(Editor’s note: Blatant Homerism’s annual “Bustin’ Out” offseason series looks at the players ready to make a splash in the upcoming year. This first article in the 2011 edition looks at West Virginia’s returning quarterback.)
Brandon Weeden was a graying pro baseball washout until new West Virginia offensive coordinator and future head coach Dana Holgorsen got his hands on the Oklahoma State trigger man last season and turned him into Native America’s Chris Weinke.
At Houston, it was diminutive signal caller Case Keenum filling out the stat sheet under Holgorsen’s watch. Before that, Holgorsen helped mold Graham Harrell into a Heisman Trophy finalist when he served as Mike Leach’s offensive coordinator at Texas Tech.
Twice may be a coincidence, but three times? It seems safe to say that Holgorsen knows what he’s doing when it comes to coaching up the passers. Now it’s time to see what the Man in Black can do for Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith.
For his next act, Holgorsen isn’t working with a complete geek off the street. In leading WVU to a 9-4 record, Smith was named to the All-Big East second team in 2010, finishing the season with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 24 to 7 and passer rating of 144.7.
Past accolades are essentially moot now, though, as Smith transitions to Holgorsen’s Air Raid offense, leaving behind the remnants of the spread option scheme that WVU coach Bill Stewart retained from predecessor Rich Rodriguez. Like his mentor Leach, Holgorsen generally prefers to keep his passers in the pocket. Therefore, Smith’s mobility probably won’t come into play much in the new offense. He also doesn’t have explosive running back Noel Devine in the backfield with him anymore helping to keep defenses honest.
Even so, it would seem nearly impossible for Smith to not have a huge season froms a numbers perspective. (Mountaineer fans got a preview last month of what that may look like, when the team’s quarterbacks combined for nearly 700 yards passing in the spring game.)
As I recently discussed with blogger Mark Ennis of Big East Coast Bias, since RichRod left the scene after the 2007 season, the Mountaineers’ offensive prowess has dropped significantly. WVU went from averaging nearly 40 points per game and 6.6 yards per play in Rodriguez’s final season in Morgantown to averaging 25 points per game and 5.3 yards play last season. The offense looked similar to what WVU was doing under RichRod, just much crappier.
That should all change now, thanks to Holgo the Destroyer. Holgorsen is coming to a conference that has little familiarity with the Air Raid, which gives him an advantage over opposing defensive coordinators when it comes to scheming. Additionally, Holgorsen is accustomed to teaching his offense on the fly, and as noted by Chris Brown of Smart Football, he has even created a keept-it-simple system for teaching his offense in a matter of days.
While WVU’s new attack may not be a perfect fit for Smith’s skill set, that doesn’t negate all the other tailwinds at his back. Look for Smith to make a run at the conference’s offensive player of the year award, leading the ‘Eers back to the top of the Big East.