In the weeks preceding the 2013 draft, plenty of anonymous sources gave damning assessments of former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Now, folks are firing shots at Smith with their names attached. Even if they aren’t mentioning his name.
Despite speaking in generalities, the message from both former teammates and Smith’s head coach in Morgantown is clear.
It started last week during a press conference. Per Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com), Holgorsen talked about leadership. Or, more accurately, the lack of it.
“We have to develop leaders,” Holgorsen said. ”It was a big issue on last year’s team — in a bad way.”
Again, Smith’s name wasn’t uttered. But if the quarterback who came out of the gates with eye-popping stats and Heisman hype wasn’t in a position to lead, who was?
Some players have echoed Holgorsen’s remarks, also without mentioning Smith by name.
“Last year we didn’t have, you know, a lot of leadership,” running back Dustin Garrison said.
“I feel like last year, we fell apart,” running back Andrew Buie said. “At certain moments where we needed to be a team, we weren’t a team. So that was a big thing that [Holgorsen] preached all offseason: Team. Team. Team. I honestly feel like as a whole team offensively, defensively and with special teams, we’re more of a unit as a team. More together.”
“What’s different this year is we’re more a team,” offensive lineman Quinton Spain said. “There ain’t no I’s; we don’t depend on nobody. We just depend on all of us at once as a team. So I think this year will be better than last year.
“There wasn’t no team. I could say there was a team early, but once we started losing we saw the I’s come up, so it just hurt the team worse.”
“I just feel like across the board there’s no one person on the team who stands out more than any other,” defensive tackle Will Clarke said. “There’s not one person who’s getting a lot more media coverage or this much attention from certain national attention than the rest of us. We’re all pretty much on the same level. We’re all using that to try to just work together.”
The three players who got the national attention last year were Smith first, then receiver Tavon Austin, followed by receiver Stedman Bailey. And while each arguably shares responsibility for the lack of leadership, the quarterback at every level is the primary leader of a team.
For the Rams, it’s not much of an issue; no one expects Austin and Bailey to become leaders, especially not right away. But if Smith becomes the starter in New York as a rookie, he needs to become a leader sooner rather than later.
If he couldn’t or wouldn’t do it at Morgantown, it’ll be even harder in the NFL.