WVU's Geno Smith isn't ready to talk about next season
ORLANDO, Fla. - At present, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith would rather not talk about his future.
He's very aware change is coming.
The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach he's gotten to know, and like, very much will be without a job soon. The replacement is an outsider Smith knows very little about.
He nevertheless chooses a pretty peculiar word to respond to questions about his future and express his desire to not discuss the topic.
Get ready for a lot of that.
WVU's new offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorsen, teaches the spread offense and has been known to throw the ball a lot. A whole lot more than he'll run it.
Oh, he's had teams with star running backs and fairly even pass-to-run ratios, but Holgorsen's star pupils at Texas Tech, Houston and, most recently, Oklahoma State have been quarterbacks and receivers.
Names, too, like Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree, Wes Welker, Case Keenum and, this year's Biletnikoff Award winner, Justin Blackmon.
Smith, as much as anyone else, is the central figure in the transition to Holgorsen's offense from the system to precede it, as taught by the outgoing Jeff Mullen.
Smith knows it. He just doesn't want to get into it.
"Pass," he said again and again last week when pressed on the topic.
One thing he would talk openly and sincerely about were his feelings about Mullen. The two were very tight and will surely remain that way as they head in different directions following Tuesday's Champs Sports Bowl, against North Carolina State.
"We're pretty close," said Mullen, whose last game is the 6:30 p.m. ESPN game at the Florida Citrus Bowl. "I'm going to miss that guy a lot."
It was Smith who chose WVU in 2008 and signed with the Mountaineers in 2009 after Tajh Boyd, Mullen's key quarterback prospect, changed his mind late in the recruiting game.
And it was Mullen who helped turn Smith from a Parade Magazine high school all-American into a capable starter who this season had first-team all-Big East numbers, yet made the second team behind Cincinnati's Zach Collaros.
"People don't see all the things he's done for me,'' Smith said. "He took me from a boy who came in not knowing anything about college and a guy who made a lot of mistakes early in my career and molded me into a man with a lot of responsibilities. I'm able to say I can take care of my business now because of him and what he's done for me."
Bonds like that are not easily broken and Mullen hopes Smith sustains what they've built. If nothing else, Mullen believes they've created something that should prove valuable next season. Mullen says Smith is the type of player who can be dropped into a variety of systems and succeed.
"He's smart," Mullen said. "Everyone can see the physical attributes. It's the mental part you don't see. He'll pick up whatever system is given to him very quickly and adapt very well."
Smith completed 219 of 333 passes this season for 2,567 yards and 23 touchdowns - the completions and touchdowns are second behind Marc Bulger in WVU's single-season history. Holgorsen's quarterback at Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden, was 317-for-470 for 4,037 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Before that, Houston's Keenum was 397-for-589 yards for 5,020 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2008 and then 492-for-700 for 5,671 yards and 44 touchdowns in 2009.
At Texas Tech, Cody Hodges was 353-for-531 for 4,238 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2005. The following two years Harrell was 924-for-1,329 for 10,255 yards and 86 touchdowns.
Smith hasn't thought about any of that, and for a reason.
"I'd be a bad quarterback to my teammates if I was thinking about selfish things like that,'' Smith said.
Holgorsen hasn't given things too much thought, either. In fact, he knows very little about his quarterback and saw him play only a little against Pitt. Smith was just 9-for-12 that day, but finished with 212 yards and three touchdowns.
"He looks to me like a big, physical guy I can work with," Holgorsen said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore.
Holgorsen dismissed the idea there's a prototype for the position in his offense. He's had tall players and smaller ones. He's had throwers and runners. He's had winners and thinkers.
"A lot of that all ties together," he said.
The spread can feature the zone-read, which Smith became more and more comfortable with as this season progressed, and it can get multiple receivers open in space. It can feature the run or the throw or balance both. Intertwined is a key trait the quarterback must have and one Smith possesses after completing 65.8 percent of his passes and leading the conference in that and in passer efficiency rating.
"You've got to be able to throw," Holgorsen said. "Accuracy is real important. If the guy happens to be able to run the ball pretty good, that gives us an extra feature."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.