West Virginia bursted onto the Big 12 scene last year.
Behind a dazzling crop of seniors, the Mountaineers danced on the sidelines after having knocked off the No. 11 Longhorns. They watched as their ranking rocketed to No. 5.
They were confident Morgantown was going to be home to the Heisman winner and a Big 12 championship.
But when the Mountaineers take on the Longhorns this time around, the expectations won’t be as high and they won’t be dependent on hopeful first-round draft picks.
Geno Smith is no longer there.
Tavon Austin is no longer there.
Without the centerpieces of last year’s team, there were questions on offense. Through spring and the early season, those questions remained. A few months later, those questions are finally answered.
Two transfers came in and took over the offense—junior quarterback Clint Trickett and senior running back Charles Sims. And because both are transferring as graduate students, they were able to start immediately.
Like Kansas State’s Jake Waters, Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace and Kansas’ Jake Heaps, all of whom have faced Texas this year, Trickett transferred to the school he’s at right now.
But, unlike them, Trickett didn’t start at a junior college. He didn’t struggle at his first school. He was just unfortunate.
He was unfortunate to be behind two (maybe three) first-round picks. As a redshirt freshman, Trickett watched as Christian Ponder snuck his way into the first round. He spent the next two years learning how E.J Manuel played his way into being the top quarterback taken in the 2013 draft. And when current Heisman hopeful Jameis Winston soared past him on the depth chart, he decided he had enough.
So Trickett packed up and moved north to the team he grew up watching as his dad was their offensive line coach from 2001-2006.
“It’s official, I will finish my academic/athletic career at WVU,” Trickett tweeted in May. “This is a dream come true to be playin for the state I love.”
He wasn’t immediately thrust into the starting role, though, beginning the season third on the depth chart. But after junior Paul Millard and freshman Ford Childress struggled in early-season losses, head coach Dana Holgerson turned to the transfer.
Trickett carried West Virginia to a shocking upset of then-Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State. And he hasn’t looked back as he has started every game for the Mountaineers since. But he is still a far cry from Geno and Holgorsen expresses his concern.
“He needs to sit in a room and study it, then go outside and work on that for a couple months,” Holgorsen said. “He’s going to need that downtime and offseason time in order to grasp what we are asking of him.”
The running back
Unlike Trickett, Sims didn’t transfer because a lack of playing time. At Houston, he started all three years. And at 6-foot-1, 213 pounds, he is a promising NFL prospect that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks as the sixth-best running back prospect for the upcoming NFL Draft.
But shockingly, at the end of his redshirt junior year, he announced he was moving on.
“I don’t know what my next step will be,” Sims said. “I may look to play one more year of college football or I may enter the NFL Supplemental Draft later this year.”
But why not stay at Houston? He didn’t give an answer besides it was time to move on.
After Houston restricted him from joining any team that played Houston, was in the AAC or was a Division I school in Texas, Sims opted to run for the coach that recruited him at Houston.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have his services for one year,” said Holgorsen, who was Houston’s offensive line coach when Sims was recruited. “He’s a tremendous football player..”
And his one year under Holgorsen was his best.
“I had him for the first year there in 2009,” Holgorsen said. “That was probably his best year statistically.”
And Texas head coach Mack Brown knows that Sims is the biggest threat on the Mountaineer offense.
“He’s a top pro prospect and a really good football player and that’s where it all starts for him,” Brown said.