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Dave Hickman: Job 1 is to keep Trickett healthy

MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen is concerned about the health of his quarterback, but not in quite the same way he was a year ago.

Last year it was reactionary. This year it’s precautionary.

“He needs to stay healthy. I think that’s obviously the biggest thing,’’ Holgorsen said of Clint Trickett. “And right now we’re talking to him about the specific things that he can do to be able to protect himself, which is what every quarterback needs to do out there.’’

For so much of Holgorsen’s coaching career, quarterback health was seldom an issue. Maybe he took that for granted. Throughout his time coaching offenses at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State, Holgorsen never once lost his starting quarterback for any length of time with an injury.

Maybe it was the system. Maybe he’d just always had durable quarterbacks. Maybe his offensive lines had been great. Maybe it was just dumb luck.

But then last year, all that luck crashed and burned. Ford Childress tore a pectoral muscle. Trickett had shoulder injuries and multiple concussions. Paul Millard pretty much escaped unscathed, but he wasn’t producing.

So, after going through that a year ago, the emphasis now is on quarterback safety. That’s a tricky proposition, though, considering the quarterback he’s trying to protect just had major shoulder surgery and isn’t exactly the biggest and most durable guy in the world in the first place.

Can Trickett stay healthy?

“Yeah, I guess that is a question,’’ Trickett said. “I guess we’ll find that out once we start playing.’’

True. But it would probably be wise to start thinking about it before play begins. That’s what everyone is doing.

There are essentially three issues here with Trickett. First is his surgically repaired shoulder. Preseason camp can be a time when quarterbacks overuse their arms, throwing not only during team periods but in passer, receiver and defensive drills.

Holgorsen brought six quarterbacks to camp this summer, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

A second issue is Trickett’s size. He’s not big — 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds. A year ago, by the end of the season he weighed considerably less than that. He’ll take precautions not to allow that to happen again.

“Last year it was me just eating away at myself, because I care about this and I care about this team and the state and winning,’’ Trickett said. “And when you’re not doing it, it eats at you. And literally it was eating away at me.’’

Of course, maintaining weight might be a bit easier this season for another reason.

“This year we can get fed a lot more with the whole Shabazz thing,’’ Trickett said with a smile, alluding to UConn basketball player Shabazz Napier, his comments about going hungry while on scholarship and the NCAA’s timely (although largely unrelated) response in the form of unlimited meals and snacks. “I appreciate him for that.’’

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson had another suggestion for Trickett.

“I told him to follow me around and eat what I eat,’’ Dawson said. “Then he’ll gain weight.’’

Then there is the third part of the equation, which once the season begins will be the most significant. Trickett has to stop taking hits.

OK, so some of those aren’t his fault. Offensive line play has to improve. That’s a given. But Trickett also has to learn not to always try to prove he’s a tough guy. And he knows it.

“I think I’ve proven I’m a semi-tough guy,’’ Trickett said. “If there’s a 300-pound D-lineman, I’m not necessarily going to run him over. If I need to just get down, get down. Peyton Manning does it and no one calls him any names.’’

Trickett won’t get much practical experience in avoiding hits until the games actually begin. He and the rest of the quarterbacks are hands-off during practices, which is pretty standard around the country.

But he can still practice avoiding those hits and studying what he needs to do when the games begin. Much of it is just changing the way he thinks.

“It’s a different mindset than what I’ve had because I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder trying to prove myself,’’ Trickett said. “It’s risk versus reward, taking the hits you need to and not taking the ones you don’t need to.’’

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


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