West Virginia entered the Big 12 last season with a quarterback who was a household name across the country — Geno Smith.
This season, Smith and the vast majority of the Mountaineers’ offensive production is gone, but one player vying for the starting job isn’t unfamiliar to North Texans.
Former Flower Mound quarterback and current West Virginia junior Paul Millard has the chance to see a wild journey to West Virginia come to fruition this season if he can claim the starting role over junior Florida State transfer Clint Trickett.
In his senior season in high school, Millard led the nation in passing and was No. 2 in total offense, throwing for 4,472 yards and 47 touchdowns.
However, he couldn’t get a bite from any Division I schools. His only offer came from Stephen F. Austin.
He took a chance, enrolling in Morgantown before the 2011 spring semester as a preferred walk-on and would eventually earn a scholarship.
However, standing in between Millard and the starting nod is Trickett, who played in 17 games, including two starts in 2011, for Florida State before transferring to West Virginia.
While Trickett has more big-game experience, Millard has a leg up in experience under head coach Dana Holgorsen.
“[Trickett has] got to come in and beat an experienced Paul Millard out, who has taken more reps than anybody on our campus,” Holgorsen said at Big 12 media days in July. “He’s taken 50 percent of the reps for a long, long time in practice. So he knows the offense better than anybody.”
As the Mountaineers’ primary backup last season, Millard played in seven games, throwing for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
However, experience weighs little in Holgorsen’s decision, he said. It’s all a matter of who stands out to the coaching staff and who the other offensive players respond to best.
Through Sunday, Holgorsen had yet to publicly make his decision.
At running back, the question marks are a little less blurred thanks to the arrival of Houston transfer Charles Sims, who will play out his final year of eligibility in Morgantown.
Holgorsen was involved in Sims’ recruitment to Houston as an assistant coach and saw him put up a team-leading 698 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
Injuries could be a concern with Sims, and Holgorsen said he’s not fully committed to starting the veteran back, but the Houston native couldn’t pass up the chance to play Big 12 ball.
“He knows what I’m all about,” Holgorsen said. “He knows how I coach. He knows what our offense is about. So we need some playmakers on offense, after losing, I think, 90 percent of our production last year or whatever that crazy number is.”
Heading into the season, Holgorsen said he doesn’t know what his offense will look like or what pace it might keep. That’s all dependent on if he can fill the shoes Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey left.
However, he finds confidence in the uncertainty.
“I wouldn’t consider them deficiencies,” Holgorsen said. “We haven’t took a snap yet. Who knows? We might be pretty good on offense. I think we’ve got to wait and see.”