We’ve talked about Geno Smith a lot on this blog and it’s no surprise he’s starting to generate hype. When West Virginia appointed Dana Holgorsen as coach, they pretty much guaranteed they’d have a prolific passing offense for the foreseeable future. Holgorsen is a Mike Leach disciple – the pair worked together at Valdosta State in the 1990’s and then at Texas Tech a few years later. He built his reputation as a coordinator at Houston and Oklahoma State and helped make guys like Brandon Weeden prospective first round picks.
Smith owes a debt of gratitude to Oliver Luck (Athletic Director at WVU). Without Holgorsen, he doesn’t get anywhere close to the attention we’re seeing today. He could be a first round pick. He could win a major bowl game. Put even a semi-capable quarterback into this offense and it’ll provide results. Smith is way beyond being semi-capable.
Yet the offensive power at WVU is both a positive and a negative in terms of his pro-potential. It’ll provide the gaudy number required to make scouts notice. It’ll probably convince a GM or two in the league that they need to have this guy on their team. What it won’t do is prepare Smith for the ‘NFL experience’. In fairness, there aren’t many college offenses that can truly prepare you for the NFL. But playing in a wide open spread scheme that isn’t remotely close to the pro-game isn’t a great stepping stone. It also creates pressure because media and fans expect the same statistical results at the next level, when that isn’t possible. We’re seeing this with Brandon Weeden, who at Oklahoma State could consistently take a 5-7 step drop from the gun and rely on a one-paced strike ball to find Justin Blackmon in a wide open field. Weeden was all over the place in pre-season for the Browns.
Smith takes his fair share of snaps under center, but there are also multiple ‘Weeden plays’ where he’s just dropping the LOS to stretch the field, using a 4WR set and scanning for the open guy. This negates pressure, forces average college players into coverage and makes the most of his arm strength. It’s scarily effective in college and if you have a strong armed QB and good receivers you can make it work. It’s also a world away from the way the NFL works.
At the next level he’s going to need to play quicker. In fairness, he makes multiple reads and appears to make good decisions most of the time. But he’s going to need to do it at a much increased speed in the NFL. Can he throw a touch pass? And can he throw the touch pass under pressure to his third target? There are lots of nice looking plays in the video above, but really it’s not a great measure of how the player translates to the next level. He looked a lot less convincing against a tough LSU defense last year, despite also making one of the passes of the 2011 season in that game.
I don’t want to be too negative because I like Smith. I really like his potential if he’s afforded time in the pro’s not forced to start on a bad team like Weeden. Like I said, he could be a first round pick. He is making progressions, he’s technically gifted, he has a decent arm and he’s athletic. He’s going to put up better numbers than any other quarterback in the NCAA this year. He still has to deliver, even if the offensive scheme is helping – so it’ll be to his credit when he puts up the big stats. I’m big on improvisation and the way he runs that touchdown in on a broken play (9:11) is a huge positive.
Smith has the prototypical size, he seems to be fairly grounded and he learnt this scheme quickly. He just needs to cut out the occasional poor decision such as the ones witnessed in an ugly loss against Syracuse last year or the ten-step drop from the gun on 2nd and 2 at 2:15 in the video above, just to throw an incomplete screen pass. I like Smith more than Brandon Weeden and now that WVU are in the Big-12, it’s going to be fascinating to see him perform against the likes of Texas (should win easily) and Oklahoma (could be a good one).
Games I’m watching this weekend:
Utah vs Utah State
USC vs Syracuse
Washington vs LSU
Georgia vs Missouri
I’m going to be keeping an eye on Star Lotulelei tonight to see if he’s made strides forward after last year. A lot of people love that guy, I still think he’s only scratching the surface of what he’s capable of and needs to be more consistent. The USC game will be a good one to get in the bag considering there are multiple first and second round picks (offense and defense) on the Trojans roster who are eligible for 2013. It’s a similar situation for Georgia, who have a wealth of talent this year. My main focus of attention in the Washington/LSU game will be the pass rushing duo of Mingo/Montgomery. Thoughts to come over the weekend.
Chris Steuber is reporting Seattle will have scouts at the following games:
— Chris Steuber (@ChrisSteuber) September 7, 2012
And finally… Bill Simmons says the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl and he likes the Russell Wilson story… a lot: “I’m picking a Ravens-Seahawks Super Bowl. And if when it happens, you’ll hear more about Wilson than any other quarterback this season: More than Brady, more than Rodgers, more than Peyton Manning, more than Tim Teb— actually, you won’t hear more about Wilson than Tim Tebow. ESPN and the NFL Network will make that impossible. But everyone else? Hell yeah!”
The NFL Playbook crew break down Russell Wilson’s pre-season tape. It’s more gushing praise for Seattle’s starting quarterback. Plus, all three predict Seattle to beat Arizona.