"I think the first thing we've noticed is that there's a lot of carryover. The third day of practice this year was about like the fifteenth day of practice last year.
"The attitude is better too. They understand what were doing better, so that allows them to relax and play their positions and compete. A lot of that comes from not having to learn so much this year. The kids are flying around and having a lot of fun."
That improved attitude is no doubt fueled by the fact that backup playing time is up for grabs behind the first team. Players competing for increased time this year include Justin Williams, Ben Timmons and Geoff Lewis. That playing time isn't limited to one position, either, as Trickett doesn't use a conventional backup scheme for his linemen.
"I've always kind of done it like a basketball team. I have a sixth man, a seventh man, an eighth man, and so on. If one guy gets hurt, we'll shuffle around so the sixth man goes in. For example, if a guard went down, we might slide one of our tackles over and bring another guard in."
Like any coach, Trickett would like to have ten or twelve linemen to work with on game day, but that goal might still be down the road a bit. Still, Trickett sees improvement in this area as well.
"I'd really like to get a full two deep, and we might be close to that. We're going to be a lot closer than we were last year."
With three seniors among the first five on the offensive line, Trickett knows that he has to bring some young players along, not only for depth this season but as front line players in 2003 and beyond. He notes that some of the redshirt freshmen have "some growing up to do", but says that he has been pleasantly surprised with their progress.
"There's been some surprises. Garin Justice has had a couple of good days, and Travis Garrett is working hard. They've just got to keep working."
One other player that could be in the offensive line picture is redshirt freshman Rod Olds, who is being tried along the defensive line this year. While there are often battles over getting a player onto a specific unit, Trickett was in favor of this experiment.
"That was my idea to move him over," he said of the talented Olds. "I know one thing - if we can't stop anybody we're not going to win football games. We'll look at him some more, but he might be back over on my side of the line pretty soon."
No matter who he has on his line, it bodes well that Trickett believes that his line is far ahead of last year's group at this time. After all, last year's line paved the way for 1992 yards on the ground, including a 4.2 yards per carry average. With last year's three top rushers returning, Mountaineer fans can hope for more of the same in 2002.