STORYLINES TO WATCH IN 2014 Healthy Trickett After struggling at times last season while battling through injuries, will Clint Trickett look more like he did in WVU's upset against Oklahoma State now that he enters the season healthy? Backup plan With that said, if Trickett goes down again, who will WVU turn to? Will Dana Holgorsen go to the experienced Paul Millard or turn to one of the unproven quarterbacks hungry to make an impact? Eyes to the future It's a likely possibility that the future leader of the Mountaineer offense is on the roster this season. With Trickett already named the starter, plenty of focus has been on William Crest as the freshman is expected to take over once Trickett and Millard leave after this season.
A year ago, West Virginia could not find its quarterback.
All year long, head coach Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineer coaching staff bounced around between Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Clint Trickett – with all three signal callers earning starts at times throughout the season.
The bouncing back and forth led to uncertainty on the offense and WVU just wasn’t able to get good chemistry with the player who was supposed to be its leader, simply because of the fact that, from week-to-week, they didn’t know who that leader would be.
“This unit was looking for somebody,” said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “It’s hard to be the leader when you aren’t the starter.”
So when Holgorsen named Trickett his starting quarterback heading into the regular season more than a month before the Mountaineers opened preseason camp, it was an assurance not only to the team but also the coaching staff, fans and anyone familiar with WVU football that this was the leader. This is the person the offense will be able to look to from the moment the season kicks off.
For the senior, it was a relief. For the head coach, it was the obvious choice that he didn’t want to hold off to make.
“I was looking out there and 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 (last season),” Holgorsen said. “He’ll be able to take that to another level. People follow him.
“He understands what it takes to be successful. He needs to stay healthy – I think that’s obviously the biggest thing.”
Injuries were a large part of what limited Trickett during his junior season in his first year at WVU after transferring from Florida State. In seven starts, Trickett threw for 1,605 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
But he was only healthy for about three quarters in 2013, suffering a shoulder injury late in his first start of the season against Oklahoma State. The diagnosis at the end of the season ended up being a torn labrum and a Grade 2 AC sprain in his throwing shoulder, which required surgery and resulted in Trickett missing the spring. In addition to the shoulder injury, Trickett suffered concussions against Kansas State and Texas.
Missing the spring and being forced to the sidelines while watching if Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard or redshirt senior Logan Moore would emerge as serious competition for the starting role allowed Trickett to see the game from a different angle and continue to understand what the Mountaineers are wanting to do.
While it gives him the peace of mind that comes with knowing he’s the starter, it bleeds over to the rest of the team – especially every other position on the offense. There’s no doubt in the minds of the others on the coaching staff that naming the starter when they did will rub off and bring them the confidence that comes with knowing who they will be following when the Mountaineers head to Atlanta to take on Alabama to start the season.
“It helped this whole building. The coaching staff, the offense and even the defense, because now we know this is our guy. He’s our leader,” said running backs coach JaJuan Seider. “You need someone you can gravitate to and you need that quarterback to be your leader.”
For Trickett, the next step is to continue getting comfortable with his teammates and doing whatever he can to have West Virginia ready to compete and win games this season.
“If I throw five picks and we still win, I’m happy. If I throw five touchdowns and we lose, I’m not happy,” Trickett said. “I want to win games. That’s all I’ve been about.”
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
1. Clint Trickett, SENIOR
2013: 123-of-233 for 1,605 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions
2. Paul Millard, SENIOR
2013: 93-of-169 for 1,122 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions
3. William Crest, FRESHMAN
2013 (at Dunbar HS): 122-of-216 for 2,232 yards with 17 touchdowns
4. Skyler Howard, SOPHOMORE
2013 (at Riverside CC): 219-of-325 for 3,151 yards with 33 touchdowns and six interceptions
5. Logan Moore, SENIOR
2011 (at Fairmont State): 136-of-270 for 1,672 yards with 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions
What they're saying
"When you know you’re the guy and there’s no question about it, you’ve got the coaching staff fully behind you, it changes your demeanor, it changes your attitude.”
- Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson
“He’s vocal and he’s confident, not only in himself but in us too. He’s not afraid to take chances to let us make a play. He has faith in what we can do as his teammates.”
- Wide receiver Kevin White on Trickett
Meet the newcomers
William Crest has gotten all of the attention this fall, and was recently singled out as likely avoiding a redshirt by head coach Dana Holgorsen, so it's clear he heads all newcomers at the highly scrutinized quarterback position. Crest, who has shown more running skills than previously suspected (as evidenced by his work as a punt returner), has impressed the coaching staff with his physical abilities.
Will he get on the field? That's largely due to his ability to pick up and master the offense. Just like incumbent Clint Trickett, Crest is going through the initial stages of a quite complex process. There's not doubt that by this time next year, he'll be much more comfortable in every phase of quarterbacking. But for now, he is advanced enough to merit competition for a backup position. The big question: Will he progress quickly enough this year to be the clear-cut backup, or to have a series of plays that he can run as a bit of a change of pace? The answer as of now might not be the same one by midseason.
Almost forgotten is junior college transfer Skyler Howard, who appears slated for a redshirt this fall. While he has receded from the spotlight he was under during spring practice, he's a name to remember for next year. He might not have Crest's physical skills, but he's a fierce competitor who isn't going to give up the position without a fight.
Also in camp is West Virginia native Austin Hensley, who has added more depth and another solid arm to the position. The three newcomers give WVU a total of seven available QBs – depth which hasn't been seen for quite some time.
BGN publisher Kevin Kinder contributed to this report.