The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

December 24, 2011

SMITH VS. BOYD

WVU quarterback prepared to go against former Mountaineer commit

MORGANTOWN — Had the deal gone down as many in Mountaineer Nation had hoped, the world (at least the part that extends from Martinsburg to Matewan, from Weirton to Welch, and all points in between) likely would have been a much different place.

What if Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd had kept his commitment to West Virginia?

The likely scenario would have meant no Geno Smith.

When Boyd, who said he reacted too quickly when he committed to WVU, then coached by Bill Stewart, pulled the plug on his verbal, it opened the door for WVU to bring in Geno Smith.

Word then was the Mountaineers weren’t taking two quarterbacks, and Boyd was a big-time recruit.

Safe to say, Clemson, where Boyd is now the star quarterback (after switching from WVU to Tennessee originally) and West Virginia, with record-setting Smith, are both happy with the outcome.

Boyd, the MVP of the Tigers’ ACC championship game win over Virginia Tech, completed 274 of 453 passes for 3,578 yards and 31 touchdowns this season. He was intercepted 10 times. He also rushed for 186 yards and five scores.

Smith, who burst onto the national scene under first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen, completed 314 of 483 passes for 3,978 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was picked seven times.

Both parties are extremely happy.

Smith, recruited by former West Virginia assistant and current Marshall head coach Doc Holliday, is certainly happy about the situation, even though he had no idea about what was going on with Boyd.

“I have no idea about Tajh’s situation,” Smith said. “It was a situation where  Doc came down and really started talking to me. It was right after my Alabama visit.

“I just felt like West Virginia was the place for me. I had no idea what Tajh was doing nor was I shying away from any competition.”

A product of Miramar (Fla.) High School, Smith had faith in his own skills.

Even in the face of a transition to Holgorsen’s high-octane passing attack, one it would seem Boyd would have relished.

Smith said he has grown in the offense by repetition.

“I’m a lot better,” Smith said. “I have a tremendous understanding of this offense now.

“I understand what coach Holgorsen wants me to do in certain situations. Experience has done wonders for me. I learned through going through the fire during the season and it’s going to help me in the long run.”

Smith netted big numbers over the first half of the season, including a record 463 yards against No. 1 LSU, which is playing Alabama in the national championship game.

“I thought I knew it all and I learned pretty quickly that I didn’t know anything,” Smith said. “It’s just been a steady process learning this offense and trying to pick Holgorsen’s brain. He’s always going to want perfection and we strive for perfection.”

The fact that three of his four lowest yardage totals of the season came in the final five games, is as much a product of the defense gaining more tape to study WVU’s offense as it is Smith’s actual production falling off. He has thrown just two touchdown passes in the last three games, but WVU, making its own adjustments, won all three games.

Now comes Clemson, easily the best team WVU has faced since meeting LSU Sept. 24.

And a meeting with Boyd.

“Clemson has a great team,” Smith said. “There’s a reason why they’re going to be playing us in the Orange Bowl. We feel like we have a pretty good team, too. I think we’re going to get overlooked just because it’s kind of a trend with West Virginia. But who cares? We’re going to prepare and play hard.”

All of Mountaineer Nation is glad that Boyd followed that trend.

— E-mail: demorrison@register-herald.com

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