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Holgs: Smith still has some work to do


By Ed Owens

The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Sept. 20--WVU quarterback Geno Smith is off to a hot start this season by most accounts. He leads the Big East in both passing yards (1,008) and completions (82) and is tied for the conference lead with seven touchdowns.

He trails Cincinnati's Zach Collaros by onetenth of a point in passing efficiency (159.2 to 159.1) and only trails Syracuse's Ryan Nassib in completion percentage (73 percent to 69 percent). Less than one-quarter of the way through the 2011 season, Smith has already put up roughly onethird of the numbers he achieved in 2010.

But Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen said Smith still has a ways to go before he masters WVU's offensive scheme.

"He's still at the point where he's got to totally understand what the system is," Holgorsen said Monday. "He has to trust the system and not think about doing too much. There have been some instances where he didn't trust what 1/8the coaches3/8 were telling him and that 1/8trust3/8 needs to be constant. He needs to trust what we tell him and not think that he has a better way.

"It's not an every-down issue. He's talented, he's smart, he studies the game plan and he studies the opponent. But he gets to the point where he sometimes thinks that he has to do too much and we preach playing in the system."

Smith set a school record by completing 36 passes for 388 yards against Maryland last weekend. But Smith threw just one touchdown pass, his lowest total of the season, and committed two turnovers -- one was a fumble on a strip-sack and the other was an interception that popped out of his own receiver's hands.

"He's done a great job taking care of the ball," Holgorsen said. "He's responsible for two turnovers but the fumble was a bang-bang call that could've been called 1/8an incomplete pass3/8 and the interception was solely in the hands of the wide receiver. That could have been prevented."

For the most part, Holgorsen seems to be impressed with Smith through the No. 16 Mountaineers' first three games. He knows the task will be tougher in Saturday's 8 p.m. game against No. 2 LSU, but when asked how good Smith could be in his offense, Holgorsen said, "It's up to him."

Developing situation

WVU has three receivers ranked among the top 10 in the Big East in both total receiving yards and receptions per game. Junior Tavon Austin leads the group with 20 catches for 236 yards, followed by sophomore Stedman Bailey (15 receptions, 229 yards) and sophomore Ivan McCartney (17 receptions 211 yards). Holgorsen is happy with those players' production and he's looking to expand the Mountaineers' stable of receivers even further.

"We're still looking for a couple more," Holgorsen said when asked about his receivers. "A lot of times the goal with balance is between how much you run and pass. We've been doing this for a long time, 15-20 years, and our goal is to spreading the ball around to specific people. We want to put five skill guys out there and spread the ball around to all five and make them as productive as we can be."

Senior transfer Devon Brown ranks 16th in the conference with 10 receptions and 11th in yardage with 164. The next Mountaineer to appear on the conference's receiving yards list is freshman running back Dustin Garrison, who has five catches for 60 yards.

"Brown is our fourth receiver and he had more than 100 yards 1/8against Norfolk State3/8,' Holgorsen said. "Those four have done a good job but we need to continue to develop the running back position and get them more involved as well."

First second-guess

Since taking over the program in June, Holgorsen and his assistants have been careful not to disparage the previous offensive coaching staff. Even where their philosophies diverged, the common sentiment was that last year's coaches did what they felt was right for the program. On Monday, however, Holgorsen targeted one decision he thought the previous staff missed out on.

"Ivan McCartney should've been redshirted last year," Holgorsen said.

McCartney is steadily developing into one of Smith's favorite targets but was rarely used last season, appearing in 12 games but finishing the year with one catch for 4 yards as a true freshman.

That lack of experience stunted McCartney's growth and is forcing him to play catch-up.

"He's playing well and he's improving every day," Holgorsen said.

"He hasn't played a whole lot of football but his attitude is great, his work ethic is great and his ball skills are great. He's a guy who should continue to get better as the year goes on."


(c)2011 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

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