The unfortunate loss of Geno Smith's grandmother called him back home to Florida for a few days. His absence from two or three days of practice show just how important he is to this team. Geno is an NFL QB playing one more year in college.
With Geno at QB, WVU has become an offensive juggernaut. His performance against what was in reality a mediocre defense against Clemson was not a fluke. The offense improved that much during the 15 days of practice leading up to the Orange Bowl.
In Thursday's post-practice news conference as recorded by WVMetroNews, Coach Holgerson stated that "Geno clearly makes everybody else around him better. Both Ford and Paul, who rep with the first team, don’t necessarily make everyone around them better". But Paul Millard is a very talented QB with a year in Holgerson's system. He has a very strong arm and is learning to play within his capabilities.
After lamenting Millard's "gunslinger mentality" from last season, Quarterbacks Coach Jake Spavital told Dave Hickman of the Chareston Gazette, "Overall, I'm very pleased with how he has progressed. I'm comfortable with him if something were to happen to Geno. He has thick skin and he's very
good at playing in this system. I'm confident in his skill set in this offense.''
This year's team has two things that Geno Smith didn't have last year. The first of which is a healthy, experienced offensive line with quality backups. They are all over 300 lbs, strong and play with a nasty attitude. Coach Bedenbaugh expressed confidence in the unit in a video with WV Illustrated.
The other factor that helps is the emergence of a powerful running game. Mitch Vingle of the Charleston Gazette quoted Coach Gillispie as saying Andrew Buie had his best day ever in this week's practice.
Coach Gillispie in an interview with WV Illustrated said Shawne Alston has improved as an all-purpose runner with the speed, cuts and catching ability at 236 lbs. and he is No. 1 ahead of Buie and the now healthy Dustin Garrison. Spavital has made him the number one back.
Gillispie further stated that both fullbacks Ryan Clarke and Donovan Miles are ready and could play 25-35 snaps a game. Both are bruisers at around 230 lbs.
And now we have this walk on freshman named D'Vontis Arnold. Coach Spavital would be comfortable putting this 5'9" 196 lb. freshman in a game now!
The defense is improving everyday and should be talented again. Will Clarke and Terrence Garvin are ready for breakout years. The defensive line actually has backups.
With Geno Smith healthy and even better than last year, WVU is a contender for the Big 12 and the National Championship. If he should be injured sometime during the season, they are still a very good team with Paul Millard at the helm.
I appreciate comments and welcome feedback. What do you think? Would WVU be just another team without Geno? Or could sophomore Paul Millard successfully lead them through most of a very tough Big 12 schedule?