West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said quarterback Clint Trickett has been cleared to play in the Liberty Bowl after being sidelined with a concussion.
But Holgorsen said sophomore Skyler Howard’s impressive play will put the quarterback rotation up for grabs as the Mountaineers (7-5) prepare to meet Texas A&M (7-5) on Dec. 29 in Memphis, Tenn.
Trickett hasn’t played since being knocked out of a 26-20 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 20.
Howard has thrown for five touchdowns in two games since replacing Trickett, including three scores in his first start, a 37-24 win at Iowa State on Nov. 29.
“Clint’s done such a good job for us over the course of the year,” Holgorsen said Thursday. “He’s responsible for us being in a bowl game — did nothing to change what I think of him as far as the starting quarterback. We know what kind of kid he is, what kind of competitor he is.
“With that said, Skyler’s improving, he’s taking a lot of reps these last three weeks. I anticipate to have both ready to go and we’ll probably make a game-time decision on who starts and what the rotation will be.”
Trickett has completed 67 percent of his passes but had a stretch of eight consecutive 300-yard games snapped in late October. He’s gone 10 consecutive quarters without throwing for a touchdown and hasn’t taken snaps in practice in a month.
Howard is considerably more mobile than Trickett, throwing on the run and unafraid to keep the ball himself. Howard ran for 69 yards on seven carries and completed 21 of 40 passes for 285 yards against Iowa State.
With less than two weeks until the bowl game, it could be a matter of which one is better in bowl preparations.
“It’s about how they look in practice and we are … looking at who gives us the best chance to win,” Holgorsen said. “It’s all about winning. Once we get down there, we’ll look at it and make a decision.”
Running back Rushel Shell likes the fact that Howard’s running gives defenses one more problem to prepare for. But Shell is comfortable with either quarterback running the offense.
“Whoever is out there, I am not worried about it,” he said.
Holgorsen said he isn’t worried, either, about the pending departure of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson. While there had been no announcement from Kentucky leading up to his news conference, Holgorsen discussed Dawson’s pending departure to the Wildcats and said Dawson will remain with WVU through the bowl game.
“I want to congratulate Shannon Dawson on becoming the offensive coordinator at Kentucky,” Holgorsen said in a statement.
Dawson arrived at West Virginia in 2011 as inside receivers coach and added the offensive coordinator title a year later.
Under him, Geno Smith threw for 42 touchdowns and more than 4,200 yards in 2012, while Trickett’s eight-game streak of 300-yard passing games was a school record.
Holgorsen said Dawson would have more control of running an offense under Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, a former defensive coordinator, than Dawson did at West Virginia.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Holgorsen said at the news conference.
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