Millard Leads First Team With Geno Smith Absent - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Millard Leads First Team With Geno Smith Absent

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MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia University Quarterback Geno Smith missed several days of practice to be with his family as they mourn the death of his grandmother. Smith is expected to rejoin the team on Monday when classes begin.

Smith's absence created a pretty good simulation of what practices would be like should he suffer an injury this season. Paul Millard took the first team reps while Ford Childress took all the reps with the second team.

"It's been good for him," Quarterbacks Coach Jake Spavital said. "We have put him in a lot of crazy situations and a lot of crowd noise and a lot of tempo situations to make him think and make him start dispersing the ball around. There were times we were not doing some good things at quarterback, but that is part of the growing process."

"It's been awesome because I have been out there and getting 20 to 30 percent more reps out there," Millard said. "I'm getting out there with the first team going against the first team defense and it has been good for me to be out there and run with those guys because if anything does happen to Geno, I am going to be the guy expected to make plays and I want to make plays."

Millard took charge of the first team offense. Spavital said the first day without Smith at practice was a little rough, but Millard responded very well to the challenge of leading the first team as training camp ended on Saturday.

It is one thing to take reps with the first team, but something entirely different to do it with confidence in yourself. Millard's teammates made sure to let him know they were confident in him throughout Smith's absence at practice.

"You heard Tavon and Stedman out there going come on Paul, we believe in you and all of that," Spavital said. "The seniors and upperclassmen, the kids that have been playing gave him some words of encouragement, which would probably be pretty comforting for a young sophomore quarterback coming in."

"It helps out," Millard stated. "You want guys believing in you out there. You don't want to go out there and have guys start slowing down on things and now playing for you. You want to go out there and have all 10 guys behind your back and playing for you. I think it has been good for me getting out there with them and repping with them."

Outside Receiver J.D. Woods is one of the newcomers to the starting lineup. He began training camp at the bottom of the depth chart due to some uncertainty regarding his academics. Once that was put in the past, Woods quickly rose to the starting unit and is playing well there. He said he liked what he saw out of Millard with the first team.

"Paul has been great in practice, and I think his confidence level is up," Woods said. "We need to have that type of depth in this conference."

Millard is in an entirely different place than he was a year ago. His father passed away last summer at the same time as he was trying to adjust to being a student-athlete. Some freshmen would have crumbled in those situations, but Millard survived and is reaping the rewards as a Sophomore.

"Everything that happened last year with me back home and coming up here just seemed like a blur," Millard said. "Life has really slowed down for me now and I got my feet back under me."

Millard's life is slowing down not only on the field, but off of it. He recently got engaged.

Not only did life slow down for him, but his understanding of the offense is also aiding in that process on the field.

"The more you rep, the more things slow down," Millard said. "When you are seeing defenses, things start opening up for you because you know what you are looking for. I think I have definitely improved in that category."

Millard was the guy at practice, at least for a few days. It is the job he wants to have a year from now when Smith has graduated. It is not a given that Millard will be the starter in 2013.

"With Geno gone the past couple of days, these practices have been very beneficial to them," Spavital stated. "The competition is already kind of beginning between Paul and Ford."

While Millard was with the media, Spavital stopped and tried to rattle his quarterback. Millard was asked about the competition beginning for the 2013 starting job. Like a quarterback trying to avoid a sack, Millard gave the answer his position coach was looking to hear.

"You are definitely excited for that because Geno is a senior," Millard said. "It's 2012 and we are focusing on 2012 and then we will get ready for next year."

Millard turned to Spavital and received a nod in approval of his answer. Both laughed and Spavital walked away.

Millard appeared in four games as a true freshman. He completed seven of 15 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown. Millard also tossed two interceptions, one of them in the Orange Bowl.

"That was a pretty simple mistake," Millard said about that interception. "We were running all verticals, and I just didn't look off the safety. If I would have done that, it probably would have been successful had I done that."

Millard understands nobody is hoping to see him on the field this year unless it is a blowout, but Smith's absence provided a great opportunity to get Millard ready to lead the first team should it be required.

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