A Bigger Geno in 2012

  • By John Antonik
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  • July 27, 2012 02:58 PM
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Oh, to be young again. For those of us middle-agers trying to watch our weight by eating Honey Nut Cheerios and blueberries for breakfast, some version of salad for lunch and then something else just as light for dinner, it is downright cruel observing young guys like Geno Smith chowing down on cheeseburgers and humongous bags of French fries at the Galleria in Dallas earlier this week.

However, Geno is not doing this to taunt us 40-somethings, but rather, because he wants to play at a heavier weight in 2012.

After performing last season at about 205 pounds, this year Smith plans to weigh around 225 when the Mountaineers open the season on Sept. 1 against Marshall, although he doesn’t believe the additional weight will be that big of a deal.

“Other than the fact that it probably makes me a better NFL prospect I don’t think it does much for my game,” he admitted during Tuesday’s Big 12 media day in Dallas. “I will play the game the same way, and the only way I can honestly tell you is by being on the field and maybe I will feel a difference or maybe I won’t, but it won’t affect my game at all.”

Or compel him to leave the pocket and become the second coming of Michael Vick.

“I’ve never been big on shedding guys,” he laughed. “I don’t break a lot of tackles. I’m not one of those guys who is going to sit here and say my game is all based on my physical talent. I do have talent, and I am athletic and I can get outside the pocket, but I try to stay in the pocket and stay within the framework of the offense and make sure I make winning plays.”

Smith said the two players he tries to model his game after are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady - two pretty decent players to emulate, by the way.

“Peyton is one of the more cerebral guys, which makes him one of the best quarterbacks to ever play because he understands football so well. I just try to pick his brain as much as I can,” Smith said. “I’ve been studying him since my sophomore year. I pretty much know all of his checks and what he does. Tom Brady is so smooth in the pocket. He’s a guy that is not fast at all, but he is able to do some subtle things to buy some time.”

Smith got a chance to visit with Manning earlier this summer at Manning’s passing academy, and while he had a chance to sit down and talk with the future hall of famer, Smith preferred to keep what Manning told him to himself.

“I can’t give that away,” he said.

What Smith is willing to give away is what he considers were many yards left out on the football field last season. Actually, he believes he missed out on at least 2,000 yards that he could have added to his passing total if his deep balls were more accurate. That is something he said he has worked on diligently since the end of last season.

“The deep ball was something I struggled with last year. Had I completed more I may have had 6,000 yards,” Smith noted. “I left about 2,000 yards out on the field just because I wasn’t very accurate with my deep balls.

“I did miss a lot – some fade balls and some different parts of my game I struggled with,” he added. “(The media) evaluates me and I get taken apart, but I’m on it. I’m my biggest critic. I’m not going to let those things go by.”

Smith blames his deep-ball struggles on his wanting to make the perfect throw instead of just getting the ball to an area where his wide receivers can catch it.

“A lot of times you just have to put it to a spot,” he explained. “It’s not a high percentage throw in the first place, so you’ve got to make sure you put it to a spot so your guy can go and get it. At times I was trying to make the perfect throw instead of giving my guys a chance to make a play.”

Based on the production Dana Holgorsen’s quarterbacks have enjoyed in year two of his offenses in the past, Geno could be looking at a very big year in 2012 - and that may very well be the case for Smith, but he said he still plans on putting in the same amount of work and preparation regardless.

“The only way this offense can improve is if we continue to work at it, which we’ve done,” Smith said. “I’ve gotten better at learning this offense when I step outside of my player role and become a coach. There are areas that I can improve and there are areas that I can take advantage of.”

As Smith begins his senior season, he has already garnered more respect without taking a single snap in the Big 12 than he did during his three years playing in the Big East, where he compiled a 19-7 record as a starter. Last year, Smith was snubbed for conference player of the year honors despite re-writing the Big East record books, leading the league in just about every passing category, and playing on the best team in the conference [usually one of those three is enough to get a player the nod].

This summer, Big 12 voters took notice of Smith’s performance on the big stage in the Orange Bowl last January against Clemson and selected him as the conference’s preseason player of the year over Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and several other outstanding players – a high honor that has left Smith speechless.

“I don’t know what to say about it,” he said of edging out Jones, as well as three other quarterbacks on this year’s Davey O’Brien Watch List, among others. “Honestly, I haven’t put a lot of thought into it. I don’t let it affect me in any way. The only thing I’m worried about is winning games. I’ve got about 40 days to prepare for our first game and I want to make sure I’m ready.”

As usual, Geno’s goals remain simple – just win football games. Smith wisely understands that any private goals he may have will eventually be taken care of if the Mountaineers continue to win.

“My personal goals are team goals and that is winning games. Anything else doesn’t really matter,” he said. “I feel like personal awards and accolades are ego boosters. I’m not an egotistical guy - I’m not worried about stats and I’m not worried about padding my stats.”

Plus, he figures if he can complete a few more deep balls this fall, those gaudy stats will take care of themselves anyway.

Check out Geno's visit to ESPN's campus earlier today on Mountaineer football's official Facebook page. Be sure to click the "Like" button while you are there to have West Virginia football news sent directly to your Facebook wall.

Also, check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History available in bookstores this fall. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.


West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU, Geno Smith, Big 12 football