Ben Queen/WVMetroNews

West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett (right) owns the starting job, while former Florida State teammate Jacob Coker is learning the system at Alabama


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —The Chick-fil-A Kickoff point spread remains broader than an elephant’s behind with Alabama favored by 26 in some sports books. And whereas the Crimson Tide launched at No. 2 in Sunday’s AP preseason poll, not a single voter cast even a single vote for West Virginia.

Such is the lopsided aftermath of the Mountaineers going 4-8 last season and Alabama potentially coming within one second of a third consecutive national championship game.

Yet for all the mighty disparities in these two programs, West Virginia owns one significant edge.

An edge at the most important position on the field.

Clint Trickett was publicly handed the quarterback job in June, which was about six months after every person meaningfully engaged with the West Virginia offense recognized him as the starter. And though Trickett’s record as a college starter is a shaky 2-7, he still owns two more wins than whomever will start for Alabama on Aug. 30.

Just which quarterback the Tide chooses may not be revealed until the opening series arrives inside the noisy Georgia Dome. Nick Saban—with his closed practices, camouflaged comments and insistence on silencing assistants—has kept the state in suspense so far: Blake Sims or Jacob Coker?

Vasha Hunt/

FSU transfer Jacob Coker is in a quarterback competition with Blake Sims at Bama. Neither has started a college game.

After Saturday’s 130-play scrimmage, Alabama released stats leaders for rushing, receiving and tackles, but that sly guy Saban kept the passing stats classified. That left reporters and fans to read between the lines during Saban’s post-practice news conference.

“I do think Blake probably is playing a little faster right now,” Saban said of the fifth-year senior. “He’s been in the system longer and has a better understanding, has a little more rhythm.”

And on the Florida State transfer Coker: “I think sometimes Jake was still trying to feel his way He made some real significant strides this week in practice and had some really good practices. So that’s still going to be a competitive situation.”

Saban’s final edict: “Until someone clearly wins the job, we’re not going to make a decision.”

Only once in his seven seasons at Bama has Saban waded this deep into camp without naming a starter. That was 2011, when then-sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims wound up splitting series in the season opener against Kent State. Saban reluctantly termed it a Week 1 audition, the likes of which West Virginia might witness in two weeks.

Trickett befriended Coker in Tallahassee and offered relocation advice last spring when Coker sought a new program.

“We had some good times down there,” said Trickett, reminiscing about deer hunting on Coker’s family property near Mobile. “He has so much land down there, but it’s all high-fenced. So I always give him crap about that, like ‘You might as well just chain ’em up and shoot ’em.'”

Coker figured to bag the starting job at Bama with similar ease, especially after Jimbo Fisher predicted the 6-foot-5 transfer would be the most talented quarterback Saban has ever coached. But as West Virginia can attest, new arrivals sometimes take wrong turns on the learning curve. Even though Alabama’s offense more closely templates FSU’s than the radical change Trickett encountered in Morgantown, Coker may need more acclimation time than a month of preseason practice.

Coker’s buddy in West Virginia playfully hopes for at least a brief delay.

“Well, he is a good quarterback, so I’m not sure I do hope he wins the job,” Trickett said. “Maybe after the first game …”

A first game that, in most facets, sets up as a blowout. Unless WVU’s Year 2 version of Trickett—savvier and more adept—serves as an equalizer to Alabama’s realtime audition.

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  • Hop'sHip

    Congratulations Allan! You have joined Hoppy as an object of JimN's usually inscrutable expressions of scorn. It appears he has even renamed you like he has "Skippy." Surely this means you have arrived. L8?

  • JimJim

    New quarterback, no one has seen him. 'Bama will run the ball, not wanting to take a chance on passing. They will destroy our D-line. Let's hope that there are not many injuries and player lost for the season. If so, this game could be the turning point to our season, turning down that is.

    • TruthTeller

      They said the same things against Georgia, Texas and Oklahoma but WVU stuffed the run
      on those teams. WVU is not Notre Dame. WVU
      plays in the Big 12. WVU has been known to shutdown the run. Most of the SEC teams have a very simple play book. Its not the Special Education Conference for nothing. LOL!!!

      • notorious

        Stop comparing this team to those in the past that won BCS games underdogs. Pat White isn't walking through that door. Geno Smith and Tavon Austin aren't either.

        I'm afraid Bama will run at will. For as good as our backs are, none of them would crack the 2 deep at Alabama.

        I just hope we can hang for a half or 3 quarters and get out of there with no injuries.

        • notorious

          Won BCS games AS underdogs...

    • yep

      I hope they run the ball every time. We will stuff them and win the game. Done deal.

  • Okey Robinson

    No realistic Mountaineer fans are expecting us to beat Bama. But, those same fans don't expect Alabama to beat us by 24 points either.

    A quick history lesson might be in order if you think WVU hasn't done it before.

    We ain't skeert !

  • william

    Mountaineer fans - get ready for a repeat of last year 4 - 8
    Dana "The Man in Black" Holgerson will be gone soon
    He could care less about being in Morgantown
    What a sad time to be a Mountaineer fan wherever you may be!

    • ViennaGuy

      Then go root for Marshall or P*TT.

    • Big Larry


      "Love your work"

      • hailey

        Is that why you pick up the room when you two go out?

        • GoEers


        • squad

          they are all so great... I wish I had a mind like they do. they musta really put in some time to come up with the genius they do.. he and jayzoom are above us all.... they are the ultimate fans

  • Havetosay

    Alabama could play 10 and not even use a QB and still clobber WVU.

    • Be Careful Folks

      are you silly. I am an Alabama but have read lot about WVU. They have speed Alabama has not seen in the SEC. I think we will win, but I am nervous. They are like 9-2 against sec teams.

    • TruthTeller

      Haters are out in full force because they know WVU is about to make history and they are scared!!!

    • richard

      william and Havetosay are the same person. ha ha ha william, funny.

  • Jason


  • Billy

    Good story Allan. It got me to thinking that if WVU has a terrible year, the drama in Morgantown will probably be at a fever pitch. The drama may be more fun to watch that the ball games.

  • uncle phil

    Anyone who thinks that Alabama won't beat us by at least 30 doesn't deserve Internet access.

    uncle phil's 4Q predictions:

    End of 1st Q:
    WVU 3
    ALA 13
    -Bama's defense dominates, but the score makes it look respectable

    End of 2nd Q:
    WVU 3
    ALA 23
    -false hope is still alive because WVU missed a perfect chance to put 7 on the board. Could have been 10-23, oh well.

    End of 3rd Q:
    WVU 3
    ALA 37
    -Bama's D outscores both offenses (Bama and WVU)

    End of 4th Q:
    WVU 9
    ALA 54
    -WVU defense scores, but Millard fumbles the snap on the 2pt conversion. Meanwhile, Bama second and third stringers follow Saban's commands to keep the pedal floored. The announcers struggle to fill dead-air by talking about how many Red Bulls Holgorsen drinks in a season, talking about Johnny Manzeil in the NFL, and talking about Bama being "on a mission" this year.

    • DonnieB

      Maybe we thought Georgia was going to do the same to WVU in the Dome some years ago. I was there and the Mounties shocked the world. Of course they had a lot more to work with then than they do now. I like the way the defensive backfield is shaping but otherwise it appears there are far too many questions. While I'll be on the edge of my seat with any other WVU fan on Saturday, I'm not betting one hard-earned dollar this game or this season on Holgs and Trickett.

    • TruthTeller

      When was the last time Alabama scored over 50 points in a game?

      • Tamarack Jed

        They beat Arkansas 52-0 last year and averaged 38.2 points/game.

      • uncle phil

        OK, so I guess that means Bama will NEVER score 50 points in a game.

        Good logic!

        • ezd

          Not against us they won't. Not with a new qb and new OC. Just won't happen. It will be a low scoring game. Like the Oklahoma game last year. Your looking at two teams who are going to run the football and try not to make mistakes that give points away. Both defenses will be better than the offenses their going against. If we go out there on offense and just make sure we're smart and don't turn the ball over we will be in the game till the end. Because Alabama's offense isn't yet capable of scoring at will.

    • jojo

      i would wager anything that there will not be a 45 point spread. that is insane.

    • Maillady

      So, have you bought your Bama jersey, yet?!! Geeze, have some faith.....

    • Aaron

      With an experienced QB and the knowledge of what a fast paced offense can do, Saban will utilize TJ Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake behind a mostly veteran line in a methodical rushing attack meant to keep WVU's offense off the field. While I think Bama scores big in the 4th quarter to win going away, I'm not so sure they will score as easily and often as some predict.

      WVU's offense will utilize a spark here and there and the running game works in spurts, enough to give WVU some hope for a half. In the end, it's not enough.

    • richard

      omg, really? if you believe this is going to're kinda stupid.

      • uncle phil

        You wouldn't happen to be "Richard from Wheeling", would you? I remember listening to Sports Overnight America (with Ron Barr) back in the 90's and "Richard from Wheeling West Virginia" would call nearly every night. I was living in Miami at the time and used to think that was the coolest thing. Has anyone ever heard of that guy Richard?

    • FNP

      This game will not be a blowout.

  • Jim N Charleston

    Dear Glenn Close

    Please find another job. You really are reaching. Go read a message board and play journalist somewhere else.

    All I got
    I'm Jim N So Charleston

  • Ut Oh

    "With his closed practices" my god this coach (Saben) would be run out of WV if he "CLOSED" practices from the EXPERTS at Charleston Gazette, Pittsburg Post ect and of course the fans of WV. How does this coach still exist?

    • James

      He still exists because he wins national championships. WV would gladly close practices if Saban were to coach there. But that ain't happening.

      • Ut Oh

        James your kiddin right I know he win's, and I know he isn't coming to WV. Just commenting on the fact he has closed practices and when WV "only" lets the media in for 1/2 hour they CRY........

  • FNP

    I've said it.a million times, scrimmages are a joke and tell nothing.

  • Chris

    These people in vegas don't know nothing no way no how Alabama should be a 26 point favorite it simply not going to happen this will be a close game with WVU pulling it out in the end.


      They didn't build huge casinos because they didn't know what they were doing.

    • Rick S.

      These people in Vegas are experts and they know exactly what they are doing.

      Making Alabama a 26-point favorite does not mean they think Alabama will win by 26 points -- the line is set to entice half the gamblers to bet on Alabama and the other half of the gamblers to bet on West Virginia.

      As long as the gamblers are split near 50/50, the bookies win. And the bookies always win.

  • any major dude

    Ole Sasquatch

    Agee on the O-line thing. I do see improvement in that least it's pretty much a set line instead of an unsettled line. Last year they seemed to move guys around before and during the season too much I thought. The C was demoted halfway thru the season but has the job this year, G's that look pretty good, and 2 Frosh at T. None of these things are necessarily bad things. The lack of depth on the O-line is a little concerning.

  • Carson

    Three things:
    1. Holgorsen's job is tied to the play of Clint Trickett this year
    2. Regardless of what the season brings, this program cannot reach the heights that it once was at until Willie Crest becomes the starting QB
    3. This should be Ford Childress' team right now.. Him not panning out is one of the biggest failures of the last two seasons


      Does anybody remember Sports Illustrated predicting Ford Childress to be the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner?

  • Ole Sasquatch

    Worried about our offensive line, an old nemesis for us, that did not produce many points in Saturday's scrimmage. If they cannot hold the field ( with our bunch of powerful running backs) vs. Alabama in less than 2 wks. we have no chance for an upset.

    • In da stickes