It might have been a surprise when David Sills made his commitment to West Virginia on Wednesday, with the word coming so soon on the heels of another QB pledge, that of Chris Chugunov, last month. However, the Mountaineer coaching staff obviously liked what it saw of the Eastern Christian Academy standout, and wanted to lock up more competition for the position in the futuure.
WHAT TO LIKE:
Sills might not have one attribute that stands out above all others, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a number of positives. He reads the field very well, and has a good idea of where to go with the ball as a play unfolds. He generally does not make bad decisions, and understands how route trees come together to lead receivers into open areas of the field.Sills also shows advanced touch on the ball, and can make a variety of throws. He can drop the ball over linebackers and tight safeties, and executes throws "into the bucket" in the back corner of the end zone with good accuracy.
"I think I've finally stopped growing and now I'm more comfortable with my body," Sills said. "When I was young, I was kind of tight and not real fast but I've worked on my flexibility and gained a lot of speed and strength."
-- David Sills
Finally, although it's not his forte, Sills can move with the ball before throwing it. While he's not a zone read runner, he rolls away from coverage well and throws the ball on the move without panic. He turns his body well and sets up his throws in those situations, and can identify and skip away from pressure to get the ball to an open receiver.
POSSIBLE CONCERNS:Playing almost exclusively in the shotgun, Sills doesn't have a lot of under-center experience, but in today's spread attack systems, that's not a huge concern. Still, there are times when he, like any other WVU QB, will need to go under center (WVU began doing that a bit more in 2013), so he'll need to work on that.
Sills also doesn't have a huge arm. He's not going to try to blow the ball past defenders and into tight windows. That, of course, doesn't mean he can't play in college, or that his arm strength is substandard. Stills noted recently that he was finally finished growing, and that the resultant stability should help him improve his mechanics and put more zip on the ball if needed.
The primary need in Dana Holgorsen's system is a passer who can make the right reads and right decisions quickly, and deliver the ball to the appropriate receiver at the right time. That doesn't mean the deep ball isn't a weapon that needs to be employed, but QBs don't have to be able to throw a heater to be successful in the Air Raid attack.
One off-field item that could come into play is the massive amount of publicity Sills received when he committed to USC as a seventh-grader. Since that time, he's been the focus of a great deal of coverage, and frequent trips to Southern California only heightened that publicity glare. Since decommitting, however, that spotlight has dimmed a bit, and while WVU believes it got a very good prospect, it remains to be seen how he might handle the change in focus. That's not to say that it will be a problem, but it is certainly an item to monitor, especially early in his career.
Long tutored by QB coach Steve Clarkson, Sills has a better understanding of the game than many other passers his age. That contributes greatly to his sense of calm in the pocket, where he reacts well under pressure and delivers the ball at any angle to receivers breaking free of coverage.
The biggest question about Sills is more of a philosophical one that a measure of on-field play. Did all the early attention bring unwarranted attention and unrealistic expectations to his game? Did he, as some say, suffer a slowdown in progression and improvement over the past year or two? Or was it simply the brutal glare of publicity that tends to tear down what is once praised?
Trying to put that aside and evaluate Sills based on his game film and workout videos can be difficult, but in doing so there's a lot to like about the ECA rising senior. He shows accomplished performance in many aspects of running a spread attack, and shows leadership in tough situations. Like any QB, he will face new challenges in the jump to each new level of play, but there's no reason, putting all the history aside, that he can't be a serious competitor for playing time at West Virginia. He's also an excellent fit in West Virginia's system, and has a good rapport with the Mountaineer coaching staff, which has certainly been no stranger to the ECA program.
Sills is also expected to graduate in December, and thus would be able to enroll at WVU in January, 2015.