Its that time of the year again for Bills fans. Time to pay close attention to the top college quarterbacks in the nation each weekend so you can have an opinion on who the Bills should draft come April.
You might have done that the last three years and much to your chagrin, the only quarterback drafted was Levi Brown in the 7th round in 20010.
The way Ryan Fitzpatrick has played this season leads me to believe the Bills brain trust will finally realize he isn’t the answer and its time to make drafting a quarterback the number one priority.
With that thought in mind, I spent last Saturday night watching Geno Smith from West Virginia and while it wasn’t love at first sight as was the case the first time I watched Andrew Luck, I came away intrigued and very impressed, the same way I felt about Robert Griffin III.
Smith led the Mountaineers to a wild 48-45 victory at 11th ranked Texas in West Virginia’s first ever Big 12 road game. He completed 25 of 35 for 268 yards and threw for four touchdowns.
Among the things that impressed me about the 6-3, 214 pound Smith was his poise. As I mentioned, the Mountaineers have taken a big step up in class going from the Big East to the Big 12 this season and playing in Austin in front of a record crowd of more than 101,000 screaming Longhorns fans is a difficult challenge. But Smith was unflappable.
He showed a strong command of the offense, solid leadership skills, and the ability to make all of the throws while hitting on some big passes in pressure situations and overcoming adversity, created by himself.
Smith had what could have been two very costly fumbles, one coming around his own five yard line which set up a Texas touchdown and another inside the WVU 20 yard line(although Texas missed a field goal attempt after that turnover).
The Miami, Florida native bounced back from those and continually had an answer on a night when the Longhorns defense sacked him four times and knocked him down on numerous other passes. He ran the no huddle with success but also showed he can operate under center and put points up on the board either way.
On the opening series of the game, Smith put together a 5 play, 54 yard touchdown drive that saw him go 4for 4 and included a key third down completion as he took a big hit.
I like the fact that Smith closed the first half(field goal) and opened the second half(touchdown) with scoring drives.
Down 31-27, Smith led a touchdown drive to put the Mountaineers up 34-31. Texas scored to regain the lead and Smith answered with another TD drive to put WVU back out in front 41-38. On those back to back TD drives, Smith completed 9 of his 10 passes including the 2 scores.
With his team hanging onto that three point lead and with just 5 ½ minutes left, the senior QB guided the offense on an 8 play, 76 yard drive that took four minutes and ended up in a game sealing touchdown.
Expect to hear more about Smith, who has 31 starts since taking over at the beginning of his sophomore season in Morgantown.
Todd McShay from Scouts Inc. just leap frogged him from 17 to 2 on his list of the top prospects in the 2013 draft. That jump put him in front of USC’s Matt Barkley for the honor of top qb in McShay’s opinion.
Check out what ESPN’s Mel Kiper thinks of Smith and compare Smith’s strengths to Fitzpatrick’s weaknesses. Kiper said Smith is accurate, has exceptional ball placement and hits his receivers in stride to allow them to create more yards. All three of those attributes are nowhere to be found from the Bills qb these days.
Perhaps the front runner for the Heisman Trophy right now, Smith’s numbers are eye popping: 81% completion rate, 1,996 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s right he has yet to throw a pick this season. In fact Smith hasn’t had a pass picked off in his last 259 throws going back to last season’s Orange Bowl game.
However, you should consider that he hasn’t faced the cream of the crop when it comes to opposing defenses. West Virginia’s four FBS opponents this season(they also played FCS member James Madison) include:Texas(ranked 74th in total yards/game), Marshall(105th) , and Baylor(120th and dead last). But Smith did beat Maryland which has the 7th best defense in the country.
He’s known for his work ethic too. After a 70-63 win over Baylor where he threw for more than 600 yards and 8 TD’s, Smith’s idea of “celebrating” the school’s first ever Big 12 win, was to head back to the football building and start watching video of Texas, their next opponent.
Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen says Smith’s goal in life and his focus in life is to learn as much about football as he possibly can. He also says Smith is the “most competitive guy” he’s ever been around.
West Virginia plays at Texas Tech on Saturday at 3:30 and its part of regional coverage on ESPN.