There is a lot less ice being used in the quarterback room these days. That’s because West Virginia now has enough arms to get through preseason practices.
Last year at this time, quarterbacks Geno Smith
and Paul Millard
had so much ice on their right arms that their appendages seemed to be in a perpetual cryogenic state. But now with more quarterbacks in camp, their throwing load has been reduced dramatically.
“Having five arms, it’s beneficial for Geno and Paul not getting as many reps,” admitted quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital.
West Virginia’s second-year QB coach said he likes what he’s seen so far from all of his quarterbacks.
“They are looking pretty good,” Spavital said last Saturday. “The main thing is we’re staying fresh. Last year at this point, Paul and Geno were throwing twice as many balls in practice, so it’s good just to have more arms out there. We’re taking some of that off of Geno and Paul, the same with Ford, but we’re doing a lot of things out there.
“We’re getting a lot accomplished and we’re getting better.”
As for the backups, Spavital said Millard is currently capable of running the entire playbook while true freshman Ford Childress
is still limited in what he can do because he is still relatively new to the system.
“Right now, Ford is doing more of the scripted plays and Paul is doing more of the put-it-down-and-play-it-out stuff because Ford is still at the stage where Paul was last year,” Spavital said. “[Ford has] got to keep repping and we’ll go from there. He is doing better each day, but right now he’s doing the scripted plays so he kind of has an idea of what he’s going to call. Eventually we’re going to get to the point where he can get out there and start playing on his own, too.”
What makes Holgorsen’s offensive system so appealing to players is that they can eventually enjoy a great deal of freedom once they understand what they are doing.
“That’s just kind of the progression of the offense, and like we’ve said many times before, year two in this offense is normally when we have the most success because we are not just out there communicating and running the plays,” Spavital explained. “Now, we’re focused in on it and we can actually attack the defenses and we know what the weaknesses are.
“It’s more thinking on the quarterback,” he said. “We try to keep it as simple as possible for everyone else – the running backs, the O-line and the receivers - it’s mainly focused on the quarterbacks. All the receivers have to do is see a signal and then they run that play and it’s up to Geno to communicate that out there.”
Meanwhile, Spavital is impressed with the way Smith is commanding the offense right now. He can clearly see his senior quarterback operating at a different level right now.
“Geno is to the point now where he’s making the right checks and he’s actually doing things that we’ve never discussed before, but he understands the concept and he understands the weaknesses of the defense where he’s getting to the point where he can actually just go out there and go with it,” Spavital said. “Paul is getting that way as well, but Ford is not to that point yet, but each day he’s getting better. Eventually he’s going to start playing and thinking on his own.”
Also, Spavital says Smith’s footwork continues to improve as well.
“He’s on a mission out there,” Spavital said. “Every day he goes out there he is determined to get better. There are little things like that where he can keep improving on his footwork and he’s done a pretty good job of that during this offseason.
“He’s a gym rat,” Spavital added. “The thing that I appreciate the most about him, we practiced (Friday) and he’s already watched it three times before he actually gets in there and meets with me. He already has an awareness of what’s going on and that just shows his determination and that is he expecting to do good things this year.”
By preparing the way he does, Smith is providing an excellent example to the younger quarterbacks and Spavital says it is already starting to show in the meeting room.
“When the other quarterbacks are in there watching Geno watch tape, they start thinking, hey, I need to get in there and start watching film as well,” Spavital said. “I’ve been using that to challenge the younger quarterbacks because they see the starter and he’s in there working hard trying to get in as much film study as possible, which can at least trickle down to the young quarterbacks.”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. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.