WVU's Trickett feels like he's back where he belongs
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - That Clint Trickett is playing football at West Virginia these days is not as surprising to him as this:
That he wasn't playing here before now.
After all, that was apparently the plan he had for most of his young life. Morgantown was his home, WVU was his school and football was his game. Eventually the three would intersect, right?
He just never thought it would take this long.
"I wanted to come here out of high school,'' Trickett said Tuesday. "It didn't really work out. I really wasn't recruited. It was a different offense then.''
Three years later, Trickett seems to feel he's where he belongs. He's well into his first week of practice with the Mountaineers, in a battle with Paul Millard and Ford Childress for the starting quarterback job. And the offense of Dana Holgorsen is decidedly different than it was when Bill Stewart was the coach and Jeff Mullen his offensive coordinator. Those are the two who passed on Trickett when he was a senior in high school in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2009.
If Trickett is bitter about that, he doesn't say. But it's not hard to tell where his heart is.
"I was [disappointed],'' he said. "I came to camp here and really tried. It just didn't work out. They were in a different offense, so I understood why. But I always wanted to play here, in this stadium and for these fans.''
Of course, it's not as if Trickett was left out in the cold. He was, after all, a top-10 quarterback in Florida as a high school senior, and Florida State - where his father, Rick, was and is the offensive line coach since leaving WVU in 2006 - happily took him. He redshirted there in 2010, then was the backup to E.J. Manuel for two years, playing in 17 games and making two starts.
Yet even while carving out playing time at Florida State, West Virginia wasn't far from his mind.
"I was gone seven years and I visited twice every year, so I've been back up here all the time,'' Trickett said.
Even while playing at Florida State, he never really lost the thought of playing at West Virginia, apparently for a few reasons.
For starters, there was Manuel, who was entrenched as the starter and then wound up being the first quarterback taken in last May's NFL draft. When Manuel left, Trickett found himself in yet another battle for the starting spot in the spring, a four-way fight he would eventually lose to freshman Jameis Winston. Shortly after the end of spring practice, he announced he would transfer.
But the truth is, he said, thought of a transfer - even specifically one to West Virginia - began long before the spring.
"I wanted to come here after the fall,'' Trickett said. "But I failed a class and didn't have enough credits so I had to go back in the spring.''
Not that Trickett is a classroom liability, mind you. The fact is, he graduated early from high school to get a jump on school and football at Florida State, then graduated in 31/2 years - the half year when he should have still been a senior in high school, his redshirt year at FSU and then two as the backup quarterback. It would have taken just three years and he would have been out after the fall semester last year had it not been for overzealousness in scheduling.
"I tried to take 18 hours during the season. That was a rough fall,'' he said. "I almost did it. I knew what I was in for about Day 2.''
Needing to stick around for that extra semester to graduate - and thus become immediately eligible at a new school - Trickett went through spring practice and battled right down to the final day. Had he won the job, well, things might have been different.
Might have been, he said.
"It would have been a little tougher,'' he said of any decision to leave. "I would have had to thoroughly sit down with my family [and talk about it]. It was pretty easy, though.''
It was also made easier by the fact that apparently Trickett was never entirely comfortable at Florida State, despite - or perhaps because of - the presence of his dad on the staff.
"Things were uncomfortable down there with my dad being on staff. I don't want to get into it too much, but it was just really uncomfortable and I had to get out,'' Trickett said. "It wasn't the players. I was just one of the guys. They didn't treat me like a coach's kid. The players were fine.''
Perhaps it was the fans, who can sometimes be brutal on a quarterback with bloodlines to coaches. Whatever the case, with a degree in hand, it was time to go.
And the process of choosing West Virginia? Well, it really wasn't much of a process at all.
"I took a couple of visits, but I knew I was coming here,'' Trickett said. "It's a no-brainer. I'm from here. I'm a West Virginia kid. It was pretty easy.''
As it turns out, the timeline actually worked out pretty well. Yes, had he been recruited by Stewart's staff he would now have three years in the program, but he wouldn't likely have beaten out Geno Smith. And he would still be competing for the starting job with two years of eligibility remaining.
Trust that Trickett is competing, having been promised nothing.
"During this second recruiting process some other schools were pretty quick to say, 'It's yours if you want it,' '' Trickett said of the few contacts he made other than WVU after deciding to leave Tallahassee. "I didn't really like that because you know it's college football. You're going to have to compete wherever you go. I didn't really trust that what the other coaches were saying. I just trusted what Dana said. He said, 'Hey, I'm not promising you anything, but you're going to get a chance at it.' ''
The issue, of course, is that now Trickett is starting from scratch. Holgorsen's spread offense bears little resemblance to Florida State's pro-style attack, from the quarterback's reads to the faster tempo.
"Everything here is progressions, where everything there was coverage based,'' Trickett said. "You have to go through your reads and stay on them and always be ready to throw it. Everything down there was pretty much set. Once you hit the fifth step, the ball's out.''
His progress so far?
"Not there,'' Trickett said. "I don't think you're ever there. You always have to get better, the little intricacies that you try to figure out. I'm trying to figure that out now.''
As much as the transfer to West Virginia was, as Trickett said, a no-brainer, he still did his due diligence. Among other things, he talked to former West Virginia quarterbacks like Pat White and Rasheed Marshall. And despite the staff turnover since he was here as a kid growing up, there are still familiar faces all over the place, like assistant director of football operations Quincy Wilson.
"It was fun to talk to them,'' Trickett said. "My dad recruited Pat, so we had a close relationship. I knew Rasheed when he played here and even Quincy. I saw him the other day and he said, 'Man, it's cool to see you out here.' And I said, 'Yeah, it is.' ''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.