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Elliott: Things Will Only Improve for Geno Smith

September 10, 2011
By JIM ELLIOTT - Staff Writer (elliott@theintelligencer.net) , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MORGANTOWN - A couple of weeks ago, ESPN Big East blogger Andrea Adelson completed her list of the top 25 players in the Big East heading into 2011.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith landed at No. 1.

Given the national reputation of the league as a whole, recognition as its best player might well be like the shiniest car on JW's used car division.

Still, there's little doubt Smith will prove Adelson to be correct. (Next worry for WVU fans is Smith leaving early for the NFL Draft).

In an offense that sometimes never got off the ground and often was ordered to land early when it did, Smith still put together one of the finest seasons passing in school history. His 24 touchdowns and 241 completions were second-best in WVU annals, his 2,763 yards were tops for a sophomore, and his total yardage (2,980) was No. 4 all-time.

Add to that, new coach Dana Holgorsen's penchant for throwing - generally 10 percent more throws than runs in recent years - and Smith is sitting in the captain's seat.

Frankly, it's about time. In looking up those numbers, you had to blow the dust off some of those record books for passers at West Virginia. For all the credit he got - and deserves, still - for bringing an explosive offense to West Virginia, former coach Rich Rodriguez never had a quarterback throw for 300 yards in a game while he was in Morgantown.

In his first walk toward presumed history, Smith completed 26 passes - ninth all-time for a single game- to nine different receivers for 249 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters under Holgorsen.

And he figures things can only go up.

''The thing that I liked the most is that we were all on the same page and we knew what to do,'' Smith said. ''That's something that builds progress and that's something we can look forward to. ... We had some inconsistent moments. It's always a plus to be able to learn from your mistakes and get better.''

Some of the mistakes were obvious. As Holgorsen pointed out ''275 times'' this week, there was some turnstyle blocking. That led to Smith ducking would-be sacks and scrambling for freedom - something the coaches don't want to see, given the scarce depth behind him.

He figured he'd get in trouble for some of that improv the next day, but ''Whenever you can make a play and get a first down, it's always a plus for the offense,'' he said. ''I've gotten a lot healthier and I've been working hard on that. I think it's going to pay off a lot here in the future.''

Still, Holgorsen's idea for Smith is to sit back and throw darts. To indirectly climb that dusty school career passing chart.

Holgorsen has been saying Smith's biggest problem since he met him was his inability to tone it down at times.

That's the same problem opposing coaches have with him.