After fun summer, Smith ready to go to work
IT'S BEEN the summer of Geno. Since WVU quarterback Geno Smith was named the Big 12's preseason offensive player of the year - and even before - he's received more national publicity than most to ever step foot in Touchdown City.
Smith, of course, shrugs it off. Just his way. This summer, he said, was no more fun than those in the past.
But it was special. The national television appearances and interviews. The preseason awards. The Heisman Trophy talk. The camp visits.
"I went to the Manning camp in Thibodaux, Louisiana, hanging out with Peyton Manning and my college peers," Smith said. "Enjoyed it. Had a chance to work with some younger kids. I went out to California for the Elite 11 camp. I took part in that in '08 when I was a high school senior.
"I had guys who were my counselors who are now in the NFL. So they invited me out. I got a chance to work out with some of my peers: Aaron Murray [of Georgia], E.J. Manuel [of Florida State], Mike Glennon [of N.C. State] ... we all got some good work in.
"Throughout the camps, I learned some things I can't share on tape, but it all helped me out."
In less than a month we'll see if those lessons were learned. WVU's coaches have been asking Smith to get rid of the ball quicker in Dana Holgorsen's latest version of the "Air Raid" offense.
"That's being able to go through my reads quicker and make a few pre-snap reads," Smith said. "Being more sharp mentally. Overall, becoming a better, stronger player back there."
"We come in on Saturdays and put in extra time on routes," said receiver Stedman Bailey, Smith's buddy from Miramar [Fla.] High. "That's when he's been able to work and make sure his timing and his release are good."
Redshirt freshman K.J. Myers has certainly noticed a difference.
"He's been going through reads quicker," said Myers. "His release point is so quick."
If so, that's trouble for the rest of the Big 12. Smith was the Orange Bowl MVP. He's set or tied 21 WVU single-game, season or career records. Last season, he was No. 5 nationally in passing yards per game (337.31 yard average) and eighth in total offense (334). In pass efficiency, he was No. 17 (152.6). The man threw for 4,385 yards in 13 games, the fourth-best total among all QBs.
"Ever since I've known Geno, he's been a great quarterback," Bailey said. "Over the years, his skills have gotten better. He's been going to a lot of different camps and has been working with a lot of different people.
"I would say he's at his peak right now. He's looking very good."
Bailey pointed to his favorite part of Smith's game.
"I like his pocket presence," said the redshirt junior. "He's pretty poised. There are some pretty big guys coming after him each and every play. He's able to keep his composure, stand in the pocket and deliver the ball."
"The thing I'm trying to do is become a better player, execute a little better," Smith said. "Whatever it takes. I want to try every day on the practice field to be perfect. I know that's impossible, but that's something we strive for."
What's been achieved is a fine career so far. The summer had to be a blast for the senior. Now it's "go time" again.
"I've always had fun," Smith said. "We're just getting more exposure. Entering into the Big 12, we have that target on our back. Guys are looking to see what we do now."
Especially No. 12.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.