MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During the runup to the Mountaineers’ season opener, he impersonated Georgia Southern’s option quarterback and surprised linebackers with his long-striding speed.
In subsequent weeks, David Sills became a practice-session playmaker at outside receiver, using his 6-foot-3 frame to give West Virginia’s secondary fits.
For the quarterback recruit who famously committed to USC as a seventh-grader—a cautionary lesson for prospects and college coaches alike—the scout-team work at receiver seemed merely a means to making background contributions during a redshirt season. Yet receivers coach Lonnie Galloway kept plugging away about a serious conversion.
“It’s been a process where I’d tease him and ask him, ‘Hey, are you gonna play wideout?’ and he says ‘Nah, coach.’ And then I ask him again and he’’d say ‘Nuh-uh.’ Then, it finally worked.”
On Saturday in Waco, Sills jogged out during the first quarter for his first game action, splitting wide right. By day’s end, he cradled an over-the-shoulder 35-yard touchdown pass and picked up 29 more on a catch-and-run against Baylor’s zone coverage.
What drove coach Dana Holgorsen’s decision to forego a redshirt six games into Sills’ freshman season?
“When I watched him on scout team become probably the best receiver on our team,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a really good football player.”
The newness showed on a second-half incompletion where Skyler Howard threw a deep corner route as Sills broke instead toward the middle. Yet the freshman looked confident out-leaping a Baylor defensive back along the sideline for a one-foot-down catch that was negated by WVU accepting a roughing-the-passer penalty.
“David went in and competed,” Galloway said. “He wanted to play, so we worked him in the rotation.
He’s a great athlete and he wanted to play.”
With Shelton Gibson and Jovon Durante approaching 80 plays in recent games, Galloway made a priority of “keeping people fresh,” which extended playing time to Sills and sophomore Ka’raun White, who likewise made his first two career catches.
Considering how natural Sills appeared in his college debut, could the move prove permanent? Or will Sills rejoin the quarterback competition for 2015?
Conflicting postgame statements reveal the West Virginia coaching staff hasn’t reached a consensus.
“I wouldn’t shut the door on quarterback in the future,” said Holgorsen, “but right now he just wants to do whatever he can do to help the team.”
Galloway, the lead recruiter when Sills signed with WVU out of Eastern (Md.) Christian Academy, chimed in: “He is a quarterback, but he’s playing wideout. In January he’ll be back at quarterback.”