Can Paul Millard Replace Geno Smith for West Virginia Mountaineers?

By Tyler Brett
Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY Sports

The West Virginia Mountaineers started the 2012 season on fire, putting up points in historic bunches as they raced out to a 5-0 record. Their fast start was helped by the breakout year of quarterback Geno Smith under head coach Dana Holgersen. Things didn’t end the way the Mountaineers would have liked, stumbling to just two wins over their final eight games, but Smith and the WVU passing game were still prolific. With Geno Smith now prepping for the NFL Draft, can junior Paul Millard keep the offense rolling in 2013?

Millard came to West Virginia as a two-star recruit in the 2011 class, a relatively unheralded signing who actually had to walk on until a scholarship came available. He’s spent the last two seasons as the primary backup, getting few opportunities to get on the field outside of garbage time reps and end-of-game kneel downs. In two season of mop-up duty, Millard has completed 16 of 34 pass attempts for 211 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

One of the knocks on Millard coming out of high school was that he was lanky at 6-foot-2 and just 195 pounds. Since then, he’s filled out a bit, now listed at 221 pounds, but there are other concerns with his game. He wasn’t a particularly strong-armed passer in high school, often throwing off balance and his fundamentals were inconsistent. How much that has improved during his time on campus remains to be seen.

That isn’t to say that Millard doesn’t bring some nice tools to the position. He can be very accurate out of the shotgun and has nice touch to his passes. He’s a rhythm and timing passer, so it’s important to give him time to work his progressions to the intermediate routes and can lead his receivers very well. Millard isn’t going to be a dynamic playmaker with his legs, but he is athletic enough to avoid the rush with subtle moves within the pocket to buy himself time.

It will be a challenge for Holgersen to bring his unheralded backup up to speed for 2013, and a task that the WVU head coach isn’t particularly used to. The last time he had to break in a new quarterback was back in 2008, his first year with the Houston Cougars. Does he still have the touch to mold a first-year starter?

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