It will be the Red Raiders Big 12 home opener after back-to-back conference road tests against Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
2014 is the Mountaineers third season in the Big 12 and they haven't enjoyed a smooth transition from the Big East. One of the reasons for that is Texas Tech, who upset a highly ranked, undefeated West Virginia team in Lubbock in 2012 and notched a thrilling fourth quarter comeback victory in Morgantown a season ago.
|Offensive Player to Watch|
|Clint Trickett||QB||SR||Tallahassee, FL||6-2||190||Jarret Johnson|
Simply put, West Virginia needs a big season from quarterback Clint Trickett and it is now or never for the redshirt senior who transferred from Florida State in the spring of 2013.
Trickett redshirted his first year at Florida State in 2010, then turned in a pretty impressive season the following year, which included 336 yards and three touchdowns in his first start against Clemson.
In 2012, Trickett barely saw the field as a backup playing in just eight games in mop-up duty. He transferred after the season.
Trickett played in eight games, started seven for West Virginia in 2013. He threw for 1,605 yards, seven touchdowns, seven interceptions and completed just 52.8 percent of his attempts.
Those aren't exactly the numbers West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorson expects from his quarterback in his version of the spread offense. Still, Holgorson recently named Trickett the opening day starter.
Holgorson stated at Big 12 media days earlier this week there is reason to believe Trickett has a greater grasp of the playbook than in 2013 and he should be much improved his senior year.
"So you fast forward a year later, August going into his senior year, a year later, 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," Holgorson said.
|Defensive Player to Watch|
|Nick Kwiatkoski||LB||JR||Bethel Park, PA||6-2||235||Joe Yeager|
When watching West Virginia’s defense play, Texas Tech fans could feel a sense of déjà vu. For roaming the back half of that defense is a 235-pound linebacker who wears the number 35 and plays the game rather like a certain number 35 who played linebacker for the Red Raiders. That linebacker is, of course, Zach Thomas.
Now it’s highly unlikely that Nick Kwiatkoski will ever be as good as the Texas Tech legend, but he’s pretty doggone good in his own right.
Kwiatkoski led West Virginia in tackles with 86 as a sophomore last season, and figures to add hugely to his career stop tally in 2014. Last season the weakside backer also notched 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and three big interceptions. Kwiatkoski finished fifth in the Big 12 in tackles, and No. 30 nationally in solo tackles. Jimmy Johnson called Zach Thomas a tackling machine; much the same could be said for Kwiatkoski.
Much like Thomas, Kwiatkoski is a physical linebacker who tackles surely and soundly. He doesn’t arm tackle or try to butt ball-carriers down; he lights them up and wraps them up. And as evidenced by his three interceptions—a good number for a linebacker—Kwiatkoski is also exceptional in coverage, which is a function of his high football IQ as much as anything else.
The entire Red Raider offense will need to account for Kwiatkoski on every play, because he’s one of the very best at his position in the Big 12.