The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 4, 2011

WVU QB situation improved

By Dave Morrison
Sports Editor

MORGANTOWN — There was a school of thought early in West Virginia’s spring camp that true freshman quarterback Paul Millard could possibly win the quarterback job by this fall.

Never mind that incumbent QB Geno Smith was coming back from a standout sophomore season. All Smith did last year was pass for 2,763 yards with 24 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

I am not here to judge such folly, though were it texted via cell, the obvious response would be: “smh...lol.”

You have to shake your head and laugh out loud.

Given time to think about the situation, though, you can almost comprehend how the misguided mindset came about. Smith was coming off yet another foot injury and, Millard had played in an offense similar to the one new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen is installing at WVU.

But this isn’t high school football, and Smith recovered from the foot injury a lot quicker than expected.

It’s also been suggested that the rumor was leaked out by WVU’s staff in order to light a fire under Smith.

I would dispute that notion. First, nobody works harder at their craft than Smith, and the kid is a self-motivator. He doesn’t need motivation in that form.

Hopefully, all that nonsense is a thing of the past, after Smith lit up the Morgantown night like a burning couch in Friday’s Gold-Blue game. The rising junior — and likely Heisman candidate (yes, I said it) — completed 26 of 37 passes for 388 yards and four touchdowns.

While it was against the second-team defense, Smith showed he has a strong grip on what Holgorsen is trying to do.

I will say this:

West Virginia is in a much better situation as far as a backup quarterback is concerned.

Millard did show that he can run the offense well enough to be effective.

He completed 18-of-30 for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

Last year, backup true freshman Barry Brunetti, who has transferred to Ole Miss and could end up starting there, never looked comfortable and really never got much playing time.

Smith was the one player that West Virginia could not lose last season, and thankfully he never missed any time.

But you can’t count on a quarterback making it through a season unscathed. Not with the size and speed on college defenses these days.

Smith could have a huge season. I’m predicting it simply because he sees the field so well, he is smart (indicated by his touchdown-to-interception ratio) and the offense Holgorsen is installing is right up his alley.

But if something did happen, Millard is good enough to come in and be productive.

You can’t put a price on how invaluable that backup is.

— E-mail: demorrison@register-herald.com