MORGANTOWN - Whether or not Paul Millard actually believes he has a chance to beat out Geno Smith isn't really the point.
That West Virginia's true- freshman backup quarterback considers himself in competition with Smith is.
It can only make WVU's lone two quarterbacks better.
Coach Dana Holgorsen mentioned last week that Millard has adopted the attitude that who starts at quarterback for the Mountaineers is a question yet to be answered.
That's not really true, though.
"I know Millard personally, but I don't coach him. You'd have to ask Jake [Spavital, the quarterbacks coach] or Dana about his actual mindset,'' said receivers coach Shannon Dawson, who recruited Millard. "But I think everybody in this room knows who our starting quarterback is. And if you don't, you need to ... well, I don't know what you need to do.''
Here's the thing, though. As long as Millard has adopted the mindset that he is competing against Smith, whom can it hurt? Certainly not West Virginia's offense.
"Right now, I understand I'm the backup quarterback. Right now,'' Millard said. "But the mentality I have to have so I can play is [that the job is wide open]. And I believe I can play.''
So does Holgorsen, who will almost certainly go into the season with only Smith and Millard as serious players at the position. Those are the only two quarterbacks on the roster at the moment, and although recruiting a third or fourth - a mass e-mail has gone out to the student body looking for volunteers - is still on the table, that is merely for practice purposes.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. In fact, West Virginia has recruited some excellent quarterbacks in the past few years, guys who had they remained in school - or in one case arrived at all - might now have the experience and the maturity to give Smith a lot of competition.
But Jeremy Johnson, like Millard a Texas recruit, left the program midway through last season and is competing for the starting job at Lamar. Barry Brunetti, Smith's backup a year ago, transferred after one semester, is now at Mississippi with a waiver to play right away and is the front-runner to be the team's starter. Shoot, even Tajh Boyd committed to the program and then elected to go elsewhere. He's likely to start at Clemson this fall.
Then Brian Athey, who enrolled in January with Millard, packed his bags last week and transferred to Illinois State.
And so only Millard remains. Despite his insistence that he is competing with Smith, the truth is that barring injury he is not likely to play much at all until Smith leaves. By that time Millard could be a junior, given that he's not likely to be redshirted when there are no other quarterbacks around.
But he'll likely never jump ship because he sees the tremendous opportunity being afforded a lightly recruited kid from Texas.
"I don't know. I think the nature of the game is that guys want to get in and play faster and start their career off a lot faster. And I do, too,'' Millard said. "But the reality is that I think I'm in a great situation here at West Virginia and I think a lot of big things can happen down the road.''
The truth is, Millard does have a lot going for him even if there is seemingly no place for him as the starter. For one, he is getting plenty of experience in practice in an offense with which he is already intimately familiar because he ran it in high school.
"And I've read books about quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Tom Brady. In the Drew Brees book he talks about backing up Doug Flutie and just for a couple of years watching what Doug Flutie did on the field,'' Millard said. "And for me, a year not playing, if that's the case, I think that can really help you out. And when you do get your chance on the field those years spent just watching and learning can be great.''