NCAA FOOTBALL: West Virginia QB dazzles at pro day
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Geno Smith launched a high-arching pass 40 yards toward the corner of West Virginia’s indoor practice facility. As the receiver turned to snatch the ball, it got swallowed by a net hanging from the ceiling.
Little else went awry for Smith at West Virginia’s pro day.
Not including the ceiling shot, Smith completed 60 of 64 throws Thursday. He had two passes dropped and he overthrew two receivers — one on a sideline pattern, the other on a deep ball.
“That net’s the best defender in the building,” Smith joked.
Smith is considered to be one of the top quarterbacks available in April’s NFL draft. He threw for 4,205 yards and led the nation with 42 touchdown passes in 2012.
“Overall, I’ve had a fun time with this,” Smith said. “I guess we’ll see on draft day where that goes.”
Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin didn’t participate in the various agility drills that were witnessed by 29 NFL teams. Not in attendance were the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.
Smith also participated in last month’s NFL scouting combine. On Thursday he took some snaps under center, since he worked primarily in the shotgun formation at West Virginia. He also wanted to show his footwork, move around the pocket and throw to all areas of the field.
The workout was orchestrated by former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, now director of the IMG Football Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“It was a lot easier than the combine,” Smith said. “For one, I wasn’t up for three days straight before doing this. I was able to get some rest, just being back in Morgantown, which is my comfortable environment and feeling good. At the combine we were limited to about 10 to 15 throws. To get 60 to 70 throws in here, I think it helped me out a lot.”
It was a chance to throw again to Austin and Stedman Bailey, and Smith wanted to do what he could to further the draft prospects of his top two targets.
Austin set a school record with 2,910 all-purpose yards and ranked second nationally. Bailey led the nation with 25 TD receptions and was third with 1,622 receiving yards. Both are school records.
Austin ran 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash at last month’s NFL scouting combine, which tied for the second-fastest time. He didn’t bother trying to improve on that Thursday, focusing only on showing off his catching ability and speed on the field.
On a few of Smith’s longer throws Thursday, Austin actually had to slow down to make catches.
At 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds, Austin said he wants to sway some naysayers who believe he’s too small to play in the NFL.
“I’m just going to come in and keep working hard,” Austin said. “And hopefully that will change.”
After his workout, Smith met with representatives of the Jacksonville Jaguars and said he plans other visits to about a dozen other NFL teams leading up to the draft, including a March 22 meeting with the Buffalo Bills. Earlier this week he had a private workout with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I do believe I have a good skill set,” Smith said. “The main thing they want to see is how I react in the classroom. I never get nervous. I know how to handle this thing.”
Bailey said he and Austin will work out privately for the Carolina Panthers today.
After the current players were done, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White was among several former West Virginia players who also worked out for scouts.
“I was just following my heart,” White said of his comeback bid.
White said he was offered a contract by the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, but he wanted to see first if there was any interest from NFL teams.
White spent the past month working with guru George Whitfield, who also has tutored quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.
White was cut by the Dolphins before the start of the 2010 season after playing 13 games the year before.
“I’m pretty certain I’ll be in somebody’s uniform next year, whether it’s in the NFL or the Canadian league,” he said. “I’m excited about that.”