Sophomore Geno Smith is taking over the reins at quarterback for West Virginia. The Mountaineers are an experienced team with more starters back than any other Big East school, but they'll need their first-year starter under center to deliver.
I caught up with Smith this week, and here's how our conversation went:
How is camp going? How comfortable do you feel with the offense and your health?
Geno Smith: I'm feeling comfortable in every aspect of my game out there on the field. I'm bigger and stronger, my foot is 100 percent healthy now and I'm making solid reads and seeing lots of things. I'm feeling pretty happy with my progress so far.
I'm hearing good things about young receivers Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney, who played with you in high school. How are they doing?
GS: Stedman and Ivan, those two guys are dynamic receivers. They have special talents. They're different in their own ways but both can stretch the field and make great catches. You know, I played with those guys in high school, so we have a lot of chemistry off the field more than just on the field. But our timing and everything is great and those guys have adjusted to the offense really well.
It's been a year since you played with McCartney. Was it easy to pick that chemistry right back up?
GS: In the offseason we work on timing, and as soon as he got here we worked on the routes and 7-on-7 drills. So when camp started, we were acclimated with each other again. So now it's just making the reads and the throws and catches.
Having played in some games last year and going through the spring, do you feel like you know this offense really well now?
GS: Yes. In the offseason, I took it upon myself to watch as much film as possible. I studied tape and did a lot of little things that are really helping me now because I'm seeing coverages and making checks. Everything is really going smoothly with our offense, and I think guys have gained confidence because of that.
The season is coming up in just about two weeks. How excited are you to think about running out there as the starting quarterback for the first time?
GS: Oh, man, I can't even think about it right now. I'm not even sure what today is since we're in camp. I'm just focusing on getting better day by day, but I know pretty soon I'll be out there and the fans will be out there cheering and it will be time to play. But now I'm focusing on the day-by-day work.
How are the two freshmen quarterbacks -- Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson -- doing? You were in their shoes this time last year, so how much can you help them out?
GS: I try my best to help those guys and teach them little things I've learned from the time I've been here. Those guys are picking up the offense really well. They're special talents. I look forward to watching those guys play, because they have great talent, and once they get a grasp of the offense the sky's the limit for those guys.
You're playing against a strong, veteran defense every day in practice. How much better is that making you?
GS: It helps us a lot. Not only do they have talent but the schemes they run are very difficult to read. They run out of the 3-3-5 base and they move around and disguise coverages so well that it's hard to get a read on them. But I think that's going to help us along the line because it makes us focus and pay attention more to the little things and the little keys that give the defense away.
Quarterbacks are always viewed as leaders, yet you're a young guy on a veteran team. So how do you handle that leadership role?
GS: I never had to really take over a leadership role. Those guys bestowed their trust in me. I just I'm a born leader and try to be a leader in everything we do. But at the same time those guys came to me and said, "We understand you're our leader and we want you to be there for us. We want you to push us." So I took that upon myself to do that.
GS: I understand what you're saying, but we've got the timing down and it's not hard to throw to those guys. It takes a lot off pressure to me because I can throw a little screen pass to those guys and they can take it the distance. So it's nice to have players like Tavon, Jock, Noel, Stedman, Bradley [Starks] and Ivan.
You must look around and just love the weapons you have on offense, right?
GS: We've got some extreme talent, not just on offense but on both sides of ball. I think we can be a real special team.
Do you get that sense around the team that this can be a special season?
GS: Our confidence is through the roof right now. The way we are performing against the defense, and those guys are so hard to stop. We've got so many great seniors like Jock, Noel, J.T. [Thomas], Chris Neild and those guys are always pushing us. I think that's the reason why we're going to be so good.
When you have guys like that setting the standard, it must be hard not to follow them.
GS: They set the standard and it's almost become a tradition to work hard. We've got a saying around here that goes "Be the hammer and not the nail," so that sets a standard for us as well. It's making us work harder and pay attention a lot more.