Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

July 25, 2012

WVU QB Smith’s best may be still to come

Dana Holgorsen has seen a few good quarterbacks during his coaching days.

West Virginia University’s second-year football coach led Graham Harrell, now with the Green Bay Packers, at Texas Tech when he led the country in total offense.

At Houston, Holgorsen helped guide Case Keenum, who ended up throwing for more touchdowns than anybody in the history of college football. He recently signed as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans.

Then, at Oklahoma State, Holgorsen led Brandon Weeden, the first-ever Cowboy to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors. Weeden made headlines Tuesday by inking an $8.1 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.

So when Holgorsen talks about the talent of WVU senior Geno Smith, he can’t be ignored.

“He stacks up with a lot of the other guys I’ve had in the past,” said Holgorsen Tuesday at the Big 12 Media Days. “Ultimately, it’s how many games you win, and, with him going into his senior year, he’s going to be remembered by (what he does in 2012).”

Holgorsen said Smith made major progressions between the 30-27 WVU victory over USF that closed out the 2011 regular season — where Smith threw for 237 yards but didn’t toss a single touchdown pass — and the 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson a little more than a month later — when the Miramar (Fla.) High School product re-wrote the record books by lighting up the skies with 401 passing yards and six touchdowns.

But if history is any indication, Smith’s best may still be on the way.

“If you look back at some of the guys in the past, Graham Harrell back four years ago at Texas Tech was a good player and they won 11 games his senior year,” said Holgorsen. “Case Keenum won 12 or 13 games last year. Brandon Weeden, last year at Oklahoma State, won 15 games, or whatever it was.”

Smith will be in his third year as a starter under center for the Mountaineers, but more importantly, he’ll be working with Holgorsen for the second year.

“Everything is better the second year,” Holgorsen admitted. “It was evident last year with Brandon at Oklahoma State. His year two was more comfortable.

“You can just see Geno with a little bit more confidence right now. It makes more sense to him. So he’s going out there in the summertime, (doing) a bunch of voluntary activities. After having a year under your belt, it’s easier to get a bunch of guys out there and practice on your own.”

Holgorsen isn’t the only one looking for big things out of Smith.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound signal caller was recently named the Big 12 preseason Offensive Player of the Year, topping established league stars like Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, who threw for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Sooners, this year’s preseason favorite.

Smith’s been tabbed as the best of the best in a league where five quarterbacks landed on the watch list for the Davy O’Brien award.

“It’s been the same way in the Big 12 for about a decade now,” said Holgorsen. “(There have) been a whole bunch of good quarterbacks come through the league. Obviously, last year a guy that I followed pretty closely, Brandon Weeden, was in the league and Robert Griffin (won) the Heisman Trophy.

“The league’s been like that for as long as I can remember it. I’ve been fortunate to be at a lot of those games and coach a lot of those quarterbacks.”

But Holgorsen was quick to explain that the Mountaineers’ success or failure on offense this year will be about much more than just Smith.

WVU returns nine offensive starters, and the coach considers all of them to be important pieces to the puzzle.

“We’ve got 20 kids that played football for us on offense (back),” he said. “So we’re not going to win games with Geno and Geno alone. He’s got to have a whole bunch of guys around him that make plays and that understand the offense. That’s how you get good offensively.”

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