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WVU QB readies for his breakout season

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By Tony Dobies
Thursday, June 30, 2011
 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia starting quarterback Geno Smith is two months away from starting what is expected to be a record-setting season in 2011.

Smith, a junior, has been touted by preseason prognosticators as one of the best at his position. He's even been named as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate.

Smith said he hasn't thought about any of that this summer. Instead, he's focusing on improving the Mountaineers' new offense under coach Dana Holgorsen.

"We've got about six weeks left," Smith said of summer workouts. "Up to this point, I feel like I've been working hard and doing a pretty good job. There are some things that I can improve on, and that comes with the territory."

Smith heads into this upcoming season with high expectations for a pass-heavy offensive attack that has been known to put up massive numbers.

Since 2005, when he became Texas Tech's offensive coordinator, Holgorsen has never coached an offense with a quarterback who finished the season with less than 4,000 yards.

West Virginia has never had a quarterback do that.

"I'm just trying to get better at everything. I know that sounds cliche, but I take every day for what it's worth," Smith said. "I try to lock in and focus in on every rep, every sprint, anything we do."

Smith had to learn the offense this spring despite having foot surgery in January. It was something he admits wasn't hard because the system isn't as complex as the old offense under former coach Bill Stewart.

Despite throwing for 388 yards and four touchdowns in the Gold-Blue spring game in April and for the second-most yards in a season at West Virginia as a sophomore in 2010, Smith said he can always find something in his game that needs improving.

He and his receivers have focused on improving their timing during 7-on-7 drills and in workouts this summer.

"(Smith) has us out there working on trying to be the best offense we can be," said redshirt junior receiver J.D. Woods. "He's a leader. He's always competitive, and he's always going to compete, no matter if it's a drill in practice or it's out there on the field against a defense."

Smith spoke to the media for the first time since spring practices finished — and the first time since Stewart abruptly resigned and Holgorsen was promoted to head coach.

"Coach Holgorsen is a straight-forward guy, and he doesn't let anything bother him. That's the demeanor that we take from him, and that's what we're going to do as a team," Smith said. "Not once has he talked about the whole issue. He's just told us that he's taking over a year early. We respect that, and we understand that he's here to help us win, and we're here to win for him."

As for that Heisman talk, Smith might not be focusing on it, but one of his receivers thinks it's legit.

"I'd put my quarterback up for the Heisman," Woods said. "I believe he can do it, and I'm going to do my best to help him get that."

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