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WVU's Smith is a quick study

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By Josh Sickles
Sunday, March 25, 2012
 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — At 6 p.m. on a Friday before the start of West Virginia spring practice, quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital walked into his room at the Mountaineer football facility and saw a familiar sight.

Senior Geno Smith was watching film of NFL quarterbacks. It might be a surprise to some — a college kid studying film on a Friday night in the offseason — but not to Spavital.

"I can't get that kid out of here," he said. "He's just constantly trying to get better. He was just watching the dynamics of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and Tom Brady of how he does things. It's good. He's wanting to be the best, and he's working to be the best."

Expectations couldn't be higher. It's Smith's second year in coach Dana Holgorsen's offense, which is set to return nine starters. Even with anticipation growing about the unit's potential, Smith's focused on getting better.

"I use it as a bit of motivation," he said. "The expectations are high around here, and that's a good thing because you want that. You never want a situation where people are looking at you to be bottom-feeders."

There's no denying the success Smith had last season. He completed a school-record 346 of 526 passes for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns. Smith also set the school mark for passing yards in a season and finished fifth nationally in passing yards per game (337.3).

But the past is the past, and Smith and Spavital are focused on this season.

"The second year is normally the year we're most comfortable," Spavital said. "The first year is all installation, and the more reps you get in certain situations, they won't duplicate that mistake. The second year, we're going to go out there and work more situations of the game."

This spring is different for Smith in that regard. This year, instead of learning the system, he's polishing his game. He has looked more comfortable going through his reads, progressions and decision-making while fine-tuning his footwork and timing.

Smith's also adding weight. After playing last season at 210 pounds, he has added five pounds, and his goal is to play next season at 220. He said his passes already have more zip on them.

Always aiming to be over-prepared, Smith has watched film on every defense he'll face in the Big 12.

"Stepping into a new conference, there will be a lot of high expectations, and there's going to be a lot of competition," he said. "We have to focus in, and we have to work a lot harder than we did last year.

"We're carrying over what we did in the Orange Bowl and what we did last season into this season and making sure that we're not satisfied."

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