Last year, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith had to adjust to a new style that kept him in the pocket. Now, the offense is evolving and could utilize the all-conference quarterback’s mobility more so than a year ago.
“With Geno, we’ll get him out of the pocket a little more on play action,” said WVU quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital. “We’ll give him reads downfield, but when there’s nothing open, we give him the option to run the ball.”
Smith ran the ball 56 times in 2009 and 106 times in 2010 before switching to head coach Dana Holgorsen’s passing offense last year. In the new system, Smith ran the ball just 17 times, while attempting 154 more passes than the previous year.
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“He makes our offense go and we want to eliminate as many hits on the quarterback as we possibly can,” said Spavital.
When Smith did run the ball, it caught other teams completely off guard. Former Pitt defensive coordinator and new WVU linebackers coach Keith Patterson was victimized by a Smith run play last season.
“He didn’t prepare for it or tell his kids to actually acknowledge [the run] because we never show it,” Spavital said. “There’s always the capability and the chance of us calling a designed run play with Geno.”
And that’s the sign of an offense that works, being able to adjust and utilize the skill-set of the players instead of the reverse.
“With each quarterback, your philosophy changes,” said Spavital. “When I was at Oklahoma State, (our quarterback) Brandon Weeden couldn’t run and he knew it. His best strength was being in the pocket.”
In terms of Smith, Spavital says he wants to exploit his speed this year more-so than a year ago to help keep the defenses in check in the Big 12.
“There’s the capabilities of having shootouts where scores are in the sixties,” Spavital said. “We have to have the mentality that every time we go out there, we’re going to score.”