West Virginia Mountaineers Spring Practice Preview: Quarterbacks

ORLANDO FL - DECEMBER 28: Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers passes the ball during the Champs Sports Bowl against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on December 28 2010 in Orlando Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Our spring practice preview schedule:

Spring practice has begun and your fearless leader here is ready to predict an undefeated season for our Mountaineers. Well, I'm not really your leader and you all know that I have an unhealthy fear of spiders, bridges and commitment. That being said, a completely new offensive coaching staff have Mountaineer fans feeling a little tingle in their britches about the upcoming season.  Yeah, I was worried too, but the tingling from WVU's upcoming season, not another unwanted bout with the clap. (Ed. - what bout with the clap is wanted?)

The excited feeling Mountaineer fans have is not just from new coaches, it is also from the results these new coaches have produced over their past few years.

In 2007, Houston threw for 3,614 yards, which only rated as the 25th best passing game in the country. In 2008 Dana Holgorsen joined the Houston staff as offensive coordinator. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons Houston threw for 5,221 yards and 6,072 yards, respectively. With those totals, Houston only finished in the top two in the nation in passing under Holgorsen.

It gets better for Holgorsen, though...

In 2009, Oklahmoa State finished with the 96th best passing game in the country, averaging only 180 passing yards per game. In 2010, Holgorsen's first and only year at State, the Cowboys averaged 346 passing yards per game.

That can only lead to good things for our Mountaineers, who averaged 213 passing yards per game last year. Sure, Oklahoma State had Brandon Weeden, but Weeden was a nobody until Holgorsen arrived. Geno Smith is a known commodity on the national scene, with talent that we saw glimpses of under Jeff Mullen.

Projected QB Depth Chart:
Starter: Geno Smith
Back-Up: Paul Millard
Red Shirt: Brian Athey

After another off season foot surgery, Geno Smith's availability in spring practice was up in the air. However, after practicing during the first two days of the spring, Geno appears to be healthy and ready to go. From reports, he made cuts off both feet and showed no ill-effects from his foot surgery. This eases my nerves and will make fall practice much less dramatic for the QB position.

A year ago, Geno Smith caught some flack at times for poor decisions and horribly timed turnovers. I blame a majority of that on coaching and a mindset created by coaching. Our cautious and often times confusing offensive game-plan likely got into Geno's head and forced him into situations in which he was not comfortable.

Geno forced the issue at times because he knew the coaches were not going to be aggressive with their play calls. He tried to fit the ball in tight spots and ran when he should've just thrown the ball away. I blame the old coaches for many of his struggles last year.

This year, with Holgorsen at the helm, the sky is the limit for Geno Smith. Scouts say Geno has good form with a quick release despite dropping the ball to low at times on his wind-up to throw. Holgorsen will work with him to improve his form and put him into situations at which he can excel.

Paul Millard and Brian Athey, our two freshman QBs, will battle it out for the back-up position. Millard will likely be the winner because of his familiarity with Holgorsen's system and on his pure talent. This past season in high school, Millard lead the nation in passing and almost broke the Texas state record for passing yards in only 11 games. That talent will be hard to overlook and could be enough to push Geno to improve even more during fall camp.

Brian Athey, grandson of WVU commentator Dwight Wallace, will likely redshirt his first season at WVU. Not because of a lack of talent, but simply because it is the smart thing to do with two extremely talented QBs ahead him on the depth chart. However, he could surprise us all in spring and fall practice and secure the job as back-up QB.

Despite a lack of experience after Geno Smith, the QB position seems to be fairly strong. However, I would not be as confident in our freshmen if I didn't have faith in Holgorsen's ability to teach his offense and coach up the QBs. His past results as a first year offensive coordinator speak for themselves.

The QB position is not one you need to worry about this spring.

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