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WVU's Smith picked by Jets in 2nd round

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Geno Smith's two favorite receivers were reunited Friday night when the St. Louis Rams took Stedman Bailey in the third round of the NFL draft after plucking Tavon Austin in the first round.

Smith? Well, he's headed elsewhere - right into the heart of what is sure to be the league's most intriguing quarterback controversy.

The New York Jets picked Smith, West Virginia's all-time passing leader, with the seventh pick in the second round of the draft. That came a night after Smith sat through the first round and was rather surprisingly left undrafted.

For a time Friday, it seemed as Smith might not return to Radio City Music Hall after his first-round snub, but he did and early in the proceeding was finally rewarded.

"It was a test of patience,'' Smith said of his Thursday night experience.

Now, though, comes a test of a different sort. If Smith ever hoped to walk into a low-pressure situation as a rookie in the NFL, this certainly isn't it.

The Jets' starting quarterback is the much-maligned Mark Sanchez, who despite immense struggles in recent seasons was signed to a five-year, $58.25 million contract just over a year ago. Behind him is the lightning rod that is Tim Tebow, acquired before last season from the Denver Broncos.

The Jets also have former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy on the roster, and when Sanchez was benched last season coach Rex Ryan chose to start the third-string McElroy over Tebow. David Garrard and Matt Simms are also under contract with the Jets.

Into that mess walks Smith, who is certain to have a segment of the vast and vocal Jets fan base rooting for him, just as others will back Tebow or Sanchez or perhaps one of the others.

And all of that will play out in the glare of the New York media.

Smith - who in the immediate aftermath of his selection mentioned Jets and Super Bowl in the same sentence - isn't exactly jumping in and making any bold statements, at least not about himself.

"Right now I can't even speak to that,'' Smith said, referring to the soap opera that has been his new team's quarterback situation of late. "I'm just proud to be a Jet. I talked to Rex Ryan about playing the Jet way. It's all about building up your teammates and playing as a team and that's what I'm all about.

"I'm a selfless guy and whatever my role is on the team I'll accept. But I'm going to come in and compete from Day One and be a competitor day in and day out and just try to help my team win games.''

And besides, Smith said, while the Jets' situation might be a bit over the top, it's not really all that out of the ordinary.

 "You know what? That's the NFL,'' Smith said. "And it's the position of quarterback. I've played this position all of my life, so I understand it comes with the territory. And I'm prepared for it.

"You know, those things are a part of the NFL. I don't know if it was good or bad. I can't assess that. It's really up to the coaches. But I know that I'm going to be a part of the 2013 squad and my job is to come in and compete from Day One.''

While Smith will be in the pressure of trying to play quarterback in New York, his primary receivers at West Virginia will stay together in St. Louis. The Rams used the 30th pick of the third round - the 92nd overall and one obtained from Atlanta - to take Bailey after trading away four draft picks Thursday night to move up and get Austin with the eighth pick of the first round.

Bailey and Austin combined to evenly split 228 catches for West Virginia last season, but Bailey's production on those catches was actually much more than Austin, who tended to catch shorter passes. While Austin's 114 catches went for 1,289 yards, Bailey's 114 were good for 1,622 yards. Bailey also more than doubled Austin's TD reception total, 25-12.

Those two now give the Rams, who have an emerging star at quarterback in Sam Bradford, a couple of prime targets. The Rams weren't well stocked with receivers to help Bradford and were hurt even more when Danny Amendola left in free agency.

The draft concludes today with the fourth through seventh rounds. A handful of other Mountaineers have a chance to be selected, most notably perhaps center Joe Madsen. But even if they aren't drafted, as many as 12 to 15 WVU players could find themselves with teams by early next week through free agent contracts.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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