Q & A with West Virginia's Geno Smith
Heisman front-runner playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Life is starting to change for Geno Smith.
The Heisman front-runner is suddenly the focus of a college football media that wants to break him down and dissect him from every angle.
We already know about his gaudy stats: 1,728 yards, 83 percent completion rate, 20 touchdowns and no interceptions in the first four games. With Texas coming up on Saturday, one wonders if he can keep up the torrid pace and handle the increased expectations.
"We will monitor that very closely this week," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "We don’t want him to get goofy. If he gets goofy, we will tone him down."
While his coach tries to keep him balanced, the rest of us want to know what else there is to him besides those crazy stats? What's his backstory?
The senior from Miramar, Fla., who turns 22 on Oct. 10, is not your typical football player. His elementary years were spent acting in school plays, reciting poetry, competing in chess tournaments and sketching cartoons.
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Drawing appealed to him the most and he grew proficient enough to gain admission to a fine arts magnet school in South Florida. But he turned down that opportunity because he had one love that was greater than all the others put together: football.
And so on the Tuesday following his record-breaking performance against Baylor, we got a little insight into his personality, as Smith talked to the media on a conference call about his passion for the game, the chip on his shoulder and the art of playing quarterback for Holgorsen:
Coming into the season, a lot of people remembered you for that Orange Bowl game against Clemson. What kind of impact do you think that game had on you perception-wise?
"I don't think one game did that for me. Opposing coaches have known about me and know what I could do. The media was another story. They seem to favor some teams over others. It didn't really do much to improve my confidence. I have the same confidence I had as a freshman, sophomore and junior. I think we're just handling expectations better this year. My only motive is to get better every week with the same chip I had on my shoulder in high school."
What's up with that chip on your shoulder?
"It comes from having been productive for a couple years and people still not thinking you are good enough. A lot of it is 'What have you done for me lately?' I still have a lot of room to grow, but that's where that mentality comes from.
What did you do in the offseason to prepare yourself for this fall?
"I worked on every part of my game. I think I've gotten better every year. I've gotten stronger and I feel stronger out there on the field. Overall, everything I've been through has really shaped what I am now."
How has Dana Holgorsen's offense helped you improve as a player?
"One good thing about coach Holgorsen is he does a good job of tailoring his offense to the players. He has adjusted things to suit my characteristics as a quarterback. I think I'm a lot better and I credit my coaches. They love the game just as much as I do. I'm blessed to have them in my corner. But I think I would be a good quarterback in any system because I have that fire inside of me. I can make every throw. It's not a cocky statement, it's just how I am. I've been blessed with this ability and with athleticism."
Is it an easy offense to learn?
"I don't think it's something other teams can just pick up on. Coach Holgorsen does a good job of keeping everything in house. It's a unique system that gives you lots of freedom, but it's easy to learn. Everyone has to be on the same page, though, and it's up to me to make sure that happens."
Why do you think the offense works so well?
"The thing we do well is we move the chains. Whether it's a schematic advantage or because of our athletes, it doesn't matter. As long as we score more than the opponent, we did our job."
What accounts for the overall improvement of the offense this year?
"I have an increased knowledge of the offense now. There are nuances and adjustments that need to be made on the fly. We're just a different offense than last year. Last year, we were just running the plays, but this year we are far smarter within the offense. We're the same players, but we know what to do no matter what the defense throws at us.
"We were new to it last year, but we worked really hard in the summer. Schemes don't really matter that much at this point. It comes down to us wanting it more than the defense. In the end, football is football."
What do you say to those who contend that West Virginia has played too easy of a schedule?
"I couldn't care less about what people say. We just let them criticize, that's the media's job. Our film speaks for itself. But I know what I'm capable of and what my team is capable of."
What do you think of your wide receivers, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin?
"They're doing a great job. They worked extremely hard during the summer. I know for a fact they were pissed off about not being mentioned as the top receiving group in the nation coming into the season. The three of us don't want it handed to us, though, we want to prove it every week.
"Stedman's the best route runner in the country, hands down. Tavon is so explosive. He can make you miss in a phone booth."
You've thrown 224 passes without an interception. Right now your ratio on the season is 20-to-0. Do you worry about throwing that first pick?
"Interceptions are a part of the game. But I hate them. They are the worst pet peeve of mine."
What would you winning the Heisman mean to the school?
"It think it'll mean a lot for the school and the program. It should shed some light on the fact that we can play good football here. It would give us a boost in recruiting, too."
Have you thought ahead to the NFL draft and your future there?
"I don't care where I get drafted. I want to be the best. I just try to be the same guy I've always been."
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