The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

June 25, 2014

Naming Trickett QB early gives Mountaineers stability

BECKLEY — The timing seemed odd. Right in the middle of an otherwise uneventful June afternoon, the West Virginia University sports information department put out a release stating that senior Clint Trickett will be the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers when the team opens the 2014 season against Alabama in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Aug. 30.

“Clint is 100 percent healthy and is ready to play,” said Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen in the five paragraph release. “He worked hard last season and showed a lot o ability and leadership and deserves the chance to lead the team as a senior. He will be our starter.”

Why now?

Is Holgorsen trying to keep his team in the news and not be outdone by the World Cup or The Greenbrier Classic? Was he just so excited that he couldn’t wait?

At first glance, the announcement seemed strange, but in reality it made perfect sense.

Holgorsen learned a valuable lesson last season, switching quarterbacks about as often as black Nike pullovers throughout the summer and fall. WVU played about as many quarterbacks as it did wide receivers — the Mountaineers had three different starters through the first six games. Nobody ever became “the guy,” and the team suffered.

Holgorsen has made a statement with Tuesday’s announcement that he’s not going to make the same mistake twice. Trickett, who completed 123 of 233 passes for 1,605 yards and seven touchdowns last year as a junior transfer from Florida State, knows the job is his.

He doesn’t have to spent summer drills looking over his shoulder like a hiker running from a bear, and he doesn’t have to become Lebron James and field question after question from guys like me about what he has to do to win the job. All he has to focus on now is the overwhelming task of figuring out a way to move the football against the Tide defense.

By announcing the news more than a month before camp opens on Aug. 1, Holgorsen is also protecting his other quarterbacks — Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and Logan Moore — who won’t have to answer 100 questions about their roles, either. By the time camp begins, the story will be older news than Tony Romo’s playoff struggles.

Forget the timing for just a second, though. The most important thing Holgorsen did was simply make a decision.

Before coming back home to West Virginia, I spent six years covering talented, but often underachieving, teams at the University of South Carolina. The Gamecock roster was always loaded with talent — Steve Spurrier can recruit — but they never seemed to win the big bowl game or be in the mix for SEC titles until the last couple years.

Why?

The quarterback position had a lot to do with it.

Throughout the entire Stephen Garcia era — from 2008 through 2011 — nothing was stable. Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia switched places under center and on the sidelines seemingly every other play during Garcia’s freshman year, and by the time Garcia was a junior, it was Connor Shaw relieving Garcia like a pitcher in the bullpen every time he got in trouble — on or off the field.

The result was a lack of consistency. None of the quarterbacks every felt truly comfortable. They played tight, knowing the first mistake would land them on the sideline with a clipboard.

The last couple seasons, though, the job as belonged entirely to Shaw, and the Gamecocks reached new heights, posting a 22-4 record, winning the Outback and Florida Citrus Bowls and ending each of the last two seasons ranked in the top 10 of the BCS rankings.

Now Trickett has that same stability.

Will he be able to gain experience and confidence and make the Mountaineers true contenders in the Big 12? That remains to be seen. But with Tuesday’s announcement, Holgorsen is at least giving him a chance.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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