By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
One would think that this spring is the most important in Paul Millard’s young life, and they would be right.
However, they might not know the real reason.
The junior from Flower Mound, Texas, is involved in a head-to-head competition with redshirt freshman Ford Childress, each taking half the snaps as spring practice begins, for the starting job as Geno Smith’s replacement at quarterback at West Virginia University.
That would be enough for anyone to deal with, but Millard has something else on his table.
He’s getting married on May 12.
“It’s my only week off,” he said.
His bride-to-be, Laura, is his high school sweetheart, who has followed him here and is attending WVU.
“A lot of people have asked me (why we are getting married at a time like this) and my answer always is when you know, you know,” Millard said. “I’ve known this for a long time. It wasn’t a hard decision.”
He recently proposed.
“I proposed on a mountaintop,” he said, cutting the questioning short at that. “No more details.”
The proposal, he did admit, came in Colorado.
So when he shows up in summer camp to continue the battle for the job, he will be a family man.
Even though Ryan Nehlen could not break into the lineup at West Virginia as a receiver during his time here, his wide receiver coach from last season and this year’s offensive coordinator, Shannon Dawson, believes he has all it takes to play in the National Football League.
“I wouldn’t say anything negative about the kid,” Dawson said. “In my opinion, he needs to be on a roster at the beginning of the year and given an opportunity.”
Ryan tested off the boards on Pro Day, running the fastest 40 and having the top broad jump and high jump with top shuttle times also.
“Based on my knowledge of being around him the last two years, he did everything right. He tested out the roof. You never know when people are going to take it and run with it,” Dawson said.
As to why he didn’t play very much here, he was stuck behind Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and a strong group of receivers.
“It just so happened we had some guys who were playing better than he was. It doesn’t mean the kid can’t play. If someone gives him a chance, you never know,” Dawson said.
New wide receiver coach Lonnie Galloway was asked if having to work with a new quarterback, and not yet knowing which quarterback will win the starting job, will affect his receivers.
“It really doesn’t matter,” he answered. “I tell them, after their workout they need to catch the ball off the JUGS machine, which has no face. It doesn’t matter who is throwing it, as long as they are in their spot and making plays.”
That is what these spring drills are all about, especially considering that WVU lost all its top five receivers from a year ago and will be working with new quarterbacks.
“Quarterbacks and receivers are probably a little different story, in that they just haven’t played. That is exciting to me as a coach. Coach (Lonnie) Galloway has been in here with these receivers trying to motivate those guys to get better and better, which he will do,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Now if they can run routes and hold up to the actual grind of football — that is what we are here to find out.”
The celebrity that has been thrust upon quarterback Geno Smith as a potential first-round draft choice in the NFL draft has put him into some interesting situations, including being on set with both former coaches John Gruden and Steve Mariucci.
“It was a great experience,” Smith said, before making an astute observation. “You can tell they drink a lot of caffeine. That’s a typical coach.”
Smith said they made him feel comfortable during the interviews.
“They would joke off the set a little, but on the set you could tell they’d done it before,” he said.
Just a prediction from someone who has yet to so much as see Dreamius Smith, the junior college transfer, run the ball.
He is going to be a big factor this year in changing the approach of the WVU offense, being a 220-pound power back with speed and moves.
Dustin Garrison was quick to praise him for bringing not only size but for having other tools that make him dangerous, sounding like he could be along the lines of Kay-Jay Harris, another late bloomer who came to WVU after playing minor league baseball.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.