There's a certain level of confidence that comes with being a Heisman Trophy frontrunner and having 20 touchdowns with no interceptions.
Following a game of 656 yards and eight touchdowns, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is deservedly feeling good about his play. But the senior is certainly not letting the hype and expectation get to him.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Smith said that the early Heisman praise he's receiving "means nothing to me."
"Not to disrespect the Heisman and their voters, but that's definitely in the back of my mind," Smith said. "I want to make sure I'm preparing myself week to week because we still have a long way to go and I'm not going to get caught up in the hype. In all actuality, it really doesn't mean much. If I go out and do poorly in my next game, I'm pretty sure the storyline is going to be 'Geno fails,' so I have to make sure I'm ready for the occasion."
As expected, the Mountaineers signal caller is also refusing to think about how his sensational start is causing his NFL Draft stock to soar.
"I don't care where I get picked. I'm an opportunist and if I ever get an opportunity to go to that next level, I'm going to take full advantage of it," Smith said. "I want to be the best, but that's talking about right now. I can only control what I can control, and that's what I do on the field."
With West Virginia's fast start and Smith's video-game numbers, he's beginning to pick up comparisons to Robert Griffin III. The comparisons only ramped up after Smith's big game came against Baylor last week. After four games, Smith's numbers are on pace with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner's.
(Through the first four games of the season)
|Robert Griffin III||92||112||1,308||18||1||3-1|
From purely a stats standpoint, Smith's numbers are mind boggling He's completed 222 passes since last being intercepted in December. The Mountaineers as a team don't have a single turnover this season. Smith has nearly as many touchdowns passing (20) as incompletions (28). He's completing a gaudy 83.4 percent of his passes. Currently at 208.37, Smith is on pace to break Russell Wilson's FBS passing efficiency record set of 191.78 a season ago.
Smith's exploits are beginning to put the scare into opposing Big 12 coaches, even quarterback genius Charlie Weis of Kansas.
"What Geno Smith did the other day, when you look at the numbers, you say, 'How can that possibly happen? How can a guy sit there with those types of numbers against a very good competitor?' " Weis told reporters this week. "It's kind of scary."
Perhaps scarier is that Smith has been given more control of Holgorsen's fast-paced offense. Smith closed out West Virginia's Week 3 win against Maryland with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin. The play came on a check down as Smith progressed through his reads. Now that he's two years into it, Smith said he has a better understanding of Holgorsen's offense.
"I've always known the game and we as an offense always knew how to read defenses. But when you get a new offense, you have to figure out the nuances and adjustments that need to be made on the fly," Smith said. "It took us an entire season of ups and downs and an offseason of preparing and studying film. We're a different offense than we were last year. We're far smarter than we were and I think that's the biggest difference. We're still the same players with the same abilities. It's just that we understand how to play together and how to move the ball no matter what the defense is throwing at us."
As a junior in 2011, Smith had some issues versus the blitz. Against Syracuse last season, the Orange led by defensive end Chandler Jones blitzed Smith throughout the game. The result was Smith throwing two interceptions and West Virginia losing 49-23.
"Most of that was a bad job of reading the defense on my part," Smith said. "That was a result of me not really understanding the offense fully. But at the end of the day, I'm a different player now and I've learned from it."
That's certainly the case. Since that game, West Virginia has gone 9-1 and Smith has thrown 33 touchdowns to just two interceptions. But just like the Heisman hype, the stats and past performances don't stick with Smith.
"I can care less what people say about our performance. We go out and do our job week to week. We let the media and the critics do their job, which is to criticize," Smith said. "It blows over our heads because we have work to do. Our work speaks for itself. Our production speaks for itself. You can look at my stats over three years. I've played everyone and better than most quarterbacks in the country are capable of.
"I can make every throw. It's really not a cocky statement or anything like that, it's just how I am. I'm blessed with a tremendous talent for throwing the ball. But I'm also athletically gifted and I can get out of the pocket. But that's not what my game is about. I'm a heady player and I'm all about the mental aspect of the game. That's what pushes me ahead, I think."
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