The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 17, 2011

Smith could make major strides under Holgorsen’s watch

The one thing new West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen knew was that Geno Smith could play football.

He could tell that by watching mountains of tape of the Mountaineers’ signalcaller.

What he did not know was the studious way Smith went about becoming the kind of quarterback Holgorsen saw in all that film he watched.

“You can watch a mile of tape on a guy, but what you don’t know until you meet with a guy is how he prepares,” Holgorsen said earlier this summer. “I found a guy who enjoys preparing for a game almost as much as he likes the game itself. That was a key thing that impressed me about Geno.”

If, like the old NFL Network commercial, Smith has “All Kinds of Time” (a Fountains of Wayne reference) who’s to say he won’t pass for 4,000 yards this season?

It’s no stretch. Indeed, it’s feasible.

Last year, with an offense that tried — and failed miserably — to run the football, at all costs, Smith still managed to throw for 2,763 yards, with 24 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

Now with Holgorsen and an offense that is pass-first (and second, and third ...), why couldn’t he throw for roughly 100 more yards per game?

The real surprise may be if he doesn’t easily exceed that.

Look at Holgorsen’s recent history with quarterbacks.

Case Keenum at Houston in 2008-09 and Branden Weeden, at Oklahoma State last season, had statistics that look like they’re from a video game.

In his first year under Holgorsen in 2008, Keenum threw for 5,020 yards with 44 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

In 2009, Keenum was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award (nation’s top quarterback) when he passed for 5,671 yards with 44 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He attempted 700 passes. That’s 7-0-0 (completing 492). Last season, Smith attempted 120 fewer passes than Keenum completed, to give you a bit of insight as to what you might see in 2011.

In 2010, Brandon Weeden threw for 4,277 yards with 34 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Who does not believe that Smith is at least as good as Keenum and better athletically?

Who doesn’t think he is vastly superior to Weeden, a former New York Yankees farmhand who will turn 28 in October?

I know I do.

We’ll know where Smith stacks up and if it’s a Holgorsen thing, because Keenum and Weeden are both back this season as well.

I say Smith will live up to the offensive hype machine the Holgorsen offense spits out.

I said it last year, and I’m sticking to it: Smith, if he stays healthy, is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate this year.

I didn’t say he would win it. But I also don’t think it’s beyond logical sensibility to see him in New York in December.

If WVU beats LSU and runs the table, which could happen, it may defy logic if Smith is not there, given Holgorsen’s recent track record with quarterbacks.

With Smith’s ability, the numbers may be astronomical.

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