Is the Mountaineer quarterback cup half empty or half full? Was last year an aberration or the new reality? The biggest position for WVU also has the biggest question marks and the way you answer them probably depends on how you see the world.
What can be said about the Mountaineer quarterback position that hasn't been said a thousand times already? Unlike last year head coach Dana Holgorsen announced his starter early, thereby removing any suspense or reason for debate. And unlike last year we have a significant sample by which to judge the top two candidates. But most pointedly unlike last year we no longer have the blind faith in Holgorsen's offensive system to simply plug and play.
There are huge questions and the answers and expectations run the entire spectrum. It's hard to imagine a scenario where fans could know so much yet have no earthly idea what to expect. You could legitimately make an argument on both sides for how WVU's signal callers will fare - in fact hell, let's do it right now.
The Glass Is Half Full:
Clint Trickett has had an entire year to learn the system. The reports out of camp are that he and Holgorsen are 100% on the same page and his play bears no resemblance to the unsure, confused quarterbacking from a year ago. Sure his durability is still a question, but he's put on some weight and already demonstrated his toughness last year, so it's perfectly reasonable to expect him to hold up.
As far as the offensive struggles from 2013, when you consider that the entire offense was playing their first year together, it was understandable. But now basically everybody other than Charles Sims returns, they all know the playbook, they all know Trickett and there's every reason to expect a return to form of what we're used to seeing from a Holgorsen offense.
Even if the unthinkable does happen to Clint, he's got a capable backup in Paul Millard who, despite a rocky start to the year put up 40 points against Texas in what might have been the offense's most complete performance of the season. He seemed to develop a poise and command of the offense that compensated for his lack of arm strength, not to mention an excellent rapport with receiver Mario Austin. If paired with a defense that could hold foes in the mid 30s he could easily be good enough to win some games.
After Millard fabulous freshman William Crest has drawn rave reviews from the staff and as much as Holgorsen might like to redshirt him, Crest doesn't seem to be giving him that option. Certainly a true freshman signal caller isn't anybody's preferred option, but if you're going to be stuck with one it might as well be a Ferrari.
Finally there's some untapped potential waiting on the blue and gold bench in the form of transfers Skyler Howard and Logan Moore. Howard was a dual-threat star at his junior college and Moore put up the best performance under center of anyone in the spring game. Both will probably redshirt, but they provide a depth at the position WVU fans haven't seen in years.
All in all there's every reason to think we'll be back on schedule in Holgoland with footballs flying and the scoreboard racing. Last year was an exception and this offense is poised to rule.
The Glass Is Half Empty:
Clint Trickett is a Faberge egg just waiting to break. He couldn't even make it through his entire first game of conference play, so there's no reason to think he can last even the first half against Alabama, much less be a durable option for an entire Big 12 season.
Even if he does manage to stay healthy, he's an average quarterback at best. He played one good game last season against Oklahoma State (where the Cowboys and football gods gave him a LOT of help), one gawd-awful game against Baylor, a trio of solid-if-unspectacular games against Texas Tech, Kansas State and and TCU and finally another very good performance to end the season against Iowa State - a game WVU lost.
He's a good kid and when he's at his best an able signal caller, but he's simply not at his best often enough to be the type of quarterback that Dana Holgorsen can rely on to put up the prolific numbers that are expected and needed to compete in the Big 12. Mountaineer fans have a ton of questions after missing a bowl game for the first time in 13 years, but Clint Trickett is not the answer.
After him Paul Millard is unsteady at best, wholly ineffective at worst and there was a reason he was benched two games into last season. Put simply his arm strength falls far short of what is necessary to be a quarterback at a major program and that's not going to change.
Following Millard is a trio of unknown quantities. First and most notable is William Crest who, despite his formidable physical skills is still a true freshman and, lest we forget our lessons from last year just a few months isn't long enough for someone to familiarize themselves with an entire offensive system and lead that offense. Even Holgorsen seemed to acknowledge this fact when he pointed out that the last two Heisman winners - who both won as freshmen - both won as REDSHIRT freshman.
And at the end of the bench you have juco transfer Skyler Howard and in-state transfer Logan Moore. Howard has a nice highlight reel and Moore showed some flashes in the spring game, but neither is ready to lead at this level and it doesn't matter because they'll both redshirt anyway.
Harsh reality is that the Mountaineer situation at quarterback isn't a lot better than it was a year ago and if you take off the gold-colored glasses it's pretty easy to see.
So there you have it - the quarterback position at West Virginia as a window into your very soul. Are you the type who sees the glass half full or half empty? Do you expect the best or do you expect the worst? No matter which side you fall on, when the Mountaineers take the field against Alabama on August 30th at 3:30 the debates will stop and the game will start. We'll see once and for all if WVU has the talent under center to begin the climb back up the mountain and we'll learn if last year was a hitch in the plan or the beginning of the end.
Ball don't lie. Buckle up.
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