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Mike Casazza: Trickett, Holgorsen not on the same page yet

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The expressions Clint Trickett gave as he looked toward the sideline Saturday would make you think he'd seen Jameis Winston and E.J. Manuel in uniform beside Dana Holgorsen.

The reactions Holgorsen gave to his quarterback's stunned stares would make you think someone replaced the West Virginia coach's Red Bull with - well, he still looked like he'd had plenty of Red Bull.

"I lost several years off my life with the communication process," Holgorsen said. "He's a long way away from being able to operate the offense the way we want him to operate the offense."

That's the bad news. Trickett isn't near where he needs or wants to be if he is to be in charge of the many machinations of the Mountaineers' offense. He can't go fast, he can't change plays and he sometimes can't run the play that was called because he didn't get call.

And in some regard, that last part is good news. He did some things in his win against Oklahoma State that not only weren't ordered on the sideline, but that hadn't been rehearsed in practice. Trickett, at his worst, seems at least able to adapt to a problem and either minimize it or overcome it.

But that fortune is fleeting in football and that's more bad news before Baylor. Trickett -- who for all we all know will or will not start in Saturday's 8 p.m. Fox Sports 1 game against the 17th-ranked Bears -- is still far from fluent in WVU football.

The system of signals Holgorsen uses on the sideline to communicate with his quarterback is still a bit foreign to Trickett, who wasn't available to the media this week. He's still not smooth, efficient and consistent with everything that has to happen for his teammates after he gets that signal.

"That's on him," Holgorsen said. "He should be better at that now."

He's not and that is why Holgorsen threw fits on the sideline and smashed headsets on the ground.

These were "temper tantrums," by his own admission, because the communication with his quarterback is so hard.

And while a lot of this is on Trickett in his first season with the Mountaineers after graduating early at Florida State and transferring in May, it must be understood that it's hard to do no matter the circumstances.

Holgorsen likened it to learning sign language.

"How long does that take you?" he asked. "You could probably learn it in the course of a week."

That's just the beginning, though. The quarterback has to catch the signal and translate what it actually means. Then the quarterback has to take the play and sort through everything that's involved with it.

"Now he's got to make sure the personnel is right. He's got to know where people line up. He's got to communicate it with the offensive line," Holgorsen said. "He's got to get to the line of scrimmage and relay the cadence and go through the cadence. He may have motion he may have to change the snap count. He may have to change the play all together, which he has no clue how to do at this point."

Imagine that. The coach and the quarterback can stare into trouble and know that a play is doomed and the only signal they can use to make the best of a bad situation is to call a timeout.

But imagine this, too. The coach and the quarterback can stare into a golden opportunity and know a big play is one audible away and there is still nothing they can do to take advantage.  

"I've just got to get better at it and he's got to get better at it. We've both got to get better at it through practice and games," Holgorsen said. "It's not just signals. It's getting the signal and relaying it to everyone else. That's part of being a quarterback, and we do it a little bit different than what he's used to."

Trickett has needed time and he'll require more because that's all Holgorsen can prescribe to the situation. It has to happen in practice and in games and Trickett is still new to both at WVU. If he sticks as WVU's starter, he'll get the majority of reps in three practices and then in the game.

It really can't happen outside of practice. There is no Rosetta Stone to accelerate his education. There are no flash cards his roommate can run through before bedtime, and that's true even with Ford Childress as his roommate.

But that doesn't mean Holgorsen won't help Trickett get familiar with his coach and his signals off the field.

"We walked by each other the other day and I had a real good one for him," Holgorsen said. "I hope you all didn't see that one."

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


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