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Sills settles back in among WVU receivers

JUSTIN ROGERS | Gazette-Mail
WVU receiver David Sills catches a pass during the Mountaineers’ Gold-Blue Game.

MORGANTOWN — Most college football fans in West Virginia — and many more nationally — know the story of David Sills.

As a 13-year-old quarterback, he committed to play for then-USC coach Lane Kiffin after the now-Florida Atlantic coach saw video of him at Red Lion Christian Academy in Delaware.

He was in the seventh grade.

The news zipped from ESPN to “Good Morning America.” But then Sills transferred schools. There were injuries. Kiffin was fired by USC. His replacement, Steve Sarkisian, said the offer would be honored, but Sills probably wouldn’t play.

Sills then went to WVU, was transformed into a receiver, left for El Camino Community College to pursue his dream of being a quarterback and returned to the Mountaineer program when that dream evaporated.

A wild ride, no?

“I never look at anything I’ve done as a mistake,” Sills said, sweat dripping, after a recent scrimmage. “I know I’ve gone through a lot of different things. I never would have pictured myself being here playing receiver. But I just go out there and try to attack every day.”

Now Sills is one of only a trio of receivers completely trusted by WVU’s coaching staff heading into the season opener against Virginia Tech.

Consider that. Head coach Dana Holgorsen, known nationally for his past “Air Raid” attacks, is pinning hopes on a former quarterback at receiver. (And maybe two if William Crest progresses.)

Of course, Sills does have experience. He made his debut at receiver in 2015 as a freshman and scored a touchdown against Baylor. He recorded the game-winning 15-yard touchdown catch with 2:19 left against Arizona State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.

But the 6-foot-3, 202 pound junior is still coming off a season at quarterback at El Camino. That he’s one of the Mountaineers’ most trusted receivers heading into 2017 says something about him.

Yet how did the move come about in the first place?

“I was redshirting my freshman year and doing scout team stuff,” Sills said. “We were going against a team with a big receiver and they said to go out there. I guess it came about in a coaches meeting. I just looked at the depth chart and saw my name at receiver. I was like, OK, whatever.

“I just went out and tried to get our defense better. And after two, three weeks, Coach Holgorsen just said, ‘You want to try it out here?’ That’s how it all started.”

Now he’s praying — literally — for a happy ending.

“I really believe heavily that God opened this door for me,” Sills said. “When I left as a sophomore to play junior college, I felt he left the door [at WVU] open for me. So I just jumped in with both feet and am running with it.

“It’s how I attack every day. There’s always something I can get better at. I have a great opportunity here. I’m just going to run with it.”

Sills pointed to a few that are helping him prosper. Like receivers coach Tyron Carrier.

“Coach Carrier is great,” said the junior. “There are a lot of coaches out there that didn’t actually play the position at a very high level. Him doing that and going through what we’re going through helps us more.

“Now I’m working on a lot of technique stuff. I was very raw and not technically sound. Through spring and this summer he’s gotten me a lot better, even though I can still get better. I’m going to keep attacking every day and get better at my craft.”

And, yes, by the way, he’s good with Florida transfer Will Grier at quarterback.

“He’s very smart,” Sills said. “He knows how to get us in good positions. He’s very accurate when he throws the ball. Plus, he’s put in the work. He sees a lot of things out there. All the coaches trust him. We trust him. The offensive line trusts him.”

Sills is also impressed by offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, who will be calling the plays this season.

“Coach Spav is putting players in great positions,” said the receiver. “He’s calling great pass concepts. He’s getting the running backs in great positions. And we’re also playing at a great tempo. We’re in a good spot. As an offense we’re in synch. We need to finish that off [in camp].”

Sills not only has 2017, but 2018 to finish his college football story. He has a goal, however, for the upcoming season.

“Kind of our motto is to focus on the 13th game and how we approach things,” he said. “Coach Holgorsen has us focused. We all know what the big picture is. We’re focused for Sept. 3.”

And that 13th game is?

“Whatever it is, the Big 12 game, the bowl game, whatever it is,” Sills replied. “The 13th game is going to be meaningful.”

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