MORGANTOWN — A couple of weeks back, Clint Trickett got on the phone and placed a call to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
For those of you who don’t know, that is the home of the University of Alabama, which just happens to have a football team that plays West Virginia in this season’s opener on August 30 in the Chic-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta.
Clint Trickett quarterbacks West Virginia. He called Jacob Coker, who is caught up in the battle of his life trying to win the Alabama quarterbacking job.
No trading of team secrets in the call.
“Just joking around, talking with each other. We haven’t gotten into serious stuff,” Trickett revealed the other day.
If there is any intrigue in the Alabama-WVU matchup, it is in relation to these two young men who are virtually living the same life story.
Both went to Florida State and got caught up in backup roles — Trickett two years ago behind E.J. Manuel and Coker last year behind Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. They became close friends before Trickett first transferred to WVU to find a place where he could be the starting quarterback and before Coker transferred to Alabama in quest of the same thing.
“He was a good friend. I wanted to know how he was doing because that’s definitely a pressure cooker down there,” Trickett said. “I was in that position last year. I wanted to make sure he handled it OK.”
When it was mentioned that football is pretty important at Florida State, too, and could be termed a pressure cooker, Trickett agreed — up to a point.
“It’s a different level. I lived at Auburn for 7 years, so I know how that goes, too, and that state is a little different,” Trickett said, having been at Auburn when his father, Rick, a former WVU assistant, coached the Tigers.
Funny thing, really. Trickett got to WVU late, missing spring workouts and could not catch up as he had hoped in the fall, winding up on the bench behind Ford Childress and Paul Millard as he learned as much as he could about the Dana Holgorsen offense, that was light years away from the one Jimbo Fisher was running at Florida State.
So he knows what Coker is going through, and as the Alabama camp closed on Saturday, Coker found himself in a similar situation to Trickett from a year ago as Nick Saban tries to find the replacement for A.J. McCarron.
Blake Sims is the competition, a player who has spent his career at Alabama, which is an advantage, but not as much as you might think, for Saban brought Lane Kiffin in to run his offense, which figures to be different than what Sims was brought up in.
Still, he had benefit of a spring, and Saban refused to make a decision after camp — at least one the cagey coach was willing to share with the world.
“I do think Blake probably is playing a little faster right now,” Saban said. “He’s been in the system longer and has a better understanding, has a little more rhythm.”
As for Coker?
“I think, sometimes, Jake was still trying to feel his way,” Saban said. “He made some real significant strides this week in practice and had some really good practices. So that’s still going to be a competitive situation.”
So, right now, the job is up for grabs.
“Until someone clearly wins the job, we’re not going to make a decision.” Saban said.
Trickett is rooting for Coker, although he’s not so sure how hard.
“He’s a good quarterback. I don’t know if I am rooting for him to win the job, at least not until after we play,” Trickett said. “I told him I want you to do great in every game you play — except against us.”
In truth, Trickett actually talked with Coker before he made his decision to leave Florida State.
“Before he made his decision he called and we talked about how I did it, if I would have done anything different or not. I told him everything I did and my thoughts on it,” Trickett explained. “He’s always been a ’Bama kid. He went to the same high school as A.J. McCarron. That’s a pretty cool thing.”
There may not be many people who know Coker better than Trickett, who was a year ahead of him in school. He said they had their interesting experiences while at Florida State, “but none we could talk about.
“We had a good time. I don’t know how many stories are PG. Apparently, I need to work on my image anyway,” Trickett joked, referring to a Tweet that got him in trouble a couple of weeks back.
So close were the two that they would go hunting together when they had time.
“He is a big-time hunter,” Trickett said. “He has so much land down there, but it’s all high fence. I always give him crap, telling him ‘Why not just chain them up?’ He’s a big deer hunter. Hopefully we’ll be hunting for many years to come.”
On opening day, though, they’ll be hunting victory.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel