WVU football assistant coach Travis Trickett spends most of his weekdays sequestered in his basement, beside his kids’ playroom.
His computer sits on a folding TV dinner stand beside a desk. The images project onto the TV. There is where he works through the (hopefully lessening) pandemic.
“From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Trickett said, “the playroom is closed.”
Indeed, Trickett and the rest of Neal Brown’s staff have been hard at work. Trickett’s father, Rick, a former Mountaineer assistant, asked if his son has had time off.
“Nooo,” Trickett replied. “Not at all. But it’s been good. We’ve attacked this thing and without a doubt Coach Brown had a great plan. It’s getting us better in a lot of areas we need to get better.
“We’re having full days, that’s for sure.”
Of course, it sounds more and more like college football will be played in some fashion. That seems to be fueling Trickett.
“I hope we get all our guys here soon,” he said. “I don’t know when or how that’s going to look like. The good thing is we see them every day on our video meetings. We’re attacking this thing as best as we can from an X and O football standpoint. We’re making sure they’re growing up and understanding the responsibility of working on their own. I think it’s going to pay off for them. Hopefully when they look back at this Covid-19 pandemic – as horrible as it’s been for everybody – maybe they’ll gain something they can take with them: responsibility, time management and doing things on their own. They haven’t been relying on other people.”
That said, I have a question for WVU fans: Are you ready for a little college football talk?
Well, I asked Trickett about the Mountaineer tight ends and inside receivers he oversees. And he was kind enough to give a rundown.
First, he spoke about the tight end position.
“We’re low on numbers,” he said. “Right now, we only have two bodies returning. We’ll really only have four bodies on the roster.
“We have Mike O’Laughlin, though, who played a lot for us last year. Unfortunately, he missed last spring because he was coming back from injury. This was going to be his first true offseason and it got taken away from him. I think, though, a year of having weight on and understanding his body better and understanding his role in the offense is going to help him.”
O’Laughlin played in all 12 games and made six catches for 24 yards. Leading us to…
“T.J. Banks is a guy who is maturing,” Trickett said. “He’s got ability. Looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the table.”
Banks was rated as the nation’s No. 19 tight end coming out of East Allegheny High in Pennsylvania. He redshirted in 2018 and played in the final four games of last season.
Other than that, Trickett has New Jersey product Charles Finley, 6-4, 215 pounds, who helped DePaul Catholic to a Non-Public Group 3 state championship.
“[WVU strength coach] Mike Joseph will work his [conditioning] magic on him,” Trickett said. “We feel like he’ll put some weight on and grow into a good player. Right now, though, he’s that traditional come-in-and-develop mode West Virginia has always had. He has the frame and tools, but has to put the weight and strength on. That doesn’t happen overnight.”
Trickett also has walk-on Jackson Knipper, who transferred to Morgantown after playing as a redshirt freshman for Western Michigan. Knipper, a Beavercreek, Ohio, native, played fullback and special teams for the Mountaineers last year.
“A fullback that will play some in-the-box stuff for us,” Trickett said.
Overall at the position?
“In a perfect world you’d like to have four or five scholarship guys,” Trickett said. “Right now we have two sophomores and a freshman. That’s it. I feel really good about the guys we have. I’m really excited about them. We just need more numbers. After this season we’ll get there.”
Trickett then switched to the inside receiver position.
“I feel real good about those guys,” Trickett said. “T.J. Simmons is an experienced guy. Isaiah Esdale showed some flashes last year. He caught the game-winner against TCU.”
Redshirt senior Simmons, who transferred from Alabama, played 10 games at inside receiver and started nine last season. He was the team’s No. 3 pass catcher in receiving yards behind Sam James and George Campbell. Esdale, a former junior college transfer who played with lineman Michael Brown, caught 15 passes for 171 yards. WVU also has Winston Wright, who caught 19 passes for 97 yards.
“I think [Wright has] done really well training during this pandemic,” Trickett said. “I think he’s ready to take a step up. He showed flashes as a freshman. He has some speed.”
Other inside receivers competing include Keion Wakefield, a graduate transfer from Louisville, and freshman Reese Smith, an early enrollee who “showed in two days of practice some good, natural receiving instincts.” Also, redshirt sophomore Graeson Malashevich is “getting better.”
Now, Trickett is awaiting the players’ arrival. As he said, though, the time away from Morgantown hasn’t been all bad.
“We’ve become closer in some aspects,” Trickett said. “Guys are having to deliver in talking to each other during these meetings. It’s not the traditional educational setting, where you stand up and talk to a room for an hour. We’ve had to change our teaching up. It’s more interactive. My videos have been 50-50 in which I talk and they talk.”
You could hear the pride in Trickett’s voice.
“It’s kind of bonded us together even though we’re far apart,” he said. “I think it’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to seeing how that translates onto the field.”
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.