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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  • Decleated

    We made almost every quarterback we faced look like a potential Heisman Trophy candidate last year. Unless we have improved dramatically on defense my guess is Bama will also expose any weaknesses we have on as well.

  • Don nehlen

    Alabama better not overlook wvu

  • marlin

    wvu, leave no doubt ..

  • TruthTeller

    I would have some respect for Alabama if they did not have the best players from all around the country enabling them to win all those National Championships. If they would be more like WVU and win National Championships that would be something but they are not. They have all the Aces in stack of cards. They are not playing fair.
    What if WVU took all the best players from every top 10 team and placed them on their team? Would you think it was fair? Coaching at Alabama is cake walk. All you have to do is show up. You have the best players that America has to offer. Kind of like bringing a corvette to a pinto race. You are going to win most of the time. It takes a real coach to mold average players into better players.

  • Glen T. Green

    Alabama is the most hated team in college football, hum, could it be because they are also the greatest team in college football? Bear was also the most loved and respected coach in college football but N.S. might be the winningest. You think The Long-Horns would like to have Saban? The ladder isn't crowed at the top is it? Look for Al. to come back with a vintage and fight like a mad Grizzly for every inch of turf on the playing field. ROLLING TIDE

  • Mr.P

    I bet Trickett won't last the first half.

    • SECorBust

      He'd better have a lot of quick passes and safety valves.

  • Mr.P

    4-8 NO BOWL

  • Ron - from Morgantown

    I hope Coker is the starter . He seems to hone in on a single receiver . He lacks peripheral vision. He doesn't have a quick release . I can see a couple interception opportunities for WVU. QB is an interesting position at Alabama . Do you realize they haven't had a QB drafted in the first round since 1976 ( Richard Todd ) . In other words they haven't had a star QB in the NFL since Namath and Stabler . In fact , since 1977, over 8000 NFL games , Alabama QB have started just 22 games . Amazing .

    • djbillyd

      I hope you eat a snakes dump...

  • Running Backs

    Other Alabama fans - I am reading wvu has very good offensive line and as good of running backs as we do. Do we not read about the competition. This is Arkansas, Tenn, Florida or those other division two teams we always play a couple of each year. I think this will be close with WVU throwing the ball all over the field on us like Okla.


    No not really....Alabama needs to turn the ball over for WVU to have a chance in this game. I don't see Sims putting the ball in the air unless WVU puts ten people in the box so to speak.

    Alabama is going to run the ball with there QB and there great running backs... passes will be slants and hitting backs out the backfield / Tight ends will be targeted ....I feel we should start the game with four down linemen and 5 lb's; we are in cover two "D"...I think...
    We must sell out to stop the run....other wise they will beat the crap out of us fiscally...we must make Sims put the ball is the air & our coverage should play underneath to make him throw over the top.... All I know is Alabama is going run the ball...and Sims might remind us of Pat White with the read option...Nick Saban isn't going to take any chances, he will deploy the ball control "O" and Ball security"O"... WVU MUST SCORE EARLY & OFTEN TO GET ALABAMA OUT THERE GAME PLAN.


  • Hal Bennett

    I have been an Alabama fan since 1959, when I was the left halfback for Graceville, Florida, where we got the Bear Bryant show on Sunday evenings. So I have been through the national championships of 1961, 64, 65, 73, 78, 79, 92, 2009, 11, and 12.

    I cannot remember a single time -- and that includes those national championship years --when some yahoo from another school, before reality had set in and the season had actually started, didn't say something like, "Well, Alabama lost too much from last year's team, so we'll probably surprise 'em."

    These guys fall into all sorts of categories, I guess, but the ones I remember are (1) the young guys who are so wet behind the ears they don't have a clue; and (2) the older guys who have a clue but pick out some supposed weakness on Alabama's squad and blow that out of proportion.

    As to (2), the supposed weaknesses this year are the quarterback position and the offensive line. Hey, guys, when Alabama breaks out of their huddle and your guys get a chance to look across the line of scrimmage at 'em, they aren't going to be thinking, "Say, that quarterback doesn't know what he's doing, and neither does that offensive line!" Cause if they DO think that, the next thing they will be thinking is, "Say, did you see how that #4 on that guy's jersey got smaller and smaller after he went by us?"

    I played against schools who simply outclassed us, and I played schools we probably outclassed. It is an experience of simply realizing that they are bigger than we are, faster than we are, and better coached than we are. In all probability WVU is going to experience that two Saturdays from now.

    • Jim

      Gee, Hal sounds like something you copy/pasted from some SEC Hallmark card. That FACT that you're snurfing a WV site looking for stuff is a testament that you are afraid of what can happen in Atlanta. We are well aware of how dominate Alabama has been. Anyone who would disagree with that is an idiot. Yeah, they're big and they are fast, but you know what? The other teams WV plays have big, fast guys too and WV has proven that they can keep up with them.
      You know about our "horrible" defense from last year? Yeah, they are the ones who held an Oklahoma team (you remember them I bet) to a single touchdown.
      But yeah, we (WV) might lose, but if Bama doesn't cover the spread, WV wins. If Bama covers the spread WV is no worse off. When WV wins, well we'll just wait and see what happens.

      • Hal Bennett

        Thanks, Jim. Since I am an artist, there was a time when I wanted to work for Hallmark. Please forgive my ignorance, but I am not up on this matter of a team near the east coast not being associated with either the ACC or the Big East. I can't keep up, it looks like, with what's happening over there.

        Is it the Big 12 you people play in now? Last I heard, bigness was not their thing -- it was passing and scoring, spreading people out, wasn't it?

        West Virginia caught my attention when they had Rich Rodriguez, Pat White (from Daphne near here), and Noel Devine, from down Tampa way. They established a personality that went beyond what Bobby Bowden ever accomplished there.

        You -- or your elders -- whoever they were there -- didn't do you any favors when they hung Birmingham's Bobby Bowden in effigy. And why would Rich Rod leave there, with the success he was having? Now you've got a head coach who is on the hot seat. It somehow don't (they'd edit that at Hallmark, wouldn't they, Jim?) put terror in my heart.

        Jimmy Johnson essentially explained what happened against Oklahoma, and Saban has crossed the t's and dotted the i's in Johnson's statement. The statement is that even though top tier teams in college football can have a bad day and still win, that doesn't happen in pro football, with its more calcified Socialism and parity.

        I was, and still am, going on that statement of Johnson's and another statement of his, that it is hard in both college AND pro football to win three ultimate championships in a row. Urban Meyer has said the same thing, that his favorite team to coach is a hungry, angry team. Saban admitted it, that the Alabama team last year lost that edge, lost that chip on its shoulder.

        I think that there is enough difference in talent between these two teams that Alabama can have a bad game and still beat West Virginia handily. If the stars line up just right, and a miracle takes place in Atlanta, the game might be closer than two TD's.

        I have been hearing fans of Alabama's first game opponents now for the past five or six years tell us how they are going to whip up on the Tide. A guy for Michigan in 2012 vowed in a forum like this that Michigan was going to cream the Tide, his quarterback was going to win the Heisman, they were going to go 14-0, and win the national championship. Alabama won 41-14.

        We heard so much about Clemson when Saban was still getting his stuff out of his suitcases that I actually was a little worried abut that game. You remember the score? All I know is that after the game Terry Bowden was on one knee, head in hand, wondering what had happened -- and he was fired the next week.

        Jim, give me some tangible reason I should be scared about this game, and I'll try to work up some adrenalin for you. I checked out the WVU team yesterday evening according to the Rivals number of stars each player came out of high school with. Of your first 22 players (offense and defense) you've got one 2-star, eighteen 3-stars, and two 4-stars.

        Sure, it's going to be played on the field, Jim, not on paper. I just wish that once some of you guys that come on these forums with all this hoopla would first actually check out the Tide's roster and depth chart. As long as you don't, I'll probably be "snurfing" your forums, trying either to get something interesting going or put some semblance of realism into the conversation.

  • WJB

    Kiffen will underestimate the Mountaineers Defense, he is big time, look at what he did to USC!! lol Consider that along with new QB and reloaded defense, it will be closer than most think.

  • shane

    Bama could take a linebacker and put him under center and still beat West Virginia by 30.

    • DonnieB

      Bama may want to consider an LB at QB

    • T Morgan

      Haha, you as well as the media and Bama players keep believing that right up through Saturday afternoon. What's obvious is the lack of understanding Bama supporters have of the talent level and the chemistry on this years WVU football team. I admit, player for player, coach for coach, Bama has the clear advantage, but there's much more to football than putting a bunch of five star players on the field. All the pieces are in place for Bama to get surprised next Saturday. Bama's weaknesses play into WVU's strengths. If the Bama players go into this game believing they're a 30 point favorite, they stand a good chance of being shocked on opening day. What most people aren't taking into consideration, even great players have to learn to play together - it's still a team sport - even if you are Bama!

    • jordan

      You're an idiot.

  • Jamesd lane

    Saban will try to prove a point against wv that the SEC can hang with the up-tempo BIG XII.
    WVU maybe doesn't win but definately destroy the Vegas spread and go on to a respectable 7-5 record in the best power conference in the nation this year...... And holgerson is sittin pretty for 2015.

  • Chris

    It is highly important that Wvu get into an offensive rythm early. No deep plays until the fourth quarter. Save emotion and drama for later in the game. Short accurate, crisp interceptions! Hope Bama gets the ball first.