Starter: Geno Smith (6-3, 214 – Sr., – Miramar HS, Miami, Fla.)
The expectations couldn’t be any higher for Geno Smith entering his second season under head coach Dana Holgorsen. More and more preseason accolades seem to come in every day for Smith, who was named Big 12 Conference preseason Offensive Player of the Year and named to the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Peyton Manning Award watch lists this summer. He is also a strong early contender for the Heisman Trophy. Smith, who thrived last year under Holgorsen, throwing for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns, now has what most call the “full grasp” of the offense. Smith has nine returning starters around him, which leaves no excuses for not executing.
At Big 12 Media Day in Dallas, Smith showed up looking much bigger, saying he’s added close to 25 pounds to the above mentioned 214. Smith is ready to compete.
In Dallas Smith said, “I’m a better player. I’ve gotten bigger, I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve gotten faster. I’m Smarter.”
Having watched Smith develop, there is very little that he had to work on during the offseason. He probably has to protect the football a little better when he’s back in the pocket. Sometimes he holds the ball and is left prone for a defensive end or a linebacker to strip it away, but other than that Smith is ready to roll. Geno could have a huge 2012 campaign. His numbers will be massive just like other quarterbacks in their second season under Dana Holgorsen.
While Holgorsen was at Texas Tech in 2007, Graham Harrell threw for 5,705 yards (1,200 more yards than 2006) and 48 touchdowns during his second full season in the system. And then in 2009, while Holgorsen was at Houston, Case Keenum threw for 5,671 yards (400 more yards than 2008) and 44 touchdowns. There is the proof for why Geno Smith’s will improve.
Smith enters 2012 as perhaps the Big 12’s best player. He’ll have the whole season to prove while he is. But as Holgorsen knows, Smith won’t be remembered for his stats.
“He progressed and he’s got a chance to be pretty good. He stacks up with a lot of the other guys I’ve had in the past,” Holgorsen said. “Ultimately it’s how many games you win and him going into his senior year. He’s going to be remembered for how many games you win.”
Backup: Paul Millard (6-1, 221 – So., – Flower Mound HS, Flower Mound, Texas)
Last year in mop-up time, Millard came into the game and looked anything but great. Clearly a little overwhelmed as a true freshman, Millard experienced some growing pains during the four games he played in. His best moment was throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Brad Starks to cap a 55-10, West Virginia win against Norfolk State in the second game of the season.
But that memory is well in the rearview mirror, because most can easily recall the interception he threw against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. That play prompted Holgorsen to put Geno Smith back in a game that was well beyond wrapped up.
Since then Millard has had to deal with true freshman Ford Childress giving him pressure for the backup role in 2012. Millard has handled it well, performing better than expected during spring ball.
Millard showed his progression by understanding the offense better. Anyone on the roster or on the coaching staff always acknowledged the improvements Millard made during spring practice. He even threw a touchdown in the spring game.
If Millard uses his experience and toughness on the field than there is zero reason to believe that Childress can take his job as the backup quarterback.
Third String: Ford Childress (6-5, 224 – Fr., Kinkaid HS, Houston, TX)
Things could be much different if Childress didn’t get arrested for a DUI on the day before WVU’s Gold-Blue Spring Game. As arguably the best recruit in West Virginia’s recruiting class, a lot of people wanted to see what Childress would be able to do in the spring game. If Childress would have played and shined in that game, he could have entered fall camp with a great chance of passing up Millard as the team’s backup quarterback. But after his arrest, it looks like the Houston native could end up redshirting with Millard spending another season as Smith’s understudy.
It is clear that Childress has a ton of talent. Seeing him just throw the ball during spring practice, it easy to see the potential that the gunslinger has. But with that, he won’t see the field in 2012, so it isn’t worth wasting a year of eligibility with him on the sideline holding a clipboard. It’ll be better for Holgorsen and the program to redshirt Childress. If Holgorsen does that, it will really give Childress a chance to mature.
While he’ll likely not be the backup in 2012, Childress should definitely compete with Millard for the starting job in 2013.
Follow Greg Madia on Twitter: @GMadia70