Geno Smith: 5 Keys to WVU Quarterback's Heisman Hopes: Updated

Michael Walker@michaelwalkerwvAnalyst IISeptember 2, 2012

Geno Smith: 5 Keys to WVU Quarterback's Heisman Hopes: Updated

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    West Virginia Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith has wasted no time in two outings showing that his Orange Bowl performance was no fluke.

    His 88 percent completion rate on 66 of 75 passes for 734 yards and nine touchdowns is a good start. Smith also has 10 rushes for 83 yards and another score and has not been sacked.

    Now you're talking Heisman Trophy numbers. His quarterback rating after two games is an incredible 209.8!

    Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette  quoted WVU head coach Dana Holgerson: "He [Smith] managed the game as well as anybody I've ever been around.''

    And Holgerson has been around some pretty good ones, including Case Keenum and Brandon Weeden. That was after the Marshall game.

    Smith is not a running quarterback. USA Today reported that James Madison coach Mickey Matthews had this to say after the JMU game, "Their quarterback -- you just can't sack the guy. He's quicker than our defensive linemen."

    Obviously the 15 pounds of muscle Smith added during the offseason have made him stronger and a better runner. His 28-yard TD run on a broken play showed a speed and confidence not seen last year. He pulls away from the grasp of a would be tackler and makes a positive play.

    As well as Geno is playing, he must have a talented supporting cast. There are five key players that will help determine Geno Smith's chances of winning the Heisman Trophy.

    Of course he has to have outstanding numbers. WVU has to win the Big 12. In order for Smith to win the Heisman, his team mates  have to help. Let's check the two game update on that:

No. 5: Stedman Bailey

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    Stedman Bailey is to Geno Smith what the Sundance Kid was to Butch Cassidy. Bailey has been Smith's go-to guy since they played together at Miramar High School in Florida. Last year, Bailey caught 72 passes for 1,279 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    When Smith had to have a completion, he looked for Bailey. Smith apparently has not changed his mind. After two games this year, Bailey has caught 22 passes for 277 yards and five touchdowns. That's an incredible pace so far.

    That's the kind of production Smith needs and expects from Bailey. If those numbers don't impress you, multiply them by 6: A season catching 132 passes for 1,662 yards and 30 touchdowns is not beyond his potential.

    That's without a bowl game.Go Sundance!



No. 4: Tavon Austin

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    Tavon Austin is WVU's Mr. Excitement. In 2011, Austin caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns. Add to that his runs and kickoff returns and he earns the nickname.

    In the Marshall game, Austin caught 10 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. He also gained 66 yards on three carries. He's a breakaway threat every time he touches the ball.

    Against James Madison, Austin had 11 catches for 113 yards and one touchdown. He also had 14 yards on one carry. His punt returns were all fair catches.

    Even without the ball, he occupies defenders. The 5'9", 175-lb. speedster has to be accounted for on every play or the defense will be hearing the Mountaineer musket go off again and again!

    Smith can't win the Heisman without Austin. Every bump pass or five-yard dump he turns into a long gain counts towards Smith's yardage.

    Austin and Bailey are probably the best pair of receivers in the nation.

No. 3: J.D. Woods

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    What a difference a year makes. In 2011, J.D. Woods didn't see much playing time and had seven catches for 67 yards and no scores.

    In this season's first game against Marshall, Woods topped that with seven catches for 75 yards and a score. He continuously stretched the defense, freeing up the short-passing game.

    In the JMU game, Woods only had two receptions for 27 yards, but they were both first downs. Other deep receivers like Ivan McCartney are also getting involved.

    McCartney has obviously put his preseason issues behind him. He may be the most improved receiver bfore the season is over.

    So far, Woods has been the one that draws defenders away from Bailey and Austin. McCartney and others are beginning to also.The way they draw coverage helps Bailey and Austin find room behind the linebackers.

    The 6'1", 200-lb. senior makes tough catches and is an excellent downfield blocker. Woods is another solid supporter of Smith's Heisman hopes.

No. 2: Shawne Alston

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    Shawne Alston. Healthy, stronger, faster. The 5'11", 236-lb. senior is running like a bull in a china shop. This man is on a mission. Defenders bounce off him or he drags them forward for an extra two yards.

    Alston talked the talk in fall camp and Saturday he backed it up with his game. Against Marshall in the season opener, he carried 16 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. That's an average of 7.7 yards per carry.

    That kind of running opens up the passing game even more. Alston is also an excellent blocker. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and is a complete back.

    As Coach Holgerson said in his postgame press conference, "He is hard to tackle."

    With 5'9", 195-lb. Andrew Buie as a speedy change-up, the Mountaineer running backs keep the defenses guessing.

    JMU keyed on Alston and pretty much kept him in check. They stopped him on a fourth and one and also tackled him for a safety. He still managed 62 yards on 14 attempts with a touchdown.

    Keying on Alston may have helped Buie. The speedy sophomore has added 111 yards on 13 carries in two games with one touchdown.

    Buie adds another dimension as a receiver coming out of the backfield. He has 121 yards receiving on nine catches total.

    In one drive during the JMU game he accounted for 37 yards and two first downs catching the ball. Buie was named offensive player of the JMU game.

    It appears Alston and Buie will be battling each other for playing time all year, which is a winner for the team either way. Their efforts help slow the rush on Smith.

    That also helps Smith with something he did not have last year—a solid running game. 

No. 1: Offensive Line

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    The WVU offensive line: five experienced linemen averaging 6'5" and 312 lbs. Playing together with an attitude the coaches call nasty!

    Last year's line couldn't block anything but the sun. But this year, Josh Jenkins is back and healthy. Along with a more mature and fit Quinton Spain, Joe Madsen, Jeff Braun and Pat Eger, this line is a quarterback's dream.

    This line could block the wind. Geno Smith now has time to check-off the play, take the snap, go through his reads (twice) and sign an autograph before he throws a pass.

    Of all the missing pieces that last year's team did not have until the Orange Bowl, this is the most crucial. After the Marshall game, Coach Holgorsen expressed satisfaction with the up-front blocking;

    Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette quoted Holgorsen as saying, "It starts with the guys up front. They played as well as they have since I've been here.''

    Through two games, the offensive line has not allowed Smith to be sacked. As a group, the starting five have graded out well in both games.

    The WVU offensive line is allowing Geno Smith the time and protection he needs to play his best. That will give him the best shot at winning the Heisman Trophy. The rest is up to Smith.

    After two games he has put on a Heisman performance with as many touchdowns as incompletions and no interceptions. I'd say he's the front runner so far.

    Comments welcome and appreciated. What do you think?