MORGANTOWN — West Virginia’s roster features 13 scholarship receivers, and during some practices you’d swear one of them doubles as player/coach.
All-American David Sills, whose first full season playing receiver generated outrageous touchdown numbers and a brief dalliance with turning pro, expects bigger things from himself in 2018. And he expects the same from his teammates.
“Even when the twos are going, Sills is paying attention, helping out those young guys and telling them what works for him,” said offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “They can take it or leave it, but by his work ethic and what he proved last year, I’d be listening to it.”
Receivers coach Tyron Carrier couldn’t have anticipated Sills catching a nation-leading 18 touchdowns last season and emerging as a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Nor can he imagine Sills resting on those accomplishments.
He isn’t wired for complacency.
“It’s still a developmental process, and David understands receiver more now,” Carrier said. “He can see through the film last year how he can get better, and that translates to how he practices. I don’t think there’s a rep out there that’s wasted.”
That includes reps taken by fellow receivers, who frequently receive instruction from Sills.
“David, he basically talks to everybody,” Carrier said.
Sills chalks up his chattiness to “the old quarterback in me,” a need to know every facet of the offense and to synchronize the collective.
“I want to leave my mark and I want the guys to say that I helped them,” Sills said. “A lot of our twos and threes are young, and Carrier’s got a lot to deal with out there. He’s got to be watching what’s happening on the field, so the least I can do is help someone on the sideline by relaying what he’s taught me.”
What Carrier has taught Sills across the offseason boils down to refinement. Tighter routes, increased physicality, spotting defensive tells and disguising his own.
“The DBs in practice can’t tell if he’s running a route or about to block them,” Carrier said.
Despite making 60 catches for 980 yards last season — some of which were breathtaking — Sills fixates on a few he didn’t make. The diving end-zone attempt in the final seconds against Virginia Tech could’ve tied the game, and a late jumpball against Iowa State became an interception for cornerback De’Andre Payne.
“I could have done a better job of slowing the defender up and letting the ball fall in front of me instead of jumping back and letting the defender make a play on the ball,” Sills said.
For the drive to self-appraise, the urge to re-examine, Sills credits his parents. He remembers watching tape with is father after high school games. “Whether we lost or won by 50,” Sills recalled, “we were looking for things where you can get better.”
As West Virginia prepares to open the season against Tennessee, Sills and quarterback Will Grier are even more tuned to in-game adjustments, part of a passing game projected to rival the program’s best ever.
Not lost upon Sills is the fact he didn’t contribute a catch during the 30-14 bowl setback to Utah, or the fact that he didn’t catch a touchdown over the final three games when Grier’s injured hand stunted the offense.
“The thing you love about Sills is he can score a touchdown and still critique it,” Spavital said. “He’s constantly in that learning mode, and I think you should be in that your entire life.”
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