith Ford, the Sooners own this position matchup. Without him, it’s much closer. Rushel Shell has been banged up, but Holgorsen said the Mountaineers’ top running back should be ready to go. It’s very close, but Shell has changed West Virginia’s run game.

Wide receivers: Sterling Shepard and Kevin White cancel each other out. Durron Neal even cancels out Mario Alford. But after that, Wendell Smallwood is better than K.J. Young thus far. Oklahoma is also without Ford, who is the team’s third-leading receiver. West Virginia

Tight end: Blake Bell is asserting himself more and more for the Sooners, and Dimitri Flowers will try to find his way back into the passing game. West Virginia has weapons, but nothing like Oklahoma’s tight end options.

Offensive line: It’s basically a unanimous belief that Oklahoma has the best offensive line in the Big 12 Conference.

Defensive line: Did you watch the game against Tennessee? Oklahoma might not get five sacks and hold the Mountaineers to negative rushing yards through three quarters. They are the better of the two units though.

Linebackers: Jordan Evans has elevated his game enough to entirely round out Oklahoma at the second tier of defense. Eric Striker is at the top of his game, and there might not be a more dangerous athlete on the field Saturday than Geneo Grissom.

Secondary: The Sooners lead the conference in interceptions but give up an average of four more yards per game through the air than West Virginia. Playmaking is always better for a secondary, and Oklahoma has been developing a trend that is very scary for opposing teams.

Special teams: Both teams rank among the top of the conference in return average, but if we are really looking into special teams, there’s one matchup you have to examine. Michael Hunnicutt’s nickname – Moneycutt – against West Virginia punter Nick O-Toole’s mustache – Google it. Oklahoma should have a new career points leader after this game.


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