MORGANTOWN — In some ways, it is difficult to grasp Travis Trickett’s job as a West Virginia coach.
In his first year back in the town in which he was raised, working for first-year head coach Neal Brown, Trickett is the man in charge of tight ends and slot receivers, which you might say is “the long and the short of it.” In his meeting room, he has players that range between being 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds and 5-foot-6 and 166 pounds — a foot shorter and 84 pounds lighter.
The big man is Jesse Beal, one of the tight ends who is a story in himself. Beal is nearly 30 years old, spent a decade playing minor league baseball and now is trying to find some playing time.
The little man is Tevin Bush, proof positive that good things come in little packages. Bush is an electric performer who will make his presence felt as a slot receiver and returner.
Trickett classifies Bush as “a big little man”, a sort of playoff the Dustin Hoffman movie “Little Big Man.”
It is almost hypnotic to watch Bush play. Certainly looks out of place, knowing that there any number of high school freshmen receivers bigger than he is, but that matters not to Bush or to Trickett, who has fallen in love with Bush’s skills.
“Me and Tevin have a good relationship,” Trickett said. “He’s a headstrong guy, I’m a headstrong guy so that first week, we were at it. I told him, if this is going to work, this is how it’s going to be.”
They clicked immediately after that.
“Now, I love him to death,” Trickett said. “He’s my guy. He’s got some qualities about him.”
“He can be a complete player, like a specialty guy,” Trickett said. “The big thing about him is he wants to be good at what he does.”
Before we get into what Trickett does, let’s go back to our original premise: how unique his challenge is in coaching physical giants and fleet, smaller receivers at the same time. He admits you can’t coach them the same.
“If you’re big, be big, play big,” Trickett explained. “It’s like basketball. You’re not smart if you are a power forward trying to play like a point guard. Be big.”
And what does he mean by “playing big”?
“I tell the tight ends to watch the best ones in the NFL. Do you know how many moves (Rob) Gronkowski uses to get off the line of scrimmage? None. He just goes and uses his size. That’s his advantage,” Trickett said, talking about former Patriots’ tight end.
“I tell them, take advantage of your advantage.”
And with the smaller receivers who work out of the slot, like Tevin Bush?
“It’s the same with Tevin. The good thing about Tevin he’s very, very strong for his size. There’s things he can do. He’s like the second strongest guy in the group,” Trickett said.
So Bush has strength, but his advantage is in his speed and deceptiveness. That’s the way he has to play.
“He has this little spin move he likes to use but I tell him as fast as he is, just go,” Trickett said. “He has to be consistent and take care of his body so he can last.”
Interestingly, Trickett has gotten caught up with another short slot receiver, a first-year walk-on from Huntington and Spring Valley High, Graeson Malashevich.
Malashevich was dynamic in winning the state’s Player of the Year Award last season. He caught passes for 915 yards and 14 TD, rushed for 895 yards and 11 TD, threw 5 TD pass, ran two punts and two interceptions back or scores and tossed in a TD on a kickoff return.
That’s high school football. This is the first week of big boys’ camp, and Malashevich comes up a lot bigger than his 5-foot, 9-inches.
“Grayson has everyone’s respect. He came in here, he doesn’t say anything. He just works. He goes out there. He makes the play at the perfect time. He’s consistent for someone who is learning,” Trickett raved.
“I’m not saying he’s doing things better than anyone else, but he’s just playing at a high level. When you do things at that high level and people see that, you earn their respect. He’s got real savvy. Little things, natural football stuff that you don’t do unless the game has slowed down for you.”
And if you tell that, it doesn’t phase him a bit.
“The thing is, if he sat here now he’d be like ‘Aw, shucks.’” Trickett said. “That’s just how he is.”
Yes, Malashevich is all that and more. He also won the team’s spelling bee this week.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel.