On Tuesday, it was announced that senior quarterback Clint Trickett would be the starter in the Mountaineers opener in Atlanta against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Trickett brings experience, a knowledge of the playbook, and command of an offense that at times struggled, and occasionally looked downright anemic last season. The move is a safe one, as Dana Holgorsen needs a bounce back season with few disturbances in what could be his last year as the Mountaineer coach. But while it is the safe choice, it is also the wrong choice, and shows Holgorsen is already going into Atlanta waving the white flag on the season opener.
Clint Trickett's 2013 season was one to be forgotten quickly. He threw for 1605 yards, with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, in 8 games. Trickett was also injured for much of last season, battling shoulder and head injuries. Had it not been for these injuries, perhaps Trickett would have performed better, made stronger throws, better reads. However, I doubt it. Trickett is not a quarterback to take control of a team and lead them with his arm. He reminds me of Chad Pennington. He makes the safe throw, not far down field, maybe utilizes his check down option often. This is precisely why he averaged less than one INT per game last season, but also less than 1 touchdown pass per game. This will simply not get it done against Alabama.
Looking back to Alabama's last two games, losses to Auburn and Oklahoma to end last season, it is clear that offenses for both teams took advantage of the passing game against Alabama's secondary. In their last second loss to Auburn, Auburn had passing touchdowns of 13 and 39 yards long. In their loss to Oklahoma, Alabama gave up passing touchdowns 45, 8, 43, and 13 yards. Four touchdowns through the air in one game! That's more than half of Trickett's total from all of last season.
Through the recent NFL Draft, Alabama lost former star safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and linebacker CJ Mosley. These were arguably the best defensive players on the Crimson Tide D last year. The loss of Clinton-Dix forces Nick Saban to start a new face in the back, one that will need to immediately be effective in a big opener against the Mountaineers. Mosley's replacement will be more focused on shutting down the run, but will have to drop into coverage on short slants or tight end routes.
The one quarterback who can challenge both of these positions on the field and who would give the Mountaineers the best possible chance of winning in Atlanta? Skyler Howard. Howard is a dual threat quarterback, with legs to evade the rush and scramble to buy time. Once he gets outside the pocket, Howard has the arm strength to throw down field and challenge the Bama secondary. To me, he is the choice, that can lead the Mountaineers to victory in Atlanta.
Dana Holgorsen is coaching for his job, and he made the safe choice in tabbing Clint Trickett as the starter for the Mountaineers opener in Atlanta. I understand why he made the choice, and I can even see Trickett winning games for the Mountaineers in other non-conference or Big 12 games. But to beat Alabama, safe is not the way to play.