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The QB battle appears to be over in Morgantown.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has already answered one of the Mountaineers’ biggest question marks for the 2014 season by naming Clint Trickett as the team’s starting quarterback.
Trickett played in eight games for West Virginia in 2013 and completed 123 of 233 passes for 1,605 yards and seven touchdowns. Additionally, he completed only 52.8 percent of his throws and tossed seven picks.
Considering Trickett didn’t arrive on campus until after spring practice last year, it’s no surprise he struggled at times in Holgorsen’s pass-first offense. While Trickett needs to be more consistent, he led West Virginia to an upset win over Oklahoma State and threw for 356 yards in a 52-44 loss to Iowa State in the regular season finale.
Although this announcement isn’t too surprising, the timing is odd. It’s rare to see a team pick a starter in the summer. However, this move makes sense for West Virginia.
Outside of Trickett, there aren’t many proven options in Morgantown. Paul Millard threw for 1,119 yards and six touchdowns last season and wasn’t able to stake his claim for the job in the spring. Junior college recruit Skyler Howard appears headed for a redshirt year, and it’s uncertain if true freshman William Crest will be up-to-speed on the offense to factor onto the depth chart. Former walk-on Logan Moore is also in the mix and completed 10 of 21 passes for 109 yards in the spring game.
With limited options and a tough opener against Alabama ahead, having an experienced quarterback like Trickett is the right way to go for Holgorsen. Of course, that could change over the course of the season if Howard or Crest proves ready to play.
Although Trickett has been picked as the starter, a quarterback recovering from shoulder surgery isn’t guaranteed to have immediate success. Case study: Missouri’s James Franklin struggled in 2012 after having offseason shoulder surgery but rebounded in 2013.
Allowing Trickett the opportunity to prepare as the starter all summer should pay dividends for West Virginia. But how much will it make a difference in the win column? Probably not much. The Mountaineers have a brutal schedule, and quarterback play has to be the top concern for Holgorsen. And as surprising as this may sound, West Virginia's best offense might be its rushing attack this year - not the passing game that is a staple of Holgorsen's offenses at Houston and Oklahoma State.
There’s no downside for Holgorsen picking Trickett now and avoiding the ongoing questions or debate once camp opens for the fall.
However, West Virginia needs Trickett to be more efficient and effective than he was in 2013, especially as the depth chart isn’t overflowing with potential candidates ready to play in 2014.