Mountaineer QB Smith says he’s improved heading into senior season
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:08
As a junior, Geno Smith set basically every single-season passing record at West Virginia.
His return and that of his top three receivers from 2011 was enough to frighten a lot of defensive coordinators across the country. But they probably got even more worried when Smith had a message for everyone at Big 12 Conference Media Day in July.
"I’ve improved so much over the summer. I’m a much better player (than last season)," Smith said. "I’ve gotten bigger, I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve gotten faster, I’ve gotten smarter.
"I’ve become a totally different player and I’m ready to let the world see it."
Smith became the first Mountaineer quarterback to throw for more than 4,000 yards in 2011. And if history has taught us anything, the second season in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense only leads to increased production from its quarterbacks.
After Holgorsen became an offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, second-year starting quarterbacks saw their production increase by an average of 900 yards and five touchdowns per year.
Based on Smith’s stats from a year ago, that would put the Miami native at more than 5,200 yards and 36 touchdowns this season.
"When (WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck) tried to get me to come here, that was one of the reasons," Holgorsen said. "He saw the development we had with (former Oklahoma State quarterback) Brandon Weeden and with Case (Keenum) and with the guys at Texas Tech that we had. We started talking about the job, and he said he knew Geno needed to develop.
"It’s been fun watching him develop, and it’ll be fun watching him in year two as well."
The 6-foot-3 senior is building toward becoming the quarterback a lot of people are projecting him to become. He’s now up to 225 pounds – 20 pounds heavier than he was in his MVP-winning performance in the Discover Orange Bowl in January.
"Other than the fact that it probably makes me a better NFL prospect, I don’t really think it does much for my game," Smith said. "The only way I’ll be able to tell that is by actually getting out there in a game. Maybe I’ll tell a difference and maybe I won’t."
But whether it helps Smith’s performance on the field or not, Holgorsen sees the added weight and emphasis in the weight room as a lot of progress for his starting quarterback.
"He’s always been a guy that bounces up and down through the halls with a ball in his hand, but he never wanted to pick up a weight," he said. "He’d rather go in there and watch film than he would get down and do some push ups.
"The NFL is going to judge you based on measurables, so if that’s in Geno’s future, it’s probably a pretty good idea. He’s still got to produce, though."
And the expectations have never been higher for Smith. Heading into his final season in Morgantown, he was named first team all-Big 12 and was picked as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.
He’s also gotten to take part in the Manning Academy in Louisiana, working with Peyton and Eli Manning and the Elite 11 Camp in California.
"We coach them pretty good and we develop them pretty good," Holgorsen said. "All exposure is good, and he’s the type of kid that can handle the spotlight and the exposure and expectations. He’s going to be judged by how many games he wins – not how quick his feet are or how accurate he is."
Smith has shined throughout his career, but heading into this season, the chances he’s had to work with people like Peyton and Eli could help him even more than anything he could do on the field.
"It’s all about the mental side of football and making sure that I’m professional on and off the field," Smith said. "They said to make sure that I’m studying the game and improving on what I need to improve on.
"I don’t let (the preseason accolades) affect me in any way. I’m not going to boast that like it’s a major accomplishment. The only thing I’m worried about is winning games."