Player Spotlight: Geno Smith

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The season cannot start soon enough for West Virginia junior quarterback Geno Smith. The addition of Dana Holgorsen and his high powered offense have brought high expectations to the Mountaineer Nation. Holgorsen’s offense has been responsible for lighting up scoreboards all over the country in recent years, and it’s no surprise to see why expectations are through the roof.

“It doesn’t bother me because we expect that for ourselves,” Smith said.  “We set the bar high for ourselves and that’s the reason we go out and practice hard because we expect to go out and put up points.  We know that it’s not going to happen every game, but that’s part of the learning experience.  You can’t hang your head if you don’t put up 50 points and you can’t get too high if you do.”

Smith was one of 40 college football student athletes named to The Walter Camp Football Foundation’s “Players to Watch” for it’s 2011 Player of the Year Award, the nation’s fourth oldest individual college football accolade.

To understand the hype, you must look to the past. Holgorsen has molded some of the nations finest signal callers. At Houston, he assisted Case Keenum in leading the nation in total offense in 2008 and 2009, totaling 403 yards per game as a sophomore and 416 yards his junior season. He also ranked among the Top 10 nationally in pass efficiency both years.

Last season at Oklahoma State, he helped Brandon Weeden lead the nation in total offense, averaging 537 yards per game throwing for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns. Weeden was an unknown, and played baseball prior to his arrival in Stillwater.

Holgorsen doesn’t like to compare Smith to Weeden, but Geno has a distinct advantage according to the head coach.

“I don’t like to make reference to a lot of the things I’ve done in the past, but Brandon Weeden was a guy who hadn’t played a whole lot of football,” Holgorsen said.  “Geno’s played a whole bunch of football.  He had a very successful career in high school for three years.  He came here and played as a freshman and played a bunch last year so he’s played a whole bunch of football.”

Last season Smith compiled solid stats under former offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen with 2,763 yards, 24 touchdowns and 7 INTs.  With a completely new system in place, Smith feels confident in his abilities in the new offense.

“I feel like I’m pretty diverse and can run any offense,” Smith said.  “I just try my best to go out and execute the plays the way the coaches want me to. We have the talent and we also have the coaching staff that’s going to put us in position to make good plays, so it’s just all about us buying in and working hard.”

As spring went on, Holgorsen liked what he saw from his junior gunslinger.

“The thing that stands out more than anything is the fact that he likes to play football,” Holgorsen said. “You can see him out there and he’s bouncing around, he’s got great body language and his communication skills are good.  They need to improve but they’re pretty good. The guys feed off him.”

Smith’s desire to compete showed during the spring game when he was informed he was finished for the night.

“I think it was midway through the fourth quarter in the spring game that I told him, ‘you did it and had a nice little practice here but you’re done, and boy I thought he was going to fight me.” Holgorsen said. “He didn’t want to come out of the game. He wanted to keep playing and keep playing and keep playing so the hunger is there for Geno. He just needs to continue to get better at every little thing that he’s doing.”

Smith and his crew just returned from Big East Media Day where his Mountaineers were picked to win the conference over rival Pitt. For Geno, he knows the bar has been raised, and he likes it.

“We have a lot to live up to but we set the bar higher for ourselves,” said Smith when asked about West Virginia being picked first in the Big East media poll. “We are extremely honored. It proves that our tradition, our hard work and everything we do at West Virginia is paying off and we want to build on that.”

Geno has made it known the goal of this team is beyond the Big East. They want to bring a BCS Championship to Morgantown, and they are working hard to make it happen.

The journey starts Sept. 4 vs Marshall at Milan Puskar Stadium.