West Virginia QB Smith's next step: Read coach's mind

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When Geno Smith drops back in the pocket to survey his passing options, the game seems to slow down for a few seconds.

Receivers fan out three -- sometimes four -- wide.

Then, bam! The ball spirals to its target, at least 66.7 percent of the time.

After two games of operating a new offensive system, Smith said he's getting closer to where he and coach Dana Holgorsen want him to be for 18th-ranked West Virginia.

"It's still a learning process. I'm still trying to get on the same page as coach Holgorsen and just completely understand exactly what he wants," Smith said. "I think I have it pretty much down, knowing what he expects.

"I'm not perfect, and he makes me aware of that every day."

Smith has had to adjust to a quicker, up-tempo spread style this season after a breakout year as a sophomore. Pass plays have, by design, dominated the play-calling.

As West Virginia heads into its first test against a BCS team Saturday, Smith brings some heady statistics with him to the Maryland game.

He has thrown for 620 yards in two games, completed 46 of 69 passes, thrown six touchdowns and found almost every receiver at least once. His quarterback rating is 170.84.

In at least three situations, Smith has scrambled for first downs when no receivers were open or when pass protection broke down.

He also has been the clear leader of the team, on the field and in the locker room. His voice seemed to get through to his teammates after a rough first half against Norfolk State last week.

That's not to say he is flawless.

After the Norfolk State game, Holgorsen pointed out a few lapses.

"He missed some checks and he got the wrong checks a couple of times," he said. "He gets tempo and plays with some balance and some enthusiasm."

But, overall, he said he has seen progress for his junior quarterback and holds him to a high standard.

"He's getting better. He made some mental mistakes, but he's talented, we all know he's talented. And he's the leader in the clubhouse," Holgorsen said.

"He needs to be able to know what I'm thinking about without having to have me tell him. That takes time and a level of concentration to see what my reactions are to certain things and what my signals are."

To get on the same page Smith said he talks often to his coach and takes it all in, the good and the bad, in an effort to learn and produce.

"It's really hard to read someone's mind but it's just about us communicating and making sure that we're on the same page," Smith said.

"He tells me what he wants and the reasons why we do certain things. I understand the game to an extent. Try to execute the game plan and all the things he tells me to do out on the field."

Saturday, the playbook likely will open more, Holgorsen said. He said earlier this week a decent percentage of the offense has not been displayed in a game.

"You can't go into a game with everything or you'll blow the kids' minds," Holgorsen said. "You try to figure out what you can handle. Once you get a feel for it, then you can start to do some more stuff."

NOTES -- The game Saturday will be televised nationally on ESPNU. ... West Virginia is 24-21-2 all time against Maryland.



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