A double dose of Geno
MORGANTOWN - Geno Smith laughs at the notion that he's now somehow considered a dual-threat quarterback after exceeding his career high for rushing yards in the first game of his senior season.
Jake Spavital goes a step further, sarcastically mocking the notion.
"In the quarterback room the over-under for the longest run of the year was 221/2 yards and he runs a 28-yard touchdown in the first game,'' Spavital, the West Virginia quarterbacks coach, said. "So yeah, we're a dual-threat team now and we're going to run the quarterback about 50 percent of the time.''
Well, not quite.
Sure, Smith ran for a career-best 65 yards in that 69-34 rout of Marshall on Sept. 1. And, yes, he had that 28-yard touchdown on a broken play.
But the fact is, West Virginia never called Smith's number on a designed run - save for the failed quarterback sneak he tried to execute on his own at the goal line - and the times that he will be asked to execute a designed run will be few and far between.
But Smith's ability to run the ball - if reluctantly - can only be a help to an offense that doesn't seem to need much of that after averaging 69.5 points in its last two games.
"It makes people think twice about rushing people up the field hard and it makes them think hard about dropping guys really, really deep into coverage,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said of Smith's demonstrated ability to scramble a bit if he is out of other options. "If they're deep into coverage, they better have someone to spy him.''
And boy, would that be a change for a Holgorsen quarterback. None that he's ever coached - not Graham Harrell at Texas Tech or Case Keenum at Houston or Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State - were what anyone would consider dual threats.
"No, I've never had someone spy one of my quarterbacks,'' Holgorsen said, referring to a defense that assigns a player to specifically watch the quarterback and keep him from taking off. "But obviously I've never had a guy have the offensive ability that Geno has.
"He's improved his size and speed. He said after the game that the game slowed down for him. And he's making better decisions. Those things are a sign of his maturity as a quarterback and where he's at as a quarterback.''
The size and speed Holgorsen referenced certainly play a part in what Smith might be able to do as a quarterback who has to be honored by a defense for his ability to run. An offseason workout program that he admits was designed only to make him more attractive as an NFL prospect has turned him from a skinny, frail kid into a 6-foot-3, 225-pound man.
It's noticeable not only in the way he looks, but also in the way he plays and the confidence he has.
"You know, I was talking to him at the end of the game when I got down on the sideline and he said, 'You know, I just feel a lot stronger,' '' Spavital recalled. "He's a confident kid to begin with, but being that strong now and putting on the weight, he's even more confident.''
Still, Smith isn't suddenly Tim Tebow with an arm, and doesn't want to be.
"People try to label me as a dual-threat quarterback and I don't know why. I don't have that many rushing yards,'' Smith said. "But I can use my legs to my advantage when I need to.''
That's fine with Holgorsen, who says he has never had a quarterback injured and certainly doesn't want to start with this one.
"We don't want him to run a ton,'' Holgorsen said. "Last year he would be slow in making that decision to run. Now, he doesn't take a lot of shots and gets out of bounds. It is going to pose a problem for some people.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.