MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen was talking Tuesday about how his quarterback, Clint Trickett, might be able to stay out of the kind of trouble that plagued him last season.
And no, he wasn’t talking about Twitter.
The subject was injuries.
Reviewing Trickett’s performance last season by any metrics or in any fashion requires one to first take into account his health. Regardless of whether one is making the case for Trickett (1,605 yards passing, clutch performances in wins over Oklahoma State and TCU) or against him (just a 52.8 percent completion percentage, as many interceptions as TDs), one overriding issue must be taken into account.
Trickett was 100 percent healthy and functional for less than one full game.
“It’s not fair to judge him on last year because he was never right,’’ wide receiver Kevin White said during the Big 12 media days in Dallas this week. “He was always hurt.’’
The exception was the game Trickett played against Oklahoma State, his first start and his first real playing time. West Virginia won that game 30-21, easily the most impressive of what would be just four wins all season. He threw for 309 yards and, while his numbers were not outstanding (48 percent, two picks, one TD), he provided a spark and leadership.
But in the fourth quarter Trickett was also slammed to the turf after a pass and injured his shoulder. It would never be right the rest of the season. He also continued to take a beating and suffered at least two concussions, in addition to throwing with a painful shoulder. Yet he still played six of the final seven games.
“We put him in against Oklahoma State and he had a tremendous game,’’ Holgorsen said. “Then he got hurt and was never the same the rest of the year.’’
Holgorsen maintains that had Trickett — and others — been healthy all season, West Virginia’s 4-8 record could easily have been a little better. A few lucky breaks here and there and it could have a lot better.
But the health of his quarterback is the key. Having already named Trickett the starter, Holgorsen is working on ways to keep him healthy.
“He’s healthy, 100 percent. His arm strength is awesome, his body weight is good,’’ Holgorsen said. “That’s all going to take care of itself.’’
But will it take care of itself? There are two things about Trickett that create alarms about his ability to remain healthy. First, he’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, but that’s offseason, weight-training weight. By the end of last season, Trickett admitted that he was down to about 150 pounds, which is a ridiculous size to be playing college football.
The second issue is Trickett’s attitude, which is generally not to protect his body first. He takes some chances, whether it be remaining in the pocket too long or scrambling out of it and into even more danger.
So the task is to assist in both of those areas, and that’s exactly what WVU’s coaches are doing.
“He needs to stay healthy. I think that’s obviously the biggest thing,’’ Holgorsen said. “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.’’
If Holgorsen can figure out how to keep his quarterback healthy, that will go a long way toward West Virginia improving. It’s not the cure-all, of course, because as Holgorsen himself pointed out there were other issues last season, including “my inability to call good plays.’’
But it would certainly be a start.
“I’d never really had a quarterback hurt before last year and then it seemed like they all got hurt,’’ Holgorsen said. “We have to do what we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.’’
BRIEFLY: West Virginia is apparently going to spend a lot of time in North Carolina in 2018. A day after formally announcing a neutral-site game against Tennessee in Charlotte on Sept. 1 of that year, the school said it will return to the state two weeks later to face N.C. State.
That game will be the first of a home-and-home with the Wolfpack, with the Morgantown game scheduled for 2019. WVU couldn’t play the 2018 game at home because it needs it in 2019, when the Big 12 schedule has just four home games.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.