MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During the four months following Geno Smith’s final collegiate pass, Mountaineer Nation discussed, deliberated and in some corners despaired over which of the heir apparents, Paul Millard or Ford Childress, would inherit the promotion to starter.
Then May 1 dawned, Clint Trickett announced he was transferring to West Virginia from Florida State, and the conversation shifted faster than a Tavon Austin cutback. Now, after a summer of seven-on-seven drills and strength conditioning, fall camp opens Thursday with one unmentioned yet undeniable truth encompassing the WVU offense.
This is Trickett’s job to lose.
Dana Holgorsen hasn’t said so directly, but nondeclarative comments can’t obscure the fact Trickett ignored smoother paths to playing time at Auburn, South Florida and Kentucky. Sure, Trickett spent seven formative years in Morgantown, but he didn’t come back for the pepperoni rolls.
Though Holgorsen and the newcomer contend no starting job was promised, Trickett could see there is promise in the opportunity to finally become a full-time Division I starter.
“He’s got confidence in his abilities,” Holgorsen said last week in Dallas. “But it wouldn’t be fair to anybody if I just gave him the job. He’s got to go earn it.”
Trickett might have earned the job at FSU if not for the overlapping presence of Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel—two first-round NFL draft picks. And with the Seminoles grooming five-star recruit Jameis Winston—a kid Holgorsen noted “looks a lot like the quarterbacks who just left”—Trickett was on the verge of being typecast as a career backup.
With his undergraduate degree in hand, Trickett became a free-agent with immediate eligibility. What better spot to be reborn than under Holgorsen, a coach with a 13-year track record of starting quarterbacks who averaged 4,655 yards passing?
Trickett hasn’t spoken with the media since announcing his transfer plans, but his father, FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett. suggested Tuesday that WVU has landed another quarterback capable of prospering in Holgorsen’s uptempo attack.
“The thing he always did well here was the 2-minute offense,” Rick Tickett said in a MetroNews “Sportsline” interview from Tallahassee, Fla. “Even when he was a true freshman, he could take the ball down the field. Some guys have a knack for that.
“We did a lot (offensively) and he knows a lot. I think he’s well-adapted to all the coverages. I think he really knows the game. He’s a smart kid and he can throw the football.”
If that rings too much like a proud papa talking, consider what that dadgum former Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said upon seeing Clint work out among a slew of talented high school quarterbacks at an FSU camp in 2009.
“Of all the quarterbacks there, Coach Bowden said, ‘I want that one because he’s got ‘it,’” Rick Trickett recalled.
Perhaps Holgorsen has seen ‘it’ in Clint Trickett as well. He certainly has seen the kid exude more toughness than you’d expect from such a scrawny build.
“What I saw on tape that stood out more than anything was durability,” Holgorsen said. “Everybody thinks Clint’s not durable because he’s thin. Well, I saw some guys from OU and Clemson hit that kid about as hard as anybody’s ever been hit, and he jumped up and was right back in the middle of it.”
Attribute some of that resilience to Trickett’s dad’s, a man Holgorsen called “one of the tougher dudes in our profession.” And dad confides that Trickett is no longer so fragile-looking, claiming the junior added 16 pounds over the summer. (Heck, maybe he did come back for the pepperoni rolls, though dad credits the pounds to some nutritional muscle-building with WVU strength coach Mike Joseph.)
The next chapter in what could be a happy homecoming narrative involves Trickett reaching the incremental milestones established by Holgorsen.
“I want to see a guy separate himself, whether it’s taking control of the huddle, making the correct throws, making the correct decisions, making the correct run checks, getting the other guys on the team to develop confidence in him,” Holgorsen said.
“That may take a day or it may take two-and-a-half weeks. The sooner the better.”
Now, as the unannounced frontrunner, it’s Trickett’s turn to prove he’s better.