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Skywriters Tour: West Virginia Settled At QB

August 16, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



BIG 12 FOOTBALL RELEASE

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia – Dana Holgorsen is a coach who falls into the “Quarterback Whisperer” category. His resume’ is packed with QBs who flourished under his tutelage.

That’s why last season was such an aberration. Replacing the record-setting Geno Smith and several play-making wide receivers proved difficult. The Mountaineers rotated through three quarterbacks, the offense struggled, a young defense was asked to do too much and the final result was a 4-8 record and no bowl game for the first time since 2001.

While solving the quarterback position is not the be-all, end-all solution for posting a winning record, getting consistent play could make a huge difference. Senior Clint Trickett, who was hampered by a shoulder injury, last season is healthy and has valuable experience running Holgorsen’s playbook.

“There’s a rapport that needs to exist with him and the receivers in order to be successful,” Holgorsen said. “They need to understand each and every one of their little nuances when it comes to being able to get open and sign language and a nod here and a cut?off there. And all that’s starting to exist right now with him and the rest of the guys. I think that’s all going to take care of itself.”

Trickett missed spring practice after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum that limited his throwing motion last season. While Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and Logan Moore handled the snaps in the spring, Holgorsen decided in June that Trickett was The Man.

“There’s a rapport that needs to exist with him and the receivers in order to be successful,” Holgorsen said. “They need to understand each and every one of their little nuances when it comes to being able to get open and sign language and a nod here and a cut?off there. And all that’s starting to exist right now with him and the rest of the guys. I think that’s all going to take care of itself.”

Trickett started seven games, was healthy for three of those and was the winning QB in two.

“It is part of the game and people do have to play injured, but knowing the one time I was really healthy we weren’t that bad and pulled off a pretty good one (against then-No. 11 Oklahoma State) and the rest of the time I wasn’t, that’s definitely frustrating,” Trickett said. “You just wonder, ‘What if?’ ”

To Holgorsen, it’s apparent that Trickett is healthy and playing with confidence.

"His sense of urgency (is better), he's reading signals, communicating," Holgorsen said. "It's just nice to be able to not have to coach a guy on every single play. He's in a good place."

Quick Slants
* Credit to West Virginia for not backing down in its three nonconference games. The Mountaineers open the season in Atlanta on Aug. 30 against Alabama. They follow that with a game against Towson, last year’s runner up in the FCS championship game. Then comes a road game at Maryland – a team that beat WVU 37-0 last season. West Virginia closes September and opens Big 12 play at home against Oklahoma, the preseason pick to win the Conference title.

* West Virginia hasn’t had consecutive losing seasons since 1978-79. The Mountaineers are 6-12 in Big 12 play and has lost 14 games the last two seasons. But three of those losses were in overtime and last season West Virginia lost three times despite leading in the fourth quarter and once when it had a third quarter lead.

* Linebacker Jared Barber suffered a torn ACL as Texas scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime last season, is not fully recovered. He won’t be available for the season opener against Alabama and there’s a chance he could sit out this season as a redshirt. “He is such a good team leader,” Holgorsen said. “He will still have that role as a leader. He gets down there and coaches the heck out of the linebackers. He is a great kid to have around.”

* Tony Gibson takes over as defensive coordinator, the fourth different coach to occupy that position over the last four seasons. West Virginia also hired Tom Bradley as senior associate head coach. He spent 33 years as an assistant coach on Joe Paterno’s staff at Penn State, including more than 10 years as defensive coordinator. “You better be able to improve defensively and stop some people if you want to win some games,” Holgorsen said.

* Gibson on sophomore cornerback Daryl Worley: "I thought he was special last year. For a kid to come in as a (true) freshman and be able to do all the things he was doing for us on defense, he’s a special kid, a special player.”

* Freshman quarterback William Crest is making a bid to be Trickett’s backup. He also might end up returning punts. Crest is 6-2, 210 pounds and his teammates are amazed at the 18-year-old’s physique: "I've been here four years and I still don't look like he does," said senior quarterback Paul Millard, who is 6-2, 230.

Skywriters Tour, Year Seven
So what is the Skywriters Tour? It was born in a previous era of college football … and media/communications. In the late 1960s and 1970s, sportswriters and broadcasters would gather in a central location and embark on an annual conference-wide tour, traveling from campus-to-campus to cover preseason practices and conduct interviews with coaches and players. The tour provided fans with unprecedented daily coverage from each school by moving the group between campuses by charter bus or air service and thus was dubbed the Skywriters Tour. Since 2008, the Big 12 has revived the tradition and staged its own preseason campus tour to preview the football season.


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