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Mike Casazza: Trickett didn't come to Morgantown to stand around

MORGANTOWN - The first time I sat down and really talked with Dana Holgorsen, the West Virginia football coach said something that got stuck between my two ears.

"Life's hard," he said. "If you make it harder, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

You could apply far worse mottos to your life. If you're a football coach, it's ideal, if not a necessity. Holgorsen installs his offense in three days, presumably because what would happen on a fourth or, heaven forbid, fifth day would be just too much. He brings about 10 plays into a game because those are the ones he and his staff identified as winners for the upcoming game and those are the ones they worked on during practice.

The blueprint has almost no markings and he hasn't changed the essence of his system in many years because, well, why would he? Why abandon the code by which he conducts himself as a coach, the code he shared the day he was hired as WVU's coach-in-waiting?

"If you run it and it works, do it again," he said. "If you run it and it sucks, you probably shouldn't do it again."

Put those two tenets together and understand what happened this week. Holgorsen is searching for a quarterback and just weathered a spring where neither junior Paul Millard nor redshirt freshman Ford Childress distinguished himself. Clint Trickett, formerly of Florida State, tweeted Wednesday he's transferring to WVU. He may now be the leading contender to start the season-opener against William & Mary.

Replacing Geno Smith is hard. Adding Trickett after 15 practices and 41 days of spring football would seem to make it harder. It complicates things, no doubt. From today to Aug. 1, Holgorsen could keep tabs on Millard and Childress, review how they fared during the spring and prepare for whatever may come of the preseason, when, ideally, one makes an indistinguishable move toward the end of camp.

Now Holgorsen has to get to know Trickett - who he is and what he can do as a player - while keeping the same tabs on Millard and Childress. It's not impossible, but it is harder.

Then again, what's harder in college football than being uncertain at quarterback? Asked last week to assess the quarterback derby, Holgorsen replied, "Wide open, man." That's how you want to describe your receivers, not how you want to describe the competition at the team's most critical position.

Something like this was coming, one way or another. WVU recruited junior college quarterback Tanner McEvoy. A top-ranked dual-threat quarterback who spent a redshirt season at South Carolina in 2011, McEvoy chose Wisconsin over the Mountaineers, Florida and Oregon. Millard and Childress split the spring reps just about evenly at the expense of true freshman Chavas Rawlins, who enrolled early, didn't do much in practice and didn't play in the spring game.

Trickett was at the spring game and saw Millard and Childress do there what they'd done in the 15 spring practices before it. Neither quarterback was especially good, let alone intimidating to someone who's spent three seasons in a big-time FBS program.

The story of the spring was that Millard or Childress would have a good day and then a bad day or two bad days. Rarely, if ever, were both on at once, and that would give you the idea neither was feeling nor supplying much pressure.

To paraphrase Holgorsen, WVU probably shouldn't do that again in August.

Trickett guarantees the Mountaineers won't. There's no way Millard and Childress can take themselves seriously if they don't take these next three months seriously and come to camp as much better players.

They have an edge, after all, because they've been here and they know the system. Never mind that Trickett spent seven years in Morgantown while his father, Rick, was the offensive line coach. He has to get used to both.

It's a win-win for WVU, even if it's going to cost Holgorsen a quarterback. It's nice to have four. It's not reasonable to keep four. Trickett has two seasons left. He's not going anywhere. You would imagine the same is true for Millard.

But Trickett isn't here to watch or motivate or hunt or stroll down memory lane. He sees the chance to start and to be the unquestioned quarterback, opportunities that have avoided him thus far. He's battled for snaps against E.J. Manuel and against Jameis Winston, and though he never beat either one, he might find Millard and Childress more palatable.

Picking up an offense unlike what he ran with the Seminoles might not be too hard for a kid who graduated in three years. Trickett should probably know his way around the sacks Millard and Childress took throughout the spring that drove offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson crazy. He'll probably find Big 12 defenses more to his liking. His release could be the quickest among WVU's quarterbacks and he's more able and willing to run than Millard and Childress.

There are unknowns and questions, of course. He has only two starts, both in 2011, and he threw just 34 passes last season. He's never had the extended run he seeks at WVU. Yet Trickett could address an unknown and a question about the Mountaineers. He can be the head of the offense, both literally and figuratively.

Holgorsen has an offense that's elevating many players into new roles. Gone are five seniors and a junior on that side of the ball, and if you ranked the offense's leaders last season, those names would be your top six.

It's a massive void Holgorsen had to fill and Trickett's ability to supply a voice and provide direction can make his coach's life much easier.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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