Big 12: Jake Spavital

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith got a call from his old quarterbacks coach, Jake Spavital, who couldn't help but laugh at what one media scout had to say about Smith.

From our news story:
Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki delivered a scathing assessment of Smith's skills this week, writing that the West Virginia quarterback is "not a student of the game," "does not command respect from teammates and cannot inspire," is "not committed or focused" and "cannot handle hard coaching."

"A cross between Akili Smith and Aaron Brooks, Smith is a gimmick, overhyped product of the system lacking the football savvy, work habits and focus to cement a starting job and could drain energy from a QB room. Will be overdrafted and struggle to produce against NFL defensive complexities," Nawrocki also wrote.

Smith went on the offensive this week, telling USA Today that the report was "untrue in all things," and Spavital says he can "start in the NFL from day one."

Smith's not a perfect quarterback, but he was the Big 12's best passer a year ago and certainly has the potential to grow into a fantastic NFL quarterback. As for the rest of the criticisms, plenty of them rang as untrue. I only spent a year covering Smith, but every coach I talked to about Smith raved about his work ethic and practice habits. You hear tons of stories about Smith holing up to watch tape of games at all hours of the night and setting an example for teammates, so if you're going to criticize Smith, that's not the place to do it.

His performances in difficult weather like the wind in Lubbock or the snow in the Pinstripe Bowl weren't strong, but he still finished the season with 42 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Were his numbers inflated a bit considering the strength of his receiving corps? Maybe a bit, but there's no doubt that he was the Big 12's best passer last season, and Spavital went on the record to call his former quarterback (who spent plenty of time in the QB room with him) a "dream come true for a coach."

I'm taking Spavital's word on this one.
Our NFL writing staff takes a crack at the big names in the NFL draft each April, and colleague Elizabeth Merrill profiled West Virginia star Geno Smith on Wednesday. There's lots of interesting notes from the road from Smith's childhood to a likely first-round NFL draft pick.

Here's a short excerpt from the bigger piece:
Under Dana Holgorsen's "Air Raid" offense, a system that lends itself to gaudy numbers, Smith threw for 4,205 yards in 2012 and had 42 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He amassed more than 8,500 passing yards in his final two years at West Virginia.

But when it was over, after a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29, Smith sat dejected on the bus back to the hotel while Spavital tried to tell him what he had meant to West Virginia. Smith didn't appear to be listening.

"Man, I thought I was playing pretty well," Smith told him. "But going 7-6 makes me feel like I did nothing this year."

Spavital, who's now at Texas A&M, has coached Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum. Spavital says Smith is more prepared for the NFL than any other quarterback he has coached. Smith will surprise people, he said, in part because he can do so many things he wasn't asked to do the last two seasons at West Virginia.

Good stuff. I only covered West Virginia for the past year, but spent a decent amount of time around and reading about Smith. I still learned a ton in Merrill's piece. Check it out.

Lunch links: OSU's coordinator change

January, 11, 2013
I don't know if you know this, but things with fat in them taste way better than things that don't!