MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Skyler Howard kept overthrowing the passing net situated to his right, then repeatedly pegged it as he rolled out left.
During the early team period, Howard steered the offense downfield, but in the second scrimmage session he threw an interception, fumbled a snap and was generally off-target.
For the second straight Saturday, the junior college transfer—so eager to make plays in his new surroundings—struggled to acclimate because of his new surroundings.
West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, the first major-college coach to dangle a scholarship in Howard’s direction last fall, said difficult days are part of the process.
“Skyler was not happy with his performance and I understand that, but he’s also got to understand that this is his ninth practice in this system,” Dawson said. “The kids are more frustrated than the coaches are, because we’ve been through the learning curve so much we understand there are going to be peaks and valleys.”
The media isn’t allowed to speak with Howard this spring—Dana Holgorsen’s guideline for restricting access to newcomers—but the quarterback spoke with the crew at MetroNews “Sportsline” upon signing with WVU in December and sounded ready to compete for immediate playing time.
That will be difficult with senior Clint Trickett returning to action this summer. In the meantime, Dawson said Howard merely needs to grow comfortable with the system.
“You’re never going to be able to play to your ability until you can play with clear mind and clear feet,” Dawson said. “Right now it’s foggy. It’s hard to drive in the fog. We’ve got clean that fog up.”
Howard’s main competition—during the spring, at least—is senior Paul Millard, who looked especially sharp Saturday. In six drives, he led the offense to four touchdowns and two field goals.
Millard was the opening-day starter last season, a job he held for just two weeks before WVU’s quarterback carousel began. Dawson saw plenty of positives Saturday and hinted that Millard could regain his starting status “if he’ll play within himself like that.”
“Every quarterback has things they do good and things they do bad,” Dawson said. “It’s your job as a quarterback to lean toward and emphasize the stuff you do good. There’s a lot of things Paul does good, but where he gets in trouble is when he starts to try to do things he can’t do.”
While Howard possesses superb scrambling ability, Millard is a pocket passer with limited mobility who must make crisp decisions and unload the ball quickly.
“Paul’s got to understand he’s not the most mobile guy in the world, so he’s got to get rid of the ball,” Dawson said. “The one time he took a sack, he was indecisive. He held onto the ball and we didn’t have a place to go with it.”