Run Options

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen notes that one of his goals is to get the ball out of quarterback Clint Trickett's hands as quickly as possible. While that tenet holds in the passing game, it doesn't mean that the wiry senior won't take off with the ball when the occasion warrants.

Clint Trickett isn't going to be mentioned in the same breath with the top dual-threat QBs in the nation, but he has actually made at least three very nice runs in the first two games of WVU's 2014 season. Against Alabama, he turned away from a potential screen to skirt the left end and pick up a first down on a play that was decidedly not a called QB run. One week later against Towson, he again pulled the ball down and sped around a defender for a nice gain before stepping out of bounds, and capped his limited, though effective, night on the ground with a QB draw in the red zone through a spread out Tiger defense for a score.

His total yardage on the ground barely breaks even, as the sacks of week one subtracted 25 from his total. Even with those discounted, he's still barely in double figures each week, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the majority of those runs were productive. Still, with Holgorsen's reluctance to expose his QB to hits, how many times will Mountaineer fans see him tuck it under and run?

A couple of factors figure in. First, Trickett's decision making has been outstanding this year. He hasn't come close to being intercepted, and he has gotten the ball in the right place the vase majority of the time. He's using that same outstanding judgment in the running game – he's only lighting out when he has a big gap, or when he sees that he can beat a defender and pick up yardage. Second, he's a little faster than he seemed to be a year ago (being healthy certainly has something to do with that), and has run by a couple of defenders on his way to those gains. He's not going to blaze by people like Mario Alford, but his ability to skirt a defensive end or a big linebacker gives him an avenue to get out of bounds safely.

With those items established, it shouldn't be a problem if Trickett runs the ball on occasion. It can catch the defense off guard, as in the case of the QB draw, and he always has the option of throwing the ball away to avoid contact if he doesn't get to the corner and have the option of stepping out of bounds. Holgorsen certainly encourages that action, but he also has to be happy when his QB sees the field and takes a gain when its available, so long as a hard hit doesn't result at the end.

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The lifting of the redshirt of William Crest adds another dimension to runs from the backfield. While his appearance in the Towson game was a surprise, he quickly showed some of the improvement that Dana Holgorsen described in his post game press conference. The true freshman, despite a fumble on his first series, picked up 14 yards on four carries while scooting around left end for the first touchdown of his college career. Crest's obvious running ability gives the Mountaineers another option to call on, and begs the question of whether or not the coaching staff might use him in a package of plays as a change of pace.

Holgorsen, when asked about such a scenario in fall camp, was non-committal, but that doesn't mean it might not happen. He successfully deflected attention from Crest during the latter part of August by noting that his head was still spinning in terms of assimilating the offense and learning everything that goes with the position in his system, but clearly those concerns, if they were actually concerns, were dismissed by his play over the past 2-3 weeks. Crest certainly wouldn't be limited to just running the ball if he does make appearances, but the threat of the run would certainly be more present if he makes it on the field.

That gives rise to a final issue, and one that is a bit away from the opening topic. With Trickett dealing such a hot hand at the moment, would it be wise to put Crest in as a change of pace QB and perhaps disrupt the rhythm that has finally returned to the Mountaineer attack? Conventional wisdom might say “no”, but Holgorsen is anything but conventional. Week-to-week decisions on Crest's playing time will also include evaluations of the defensive matchup and his progress over the preceding week, but at this point it's clear that he is available for duty at any point. Using him in certain cases (perhaps as a goal line QB that adds zone reads to the attack?) is now something that opponents will have to at least give some thought to in their game planning.


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