The 'man from Van' hoping to lift WVU
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Much has been made of WVU's air travel during Big 12 play.
If, however, the Mountaineers make waves this season, it just might come by Van. More specifically, it might come via Van native and Mountaineer safeties coach Tony Gibson, who returned to his home state six months ago.
If Mario Alford, the nation's No. 1 junior college receiver recruit, starts, it's because of Gibson's efforts in landing the player. If Brandon Golson, ranked the No. 4 junior college linebacker, starts, it's because of Gibson.
And if former Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett starts for the Mountaineers, it's because of Gibson.
"When Clint graduated [from FSU] and decided to transfer, Rick [Trickett] called me and asked if we needed a quarterback," Gibson said. "I said he'd have an opportunity to compete. And it went from there."
Clint Trickett will not only have a chance to compete, but to win the starting job. And the back story makes the angle even more compelling.
As WVU fans know, there hasn't been such uncertainly surrounding the QB position - or the team for that matter - for a while.
"It's like 2005," said Gibson, who was also a WVU assistant that year for now-Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. "I don't know where we were picked to finish in the Big East, but we ended up going with a young, freshman quarterback and a freshman running back. Thankfully, they turned out to be superstars."
The running back, of course, was Steve Slaton. The quarterback was redshirt freshman Pat White, who took over for Adam Bednarik. Mountaineer fans know of White's wild college career success. What they might not know is White was recruited - twice, a second time when the player flirted with major league baseball - by the aforementioned Rick Trickett, Clint's father and the now-embattled Florida State line coach who worked with Gibson and Rodriguez in Morgantown in '05.
WVU was picked to finish third that year in the Big East, which is a little like being picked eighth in the Big 12. The Mountaineers were coming off an 8-4 record. This year, WVU is coming off a 7-6 mark.
Anyway, Gibson's help, especially in the area of recruiting, helped lift the Mountaineers to their rise in 2005 and beyond under Rodriguez. His return, as well other coaching additions like Ron Crook, JaJuan Seider, Lonnie Galloway and Brian Mitchell, is something that should not be overlooked. Ditto the addition of tailback Charles Sims. ("He's a stud," Gibson said. "Off the hook, just a great looking kid.") Ditto Clint Trickett's arrival.
"Obviously, I knew about him," Gibson said of the QB. "Rick was here with us for six years. I knew Clint was a good athlete and a winner.
"He has great leadership skills. I watched him on TV. And every time he went into games he made an impact. He throws the ball well. He's very knowledgeable. You don't see him get rattled. And whenever you have a coach's kid it seems to work."
Gibson, though, will be in charge of the team's safeties, parts of a secondary that did anything but work last season.
"The kids have been great," Gibson said. "Karl Joseph is a great player and I'm looking for big things from Darwin Cook. He had a disappointing junior year and we talked at length about it.
"He's hungry to have a big senior year. I think he'll have a bust-out season."
As it stands, Joseph will be backed up at free safety by K.J. Dillon and Cook will be spelled at strong safety by Travis Bell. Dillon, though, can also play the spur linebacker, nickel back or strong safety positions. Bell can play nickel, corner or free safety. Freshman Daryl Worley is also with Gibson.
We'll see if the man from Van and the other new WVU coaching additions can help.
"I really like this staff," Gibson said. "It's as good of a staff as I've ever been on. These guys can coach; they can recruit, and no one has a big ego. Nobody thinks they created football. It's just a bunch of guys who get along, want to win and have fun. I think the kids really respond to that."
As in 2005, he hopes.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.