The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 13, 2011

Smith has room to grow

Holgorsen says WVU quarterback hasn’t reached his full potential yet

MORGANTOWN — If you think that West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is playing at a high level right now, you would be correct.

Smith has already thrown for 2,159 yards (604 short of last year’s total in 13 games) and has 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions. (He had 24 TDs and seven interceptions in 2010).

Smith has completed 165 of 258 passes (63.95 percent).

But according to coach Dana Holgorsen, you haven’t seen anything yet.

“He’s going to continue to get better and better over this next year and a half to the point that you’ll see a finished product,” Holgorsen said. “Right now, you’re not looking at a finished product.

“It will be fun a year from now watching what Geno, with that kind of experience under his belt and knowing exactly what to do, and being a year advanced with everyone else around him, can do. Then you can start talking about good offensive football.”

West Virginia is off this week. The Mountaineers travel to Syracuse Friday, Oct. 21, for an 8 p.m. game at the Carrier Dome. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Holgorsen has coached three of the top eight passers in the nation this season, including Smith, who is eighth.

Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State is second. He has completed 166 of 219 passes (75.8 percent) for 1,880 yards, with 15 TDs and six interceptions.

Case Keenum, who Holgorsen coached at Houston, is seventh and has completed 170 of 238 passes (71.43 percent) for 2,309 yards. He has 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Holgorsen was asked to compare Smith to Weeden and Keenum.

“Guys like Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum are more finished products,” Holgorsen said. “They’ve taken more snaps in the system. When I left Houston and Oklahoma State, they kept the same system for a reason. They have the same guy doing the same system — Case four years now and Brandon two years now. You’re seeing some pretty good football out of those guys.

“They’re both 6-0 (team records), and they’re playing at a very high rate. We’re 5-1, and we’re not playing at that rate right now offensively.”

Holgorsen said one of Smith’s main faults is trying to do too much.

“He’s a daily challenge,” Holgorsen said. “He learned stuff again this past week. He gets so wrapped up in the game, which is a good thing. He’s all in, it means so much to him, and he wants to be successful on every play, to the point where he probably tries too hard.”

That being said, Holgorsen still thinks Smith has progressed.

“He can do a lot of things that other people across the country can’t do,” Holgorsen said. “His competitiveness is something that is irreplaceable. It takes reps, it takes experience, and it takes time to get to the point where it’s more efficient.”

But once he gets a real handle on Holgorsen’s offense, the sky will be the limit. And he has room to make that improvement, the coach said.

“I don’t want to sell Geno short. He’s got six games now (under this system), that the other guys have used for a longer period,” Holgorsen said.

“That said, Geno’s still a great player. One hundred percent of my focus is to make sure that he continues to improve as a player and as a person. It’s a hard job right now. That’s why I don’t worry about the other guys. I worry about what we have right here.”

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