ShareThis Page

Harris: WVU's Smith for Heisman? Not so fast

| Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith throws the ball during the second half of the Orange Bowl against Clemson, in Miami. (AP)
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith throws the ball during the second half of the Orange Bowl against Clemson, in Miami. (AP)
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is a Heisman Trophy candidate. (AP)
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is a Heisman Trophy candidate. (AP)

The low-key Heisman Trophy slogan for West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith — courtesy of coach Dana Holgorsen — should go something like this:

“Don't believe the hype. In Geno we trust.''

It makes sense. Holgorsen doesn't want to downplay Smith's Heisman chances, but he also doesn't want to detract from the rest of the team. Despite the desire to promote his star player, Holgorsen must consider the big picture.

This is the Mountaineers' first season in the Big 12 Conference. WVU was picked to finish second in the league by reporters who cover the league, so Smith isn't the only story in Morgantown.

“Ultimately, it's how many games you win and (Smith) going into his senior year,'' Holgorsen said. “Geno's going to be remembered for how many games you win.''

Which is why Holgorsen made the decision after meeting with members of WVU's sports communications staff not to go overboard with Smith's Heisman candidacy.

“Obviously we felt like Geno is definitely a Heisman Trophy candidate. But so is (WVU senior wide receiver) Tavon Austin. And so could some of our other players before it's all said and done,'' director of football communications Mike Montoro said. “Coach is a big proponent of team, not individual. He felt that if the team is successful, Geno will be right there when the year is over.''

So there will be no official Geno Smith for Heisman campaign at West Virginia. No weekly mailings with clever catch phrases or personalized gifts for Heisman voters. There are plans for a weekly conference call with members of the national media and plenty of raw data and video highlights detailing Smith's weekly accomplishments.

Besides, how much more info do you need to realize that Smith is one of the best quarterbacks in the country?

“They don't have to do as much as they used to,'' ESPN's Beano Cook, sectional representative for Heisman voters in the Mid-Atlantic region, said about West Virginia's somewhat casual approach toward promoting Smith. “Because of television, you see everybody now. I don't think Smith's the favorite going in, but he could win it. I think (USC's) Matt Barkley's the favorite. If the (Mountaineers) have a good year, and they're supposed to, Smith has a shot.''

As a junior, Smith passed for a school-record 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns. West Virginia went 10-3, won the Big East championship and routed Clemson, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl. Smith established Orange Bowl records for passing yards and total yards, and he was responsible for seven touchdowns in the blowout.

Barkley threw for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns last season, so there's not much to choose from between the quarterbacks, other than perception.

Holgorsen isn't worried about perception. His focus is winning every game and letting Smith's performance take care of itself.

“I don't want to put too much pressure on him. He puts enough pressure on himself, but he has improved everything,'' said Holgorsen, whose reputation as a quarterback guru won't hurt Smith's Heisman chances. “His footwork is better, his arm strength is better, his quickness is better, his release is better, his accuracy is better. He's really improved his game, and it shows out there.''

Holgorsen will talk more about Smith during the season, of course, but he won't go out of his way just so he can hear his own voice.

Truth be told, Smith doesn't want him to.

“I couldn't care less,'' Smith said. “I don't know where my Orange Bowl (MVP) trophy is. My parents have all my trophies. Personal awards are ego boosters, and I'm not an egotistical guy. I will endorse Tavon Austin (for the Heisman) because I think he's definitely the most electrifying player in the country with the ball in his hands.''

Modesty will get Smith nowhere in the Heisman race. But his numbers can take him anywhere.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.