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Hickman: Trickett still best bet at QB

MORGANTOWN — Here is apparently what Dana Holgorsen learned about his quarterbacks after six weeks and 15 spring practices:

The guy who didn’t even take part and is coming off of shoulder surgery is still his best option.

Not that that’s a surprise, mind you. Short of some sort of spectacular spring-long performance by one of the others, Clint Trickett was always the leader in the clubhouse, even if he never left the clubhouse.

But Holgorsen seemed to make that thought official Wednesday when he (grudgingly, I’m sure) released West Virginia’s post-spring depth chart. The three quarterbacks who did partake of practice — walk-on Logan Moore, senior Paul Millard and junior college transfer (and sophomore) Skyler Howard — are bunched together in one of those either-or deals as the backup.

And above them, without the benefit of any “or’’ is Trickett.

Now that’s sure to be a reason for great consternation on the part of those who still look at West Virginia’s 4-8 disaster of a 2013 season and automatically conclude that Trickett had his shot in seven starts and didn’t particularly impress. Different has to be better, right?

Well, not necessarily. The fact is that the logic behind anointing Trickett the leader heading into the summer and fall camp — and remember, he’s only the leader; there is still competition to be had — goes beyond the failure of anyone else to jump up and make a statement in his spring absence.

Consider:

n In Trickett’s first start (and really his first legitimate action) he quarterbacked West Virginia to that 30-21 win over an Oklahoma State team that wouldn’t lose again until December. He threw for 309 yards, but was slammed to the turf late in the game and injured a shoulder that would never be the same and required surgery after the season.

n In not a single other game was Trickett healthy, and it wasn’t just the shoulder. He suffered at least two concussions, only one of which he bothered to tell anyone about. Not a particularly smart move, granted, but it did show some moxie.

n And as early as the middle of last season, Holgorsen began talking about how ill-prepared Trickett was for the job in 2013 given that he arrived on campus mere months before the season and had only weeks to prepare. He still seemed the team’s best option despite that lack of time in the program, but what Trickett needed most was an offseason of study and further acclimation to the system.

And now he has it. Sure, it would have been nice if he’d been able to go through 15 spring practices, but that seems almost secondary to what Holgorsen talked about all last season — Trickett’s need to study film and become comfortable not only with the offense, but with Holgorsen.

Sure, you can point to specifics about his performance last season and pick them apart — the lowest completion percentage among the three quarterbacks who played (52.8); a mere 1-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio; and, of course, a 2-5 record as a starter — but you can’t do so without also taking those health and familiarity issues into account.

Does that mean Trickett is a slam dunk for the job? Well, no. The real negative you can point to without much argument is his durability. That has to be a concern. The guy is small for a specialist — WVU’s three primary kickers and punters all outweigh him by at least 35 pounds — much less a quarterback and that’s not likely to change. Perhaps a better offensive line will reduce the hits he takes, but he’s still going to take some. And who knows how he’ll stand up to them?

But at this point there seems no question that Trickett is West Virginia’s best option. He and Millard have far more experience than Howard or Moore or incoming freshman William Crest, and Holgorsen seems to value highly experience in the system after last season. And in the limited time he was healthy last season, Trickett seemed to have a greater knack than Millard for simply making things happen and making plays.

The quarterback question, though, hasn’t been answered. It’s still going to an interesting August. We just know now that it is probably Trickett’s job to lose.

nnn

Not much on West Virginia’s depth chart was a surprise. Perhaps the most interesting ranking was at running back, where any of three or four backs could have been designated No. 1 and it wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow.

Holgorsen put Dreamius Smith there, followed by Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie. Don’t etch that in stone because that could change from week to week, if not series to series or play to play.

That’s actually the same way the backs were listed in the pre-spring depth chart, so either the coaches discovered they were right or they simply still don’t know or care who is listed first and they just like having so many from which to choose. I tend to think it’s the latter.

Actually, the new depth chart really doesn’t vary much from the old one (although Trickett was listed last on that one, presumably because he wasn’t going to practice). The only significant difference is Kyle Rose at nose tackle and Christian Brown at end. Their roles were reversed to begin spring.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1


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