MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In hindsight, the question becomes this: Why didn’t a receivers coach offer 13-year-old David Sills a scholarship?
The former quarterback prodigy, forever marked by the phone call he received from Lane Kiffin in seventh grade, is redefining himself as a receiver and doing so at a stunning pace. His five touchdown catches through two weeks are tied for the FBS lead with UCLA’s Darren Andrews and SMU’s Courtland Sutton.
Realizing that early season stats can become fool’s gold, here we sit impressed nonetheless. Sills also ranks 10th nationally in receiving yardage and 16th in catches — numbers populated against one presumably good defense (Virginia Tech) and one that’s certifiably appalling (East Carolina).
Remember, Sills remains a developmental project, having worked at receiver for about half the 2015 season and then picking it up again only last spring. Yet his position coach already identifies a sharp comprehension for route-running.
“He’s an assassin inside, the way he can use technique to get open,” said West Virginia assistant Tyron Carrier.
While making seven receptions that produced 153 yards against ECU, Sills showed an intricate array of routes. He set up an end zone fade to beat man coverage. Against third-down zone defense at the goal line, he deked inside and spun back for a touchdown catch at the pylon.
“The kid always ends up being in the right place at the right time,” said offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
On Sills’ longest two catches that covered 40 and 75 yards, he lined up beside Gary Jennings and promptly zipped past defensive backs who overcommitted to Jennings faking a screen. Before both plays, the ex-quarterback lobbied West Virginia’s current one.
“David Sills is funny. Every time we come off to the sideline he’ll tell me a play that he wants that’s going to be wide-open,” said Will Grier.
Considering Sills caught three touchdowns Saturday, Grier is inclined to listen. “Yeah, he’s seeing some good stuff.”
At a spindly 6-foot-4, Sills appears incapable of managing a pushup, which might have been deceiving to the Hokies defensive back he flattened on a screen block. Another offseason in the weight room could make that lanky frame as NFL-ready as his mind is.
“The kid loves football,” said Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen, who first convinced Sills to give receiver a try two years ago. Who knew the fruits of that persuasive conversation would blossom so brilliantly?
And still the blossoming continues, tempered by a couple passes Sills didn’t bring in. That end-zone drop during the final 2 seconds against Virginia Tech may sting for eternity. Decidedly less dramatic was the scenario against ECU, though Sills smacked his gold-and-blue gloves in frustration after missing a deep curl inside the 10.
“There’s always room to get better,” said Grier, who sees as much potential from Sills as he hears from him.