WVU signal callers face high expectations in 2012
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:08
This offseason, lofty projections and predictions have been tossed Geno Smith’s way with each passing day. Though the Mountaineers have only officially been in the Big 12 for about two months, the 6-foot-3, senior quarterback has already been pegged as the conference’s preseason Player of the Year and a trendy dark horse pick for the Heisman Trophy.
Though expectations were high for Smith and the West Virginia offense heading into head coach Dana Holgorsen’s first season, the anticipation and buzz surrounding the offense this fall is even greater – and for good reason.
Smith, en route to becoming the first 4,000-yard passer in Big East history, was among national leaders in a variety of categories last season, including fourth in total passing yards, fifth in total passing yards per game and eighth in total offense.
The Miramar, Fla., native threw for 300 or more yards in a school-record eight games, and finished with 33 total touchdowns and threw for 4,385 passing yards – a school and Big East single-season record.
With a pair of 1,000-yard receivers returning in senior Tavon Austin and redshirt junior Stedman Bailey, Smith will have the requisite firepower to catapult himself further into the rarefied air of the West Virginia record books.
Through offseason weight training, Smith has added 11 pounds onto his frame, upping his weight to 225 pounds. Along with his arm strength, quick release and tall stature, Smith will truly look the part of a legitimate NFL prospect right from the season opener.
Waiting in the wings behind Smith is sophomore Paul Millard, who figures to return in his role of backup quarterback. Millard, a 6-foot-2 gunslinger from Flower Mound, Texas, had one of the few disappointing moments of West Virginia’s record-setting Orange Bowl victory when he threw an interception on his first pass of the game, prompting Holgorsen to re-enter Smith despite the large lead.
Millard has always been in Holgorsen’s favor due to his extremely quick release and genuine understanding of the offensive scheme. Last season as a true freshman, Millard appeared overwhelmed at times, but he also flashed some signs of brilliance, showing why Holgorsen is comfortable with him in the event of an injury to Smith.
In last season’s 55-10 victory over Norfolk State, Millard whipped a 30-yard touchdown strike across the middle of the field to then-senior wide receiver Brad Starks that gave the crowd a glimpse of his potential. With a full offseason to mature, Millard stands in great shape to provide support to Smith and the offense as the backup, ready to enter the game at any time.
Mountaineer fans had hoped that true freshman quarterback Ford Childress would shine in the spring game and challenge Millard for the backup spot. However, an off-field incident kept Childress out of that game and probably out for the upcoming season.
At 6-foot-5, Childress entered West Virginia as an early enrollee and a much sought-after prospect. A native of the Lone Star State, Childress has the size, strength and makeup to excel in the Big 12 and saw the Mountaineers and Holgorsen’s air-raid attack as his best bet to do so.
Childress figures to be redshirted this season, which will ultimately help his development and transition into an eventual starting role. With Smith entering his senior year, Childress can spend this season maturing and learning from both of the older quarterbacks ahead of him. Though he figures to be the quarterback of the future, Morgantown and the rest of the Big 12 will have to wait at least one more year to see Childress in action.