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Harris: Senior Bowl snub won't hurt Smith

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 11:28 p.m.
West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith celebrates following a 59-10 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks in his final game at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV on December 01, 2012.

Yes, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith probably assumed a little too much when he bypassed the Senior Bowl. It would have been nice if Smith had shown up and performed for NFL coaches, scouts and executives in attendance.

But look at things from Smith's side. He's still regarded as the top quarterback in April's NFL Draft.

Quarterbacks E.J. Manuel, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Mike Glennon didn't bomb at the Senior Bowl, but they didn't make anyone forget Smith — other than wonder why he wasn't present.

In hindsight, Smith took a big-time gamble — call it a leap in faith — and ended up winning the lottery.

“I was surprised to hear that Smith did not go to the Senior Bowl. He could have greatly helped his stock, but based on the performances of the quarterbacks there, it will not impact his pecking order among QBs,” said Dave-Te' Thomas, the NFL's official draft researcher and biographer who has worked for the league since 1968 and operates Scouting Services Inc. “He will still be the first quarterback off the board, but likely mid- to late-round one.”

If Kansas City doesn't snag Smith with the No. 1 overall pick, look for Arizona to grab him at No. 7.

“He didn't want to play in the Senior Bowl,” said Damon Cogdell, a former WVU linebacker who coached Smith at Miramar High School in suburban Miami. “People always have to have something to talk about. That's what they're talking about, him not showing up for the Senior Bowl. The way he throws the football, his workouts are going to be phenomenal.”

A year after Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson took the draft by storm, Smith is the next best thing.

“My goal is to be the best,” Smith told me right after playing his final college game against Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. “One thing that NFL teams should know is I'm prepared to put the work in to be the best. I'm not going to stop until I am.”

Asked why he declined to play in the Senior Bowl, Smith replied confidently: “My career as a whole, I'd like to think I did some pretty good things. I almost got 100 touchdowns (98 career touchdown passes) and less than 20 interceptions (21). That's a pretty good career. I think I did a great job.”

“I think he's a guy that in time will end up being a very good starting quarterback in the NFL,” said Mike Detillier, creator and owner of the annual Mike Detillier's Draft Report. Detillier rates Smith as the No. 9 overall prospect in the draft.

“He's got all the physical tools, all the intangibles that you're looking for,” Detillier said. “But more importantly, his maturity and leadership on a team that was built on scoring points, but he didn't get a lot of help on the other side of the ball.”

Smith became a scapegoat during WVU's five-game losing streak following a 5-0 start. The Mountaineers ranked 119th out of 120 FBS teams in pass defense, overshadowing Smith's second consecutive 4,000-yard passing campaign and a high-octane offense boasting a pair of 100-catch receivers.

It was good preparation for what life will be like at the next level for Smith.

He got all of the credit when things went great, but he also received all of the blame when things went bad — even when it wasn't his fault.

Welcome to the NFL.

“I can't really sway peoples' opinions about me,” said Smith, who's training with about three dozen high-profile draft hopefuls, including Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, Florida State's Bjoern Werner, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. “Everyone has their own opinion. People are going to like me. People are going to dislike me. That's the way the world works.”

It looks like Smith has the pro football world right where he wants it: in his capable hands.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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