Friday, March 15, 2013
WVU's Smith, Austin on display at pro day
By David Ubben
NFL teams are jockeying for position and every time a quarterback is cut, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's name seems to surface.
Are they targeting him?
Smith was the main attraction at his pro day on Thursday in Morgantown in front of 29 NFL teams -- all but the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks -- and completed 60-of-64 passes.
Sounds like the Baylor game back in September to me. From the Associated Press:
He had two passes dropped, tossed one into a net hanging from the ceiling and overthrew two receivers -- one on a sideline pattern, the other on a deep ball. But not much went wrong for him otherwise.
Smith's workout was scripted by former Florida State star and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, who now directs the IMG Football Academy in Florida.
"It was a lot easier than the combine," Smith told reporters. "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."
By now, it's hard to see Smith being passed up by USC's Matt Barkley. Everything Smith has done since the end of the season has validated his stellar on-field performance this year that included 42 touchdown passes to just six interceptions--five-game losing streak notwithstanding. The only game Smith played poorly was in the first loss of the year to Texas Tech, when he was wildly inaccurate and looked shaken up by windy conditions in Lubbock, Texas.
Still, Smith looks like the best QB in this draft to me, and I have a hard time seeing even the best pro day performance from USC's Matt Barkley changing that.
Receiver Tavon Austin didn't run his 40 again--a wise move considering his absurd 4.34 time at the combine last month--but he reportedly impressed everyone in attendance with his work during Smith's throwing session. He makes the position look natural, has obvious eye-popping speed and even more "Wow!"-worthy quickness and change of direction in tight space or in the open field. Colleague Todd McShay also unearthed a really intriguing nugget about the 5-foot-9, 164-pound, do-everything talent for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen told McShay that Austin didn't miss a single practice in four years as a Mountaineer, which is nothing short of amazing when you consider the undersized prospect touched the ball 526 times in games over that period. Sure, he perfected the art of getting out of bounds to avoid contact on many occasions, but that talent in itself speaks to his ability to remain healthy. Nobody blames stars for sitting out practice time -- Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein hardly practiced at all late in the 2011 season at K-State -- but Austin refused to take a day off. That's going to tell NFL teams plenty.
Just as much as Smith's solid showing with his arm on Thursday, I'd say. He simply proved what we all saw last fall in his first season as a Big 12 quarterback.