WVU’s go-to guy still MIA ... and might not even be necessary
MORGANTOWN - Oddly enough, Geno Smith is like most everyone else. After two games, he's still trying to figure out things about this West Virginia offense.
Oh, sure, he knows it can be productive. Even stumbling out of the gate against both Marshall and Norfolk State, West Virginia's junior quarterback has still thrown for 620 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
And he's done it without yet finding that one clutch receiver.
"We haven't found our go-to guy,'' Smith said. "We're still looking for someone to step up and just be that guy. It's still wide open right now.''
Smith has completed 46 passes through those first two games. Nine each have gone to Tavon Austin and Ivan McCartney, eight to Devon Brown, seven to Stedman Bailey and four each to tailbacks Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison. Tyler Urban has caught two of Smith's passes and Brad Starks, Willie Millhouse and Vernard Roberts one each. McCartney has two of the touchdowns and no one else has more than one.
(Just to further prove the point about the variety, backup Paul Millard has completed five passes to four different receivers).
"Everyone's had their moments where they've made good plays, but they've all had moments where they didn't make the plays,'' Smith said. "We just have to work on getting better and that'll come along as the season goes on.''
Here's the thing, though: Is a go-to receiver necessary? Or even wanted?
That's where Smith is still trying to figure things out. On the one hand he notes the fact that no one has emerged as the No. 1 threat, but he also likes the idea of not having one.
"Our offense is a spread offense and it's not like there's one key guy that we're designing plays around,'' Smith said. "It's worked for 10 years, so obviously it's made players rather than the players making the offense. And that's what's good about the offense, that we're not keying on one guy and neither can the defense.''
But does he expect to find a go-to guy?
"I don't know,'' Smith said. "It could happen, or it could be a case where we spread the ball out and everyone makes plays.''
Smith made reference to those 10 years in the offense. Those would be the years coach Dana Holgorsen has been running the system, which has its roots in the Hal Mumme-Mike Leach offenses he worked in and then tweaked when he got out on his own.
In those years there has almost always been a go-to receiver. At Texas Tech, Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola each had over 100 catches and more than 1,100 yards in 2007, Holgorsen's last year there. In his second year at Houston in 2009, James Cleveland had 104 catches for 1,214 yards. A year ago at Oklahoma State, Justin Blackmon won the Biletnikoff Award with 111 catches for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Then again, that 2009 Houston team had three 1,000-yard receivers, each of whom caught at least 85 passes. The Cougars' fourth receiver that year, Charles Sims, had 70 catches for 759 yards.
Of course, two games does not a season make - especially the two rather bizarre games this team has played so far - but go ahead and extrapolate the numbers from the first two games just for fun. Smith would throw for 4,030 yards and 39 touchdowns in 13 games, both of which would be school records.
But based on those first two games, the leading receivers would all have in the neighborhood of just 50 to 60 receptions.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. But it does leave everyone still wondering whether there will be a go-to receiver to emerge from the group.
That includes Smith, who admits it would be nice to have one of those guys he can always look for in a tight spot and depend upon, but if it doesn't happen, hey, does it really matter?
"I think I can depend on all my guys,'' Smith said. "I can depend on Stedman, I can depend on Ivan, I can depend on J.D., [Ryan] Nehlen. Everyone's made plays and I expect them to do that as the season goes on.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.