WVU's Smith unsurpassed in regard to publicity
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There have been many comments tossed around concerning former WVU quarterback Geno Smith.
Yet there is one undeniable truth.
While he wore No. 12 at WVU, he is No. 1 all-time among Mountaineers in regard to publicity. The attention paid to him has to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to West Virginia University.
It's impossible to pinpoint an exact dollar amount. No one has tracked his national impressions, but in this new era of seemingly endless television networks (there are over 50), radio stations (15,196), daily newspapers (around 1,400) and incalculable Internet sites and social media avenues, it's safe to say Smith's exposure and connection to the school is unsurpassed.
WVU, of course, has been in the spotlight in the past, most notably for the 1988 team that was unbeaten in the regular season and played for a national title. Former quarterback Major Harris caused a stir.
But nothing like Smith.
"It's hard to put a dollar figure on it," said Matt Wells, WVU's athletic marketing director. "The impact is immeasurable. The effect on the fan base ... it's a huge positive. It's something any university would love to have. No school could pay for that much exposure."
There was the publicity in the preseason, when Smith was the pick to become the Big 12 offensive player of the year. There was the hot start, which placed him atop Heisman Trophy contenders halfway through the season. There were highlights.
There were mock NFL drafts and roundtable discussions. There was the appearance on "Gruden's QB Camp" on ESPN. There were the hours of debate on Smith courtesy of Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. There was Smith's "green room" misery as he went through the first round of the draft without being selected.
And the publicity will not cease anytime soon, not after Smith was plucked by the New York Jets, a media lightning rod.
It's difficult to know whether all the publicity will mean anything to WVU in regard to admissions and fundraising, etc. Perhaps not.
But it couldn't have hurt. Especially in regard to recruiting.
"Anytime you can have a Geno, Tavon [Austin] and Stedman [Bailey] out there like that, when you have the logo of WVU out there like that, it's good," said WVU football recruiting coordinator Ryan Dorchester. "I don't know how to quantify it, but there's probably not a high school kid in the nation who watched Geno and took away anything negative.
"Like they say, all press is good. And all that was in a positive light."
If early projections mean anything, Dorchester and head coach Dana Holgorsen should capitalize on the aforementioned exposure now.
The reason: Next year's draft could be very quiet for WVU.
NFL Draft Scout, which rates players by position, has but five Mountaineers even assigned rankings at this point, and none of those rankings are very high.
The service has Will Clarke as the nation's No. 15 defensive tackle, Darwin Cook as the No. 18 strong safety, Doug Rigg as the No. 47 outside linebacker, Pat Eger as the No. 44 offensive tackle and Brodrick Jenkins as the No. 84 (of 85 assigned numbers) cornerback.
And finally . . .
While I had Dorchester on the line, I asked about the ongoing recruiting effort. So far, the Mountaineers have but two commitments for the 2014 class: quarterback William Crest, a four-star recruit according to Rivals and a two-star recruit according to Scout; and receiver Ricky Rogers, a four-star recruit according to Scout and a three-star recruit according to Rivals.
It's a low number of recruits when you consider Big 12 rival Texas has at least 14.
"We're being more patient this year," Dorchester said. "We're not going to have a ton of scholarships available this year. If we get to 20, I'll be shocked. So I'm not concerned. Some of our best recruits in our last class came after January."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.