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Quarterback Trickett feeling at home with West Virginia football

| Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, 9:48 p.m.
West Virginia's Clint Trickett looks to pass against Oklahoma on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Morgantown, W.Va. Oklahoma won 45-33.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
West Virginia's Clint Trickett looks to pass against Oklahoma on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Morgantown, W.Va. Oklahoma won 45-33.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — So much was familiar and comfortable to quarterback Clint Trickett when he transferred from Florida Sate to West Virginia last year. But not the offense.

Trickett lived in Morgantown, W.Va., from 2001 through '06 while his father worked as a WVU assistant. After Rick Trickett became FSU's offensive line coach and the family moved to Tallahassee, Fla., the younger Trickett missed his old turf so much he would cut high school to drive back.

Now he was home again. But Trickett struggled to master coach Dana Holgorsen's offensive system last season, a challenge for any new quarterback. Trickett also injured a shoulder in his first start and continued to play hurt while the Mountaineers plodded to a 4-8 record. It did not work out like Trickett — or anyone else — had hoped.

“I love this place, and I love the people here, although sometimes they don't love me,” he said during the summer.

Look who's Mr. Popularity now.

With a healthy shoulder and a clear mind, Trickett ranks second nationally with 1,600 yards passing — an even 400 per game and 19th in efficiency. The Mountaineers (2-2) appear to be better, too, beating Maryland on the road in the final seconds and causing trouble before losing to No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma.

Trickett is performing at “a high level,” Holgorsen said, even though he called last week's loss to Oklahoma probably Trickett's worst game so far. The Sooners sacked Trickett on his first pass attempt and kept after him.

“That affects you a little bit,” Holgorsen said.

Trickett wasn't the only one affected. Holgorsen said the defensive pressure forced him into some “different” play-calling.

“Clint didn't play bad, by no means,” he said. “He played well, but his sense of urgency, he rushed everything because he knew that clock was ticking.”

Trickett overall is “managing the game very well,” Holgorsen said. “His leadership skills are extremely good. The guys are following him. The rapport with the receivers is great. Our communication is fantastic. He's continuing to get better. He's harder on himself than I am on him or (offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson) is on him.”

Trickett became the third starting quarterback in WVU's first four games in 2013, engineering an upset win over Oklahoma State while his damaged shoulder caused considerable pain. Beyond the lingering injury, and two concussions, Trickett he said he felt overwhelmed. Holgorsen, whose fast-paced offense requires instant decisions and rapid-fire communication with the coaches, publicly expressed his frustration at times. Trickett is smart — he is attending grad school — but this was something new.

“Completely different,” he said. “My reads, everything, and that took a while to grasp.”

Now Trickett talks about a “night and day” transition and describes himself as “supremely more confident.” It has not gone unnoticed.

“I see a major difference in Clint,” said Mario Alford, who pairs with Kevin White to form a dynamic receiver duo. “He's himself right now. He's sitting in the pocket and throwing a great ball.”

Trickett missed spring practice after Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist, practically rebuilt his shoulder in January. But Trickett was on the field, watching and learning from the coaches' viewpoint. He began throwing in June, which is when was named the starter.

“I just think it was a matter of time,” Dawson said. “If we didn't believe that, we wouldn't have made him the starter in the summer. If we thought it was a question mark we wouldn't have let it linger.”

Slightly built at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Trickett deals with a digestive disorder that makes gaining weight difficult. Some people make fun of his perfectly coiffed hair, but no one questions how tough he is. An accomplished offensive line coach, Rick Trickett is a no-nonsense, old-school kind of guy. Clint and his two older brothers were raised accordingly.

“You see the whole thing with (Minnesota running back) Adrian Peterson, my dad never got that far,” he said, “but I took some whippings as a kid. And I appreciate it. I'm glad I was raised in a military/football-type environment,” Trickett said. “I wouldn't trade it. It made me the person I am today. It made me a very disciplined, mentally strong type kid.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com.

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