WVU backup QB ready for call

| Saturday, June 30, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — From conference realignment to a four-team playoff to the debate over player stipends, college football has undergone an overhaul during the past year. That change will be symbolized here Sunday, when West Virginia officially joins the Big 12.

While focus tends to be on the college backdrop as a whole, the change may be personified best by West Virginia sophomore quarterback Paul Millard, who has undergone numerous changes of his own during the past year.

“I thought when I got recruited here I'd be playing Big East football for four years,” said Millard, who is from Flower Mound, Texas. “Now in the Big 12, it's just very different. It's very exciting.

“When I found out, it was like a dream come true. I knew God had a plan with me coming here, and now everything keeps falling into place.”

Millard committed to the Mountaineers on Jan. 11, 2011. He was the first player from Texas to pledge for West Virginia after Dana Holgorsen was hired as offensive coordinator.

He enrolled for spring practice along with fellow freshman signal-caller Brian Athey. The duo competed for the backup job to Geno Smith, and after Millard clearly put himself in the driver's seat, Athey transferred to Illinois State.

That left Millard as the sole replacement for Smith. He played in four games, completing 7 of 15 passes for 124 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Fast forward to this spring when another highly touted true freshman entered the equation. Ford Childress, son of former NFL defensive lineman Ray Childress, picked West Virginia over Arizona, Arizona State, Florida State and Oklahoma State after throwing for 3,171 yards, 41 touchdowns and seven interceptions during his senior year.

Childress was seen as Smith's heir apparent, but the sophomore was undaunted. Millard beat him out this spring, and he'll enter fall camp as Smith's backup. It's a role he's more prepared for. He said looking at tape of himself from spring 2011 to this past spring is “night and day.”

“I feel alot more comfortable and a lot more confident in what we're doing,” Millard said.

Millard and Childress will again be competing for a spot after Smith graduates. This time, it'll be for the starting job.

It will be another change, but Millard has experience in handling it. Still, he wants to be sure he's ready.

“Geno's going to gone after this year,” he said. “It's going to be a quarterback battle next spring. The quarterback's got to be the leader on the team, and I'm looking to step into that role.

“It starts now. It doesn't start whenever Geno leads. It's starts right now, so I'm just trying to do my part.”

Josh Sickles is a freelance writer.

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