MORGANTOWN — When Dana Holgorsen named Clint Trickett as West Virginia’s 2014 starting quarterback, it seemed to some premature.
Truth be told, though, it could — and perhaps should — have happened even earlier.
Like, say, a year ago.
“The rules being the way they are this year, if they’d been that way last year, he probably would have been the starter from Day One,’’ offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “But last year when he came in, we couldn’t work with him.’’
OK, so maybe that really would have been premature. After all, in early May of last year, he was still enrolled at Florida State. He wouldn’t arrive in Morgantown until later that month and it was August before he could actually be coached at West Virginia.
Think about it, though.
A year ago at this time, Trickett was almost universally viewed as the guy who would eventually win the quarterback battle with Paul Millard and Ford Childress. Turns out that in large part he wasn’t the winner right away. Millard started the first two games and Childress the next two before it was Trickett’s turn.
But consider what might have happened had this year’s rules been in place. Trickett could have begun watching tape with the coaches virtually from the time he arrived on campus. He could have taken part in workouts that the coaches could watch. His development would have been far more structured.
“The rules at that time, we couldn’t work with him. And playing in different systems, they’re learning a new language,’’ Dawson said. “His comfort level now is a lot better than it’s ever been. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that.’’
Now realistically, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that mere summer rules would have made a startling difference in what would become a 4-8 WVU season. There were far more issues with that team than a revolving door at quarterback. But it was certainly a contributing factor.
Until a few days before the opener, the starter was still unknown. It was Millard in large part because Holgorsen and Dawson didn’t feel comfortable yet with Trickett’s grasp of the offense. Two weeks later, when the first change was made, it was Childress who jumped from third to first on the depth chart, again in part because of Trickett’s inexperience in the system.
Trickett finally got the call the fifth week of the season. Argue if you like that it was because Childress was hurt, but more than that it was because Trickett was finally getting close. He wasn’t there yet, but by that time, it was worth a shot. And Trickett made it pay off by helping WVU beat No. 11 Oklahoma State.
Again, we’re not foolish enough to argue that had Trickett been ready from the start that the season would have played out dramatically different. The defense still would have been young and struggling, the other skill position players still would have been almost entirely new and Trickett still would have been battered and played hurt.
But if there’s one thing West Virginia learned through all of that, it’s that throwing a quarterback controversy into the middle of it all didn’t help. So now that’s been eliminated. Not only is Trickett secure, those around him aren’t constantly wondering.
“This unit is looking for somebody. They need to look to somebody to be the leader,’’ Dawson said. “It’s hard to be the leader when you’re not the starter. When you’re talking about competition [at quarterback], those [other players] are sitting there thinking, ‘Who am I looking to?’
“That group right now needs leadership. They look to him anyway, and as long as we feel it’s clear cut in our mind, why not do it? It clears up things with the guys around him and it clears up a lot of things with him. He can have a clear mind, relax, get better and not worry about winning a job every day.’’
So naming a starter and clearing all of that up seems unquestionably the smart move.
Really, the only thing that is even remotely debatable (assuming Trickett is healthy after shoulder surgery) is whether he was the right choice. Given that his competition was Millard, raw junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former walk-on Logan Moore, it doesn’t seem like much of a debate.
“When you clear everything else out, just sit and watch [the tape] and ask, ‘Did he do good or did he do bad? Did he make the reads? Can he make the throws?’ ’’ Dawson said. “And when you look at him when he was healthy, especially in the two Big 12 games we won, when he was healthy he played at a pretty high level. When he was injured, he didn’t play at a very high level.
“I thought he was the best option last year. Looking at all the games, he was the best option last year and he’s the best option this year.’’
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.