David Sills

 

West Virginia’s David Sills jogs off the field during their game with Baylor on Saturday.

Searching for an offensive spark in the toughest stretch of the season, Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia University football team turned to an unlikely source: Fourth-string quarterback David Sills.

Well, check that: Wide receiver David Sills. The Wilmington, Delaware, native made the jump from scout team to first team on Saturday against Baylor, with Holgorsen making the bold decision to burn Sills’ redshirt and run him out there for the first time against one of the best teams in college football.

It paid off, too. While the Mountaineers weren’t able to keep pace with Baylor’s unstoppable offense in a 62-38 loss, Sills made his mark with two catches, 64 yards and his first career touchdown. While seeing Sills making plays as a receiver was a bit of a shock, for Holgorsen, the freshman’s impact was no surprise.

"I watched him in scout team become probably the best receiver on our team," Holgorsen said. "His attitude is he will do whatever it takes to help the team. I wouldn’t shut the door on quarterback in the future. Right now, he wants to do whatever he can do to help the team. He’s a really good football player."

That’s tall praise, considering this is a Mountaineer team that fields talented receivers such as Shelton Gibson and Jovon Durante. Despite his inexperience at the position, Sills showed some playmaking flash of his own on Saturday.

On his first reception, Sills fought off a jam from star corner Xavien Howard to slip into space on the outside, making the catch and then breaking a tackle for a 29-yard gain. West Virginia scored a touchdown on the next play, on a six-yard pass from Skyler Howard to tight end Cody Clay.

Sills saved his best for the third quarter. Lined up one-on-one with seasoned starter Ryan Reid, Sills managed to beat Reid to a deep ball from Howard, make an over-the-shoulder catch and tap a foot in bounds for the first touchdown of his career.

"He stepped up," Howard said. "That’s what we’ve been looking for: Someone on the outside to step up and make a play, and for him to make the change from quarterback to receiver and make a play in his first career game, it says a lot about him and the work he puts in. He’s been staying late for practice every day working on little things, and he’s just going to continue to get better."

Sills wasn’t the only unlikely source of offense on Saturday: Backup quarterback William Crest saw time as a running back and receiver, catching two passes from Howard for 13 yards, while sophomore wideout Ka’Raun White, younger brother of former Mountaineer star Kevin White, got his first extended burn of the season and recorded two catches for 40 yards.

With his redshirt burned, Sills appears likely to continue to hold down a role in the offense moving forward as a receiver listed behind Howard, Crest and freshman Chris Chugunov on the quarterback depth chart, getting snaps under center isn’t in his immediate future.

A four-star recruit out of football factory Eastern Christian Academy in Elkton, Maryland, Sills was previously noteworthy for his bizarre career path to West Virginia.

Regarded as a child prodigy, Sills was so heralded as a youth football prospect that he was offered a scholarship by then-USC head coach Lane Kiffin in 2010, when he was only in seventh grade. When Sills announced his commitment to the Trojans at the age of 13, it became national news.

Sills grew into a talented 6-foot-3 quarterback, but while his high school career was successful and decorated, he struggled to live up to the immense expectations placed upon his career. USC fired Kiffin in 2013, and Sills decommitted from the program in June 2014. Instead, Sills committed to West Virginia, becoming one of the highest-ranked members of their 2015 recruiting class.

The odds of David Sills, once one of America’s most touted quarterback prodigies, seeing his first college action as a wide receiver with the West Virginia Mountaineers seemed miniscule – but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and David Sills appears to have the athleticism and the natural talent to contribute moving forward.