The near term focus was in Bristol, Conn., where quarterback Geno Smith was part of the ESPN "car wash". That term refers to the running of visitors through as many different venues and platforms as possible, to get them maximum exposure across the ESPN networks. On Friday, Smith, along with Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle, Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown moved along the conveyor belt, taking part in interviews with a number of different ESPN personalities, appearing on radio and in live chats, and even starring in the production of promotional television spots.
For Smith, of course, the exposure is nothing new. He's been the hottest newcomer on the Big 12 scene, grabbing preseason player of the year honors as well as earning nominations to just about every preseason quarterback award watch list. Smith, who threw for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2011, is used to being in the spotlight, but he hasn't let it go to his head. He has stated more than once this summer that he thinks he left "around 2,000 yards" on the field due to inaccurate passes or missed reads, and hopes to correct those mistakes in his senior season. While 6,000 passing yards in a season might be unthinkable, there's no doubt that Smith has set a goal to be more efficient, improve his reads and make fewer mistakes in 2012. He's a veteran presence, so we have a good idea of what the future holds, if not the actual specifics.
While Smith was the only representative from West Virginia's team in Bristol, there's no doubt that the buzz around West Virginia's debut in the Big 12 is growing nationally. From showings at the league's media days to national features from writers and outlets across the country, there's intense interest in how the Mountaineers perform in their inaugural season in the league.
Of course, that's a double-edged sword. If WVU does well, and reels off a string of wins in September and October, the attention will build, and the program will earn even more respect. West Virginia will turn aside the doubt of those who view its spot atop the Big East as akin to a minor league championship, even though the Mountaineers do have three BCS bowl wins in the last seven years. While keen observers of the game know what West Virginia has accomplished, and recognizes that it's not a one-hit wonder, there are enough doubts and wait-and-sees to make this season an important one for the Mountaineer program. Should WVU stumble, and be, say, 5-3 heading into the final month of the season, much of that buzz and early goodwill will evaporate, leaving labels like "overrated" to take the place of all the lofty preseason hopes.
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West Virginia fans will have to wait a bit for the ultimate answers to the 2012 season, but another event coming up this weekend has both short and long term results to discuss. On July 28 and 29, WVU will hold its final two one-day football camps of the summer, giving numerous high schoolers the chance to work and learn with the WVU football staff. The reverse, of course, is also true, as West Virginia's coaches will be watching at least 20-25 potential scholarship players over the course of the two days.
Almost every verbal commitment will be on hand (and are expected to work out, not just visit) while a number of other targets will get either their first look or a follow-up visit to the Mountaineer campus. Hodari Christian, Deshawn Coleman, Darrien Howard, Marcell Lazard, Chavas Rawlins, Tyler Tezeno, Elijah Wellman and Zaire Williams are all slated to be on the field this weekend, and perhaps provide motivation to some of the other attendees scheduled to be on hand.
Among those previously reported by BlueGoldNews.com and Scout.com as potential attendees are Xzavier McAllister, Antoine Miles, Justin Moody, Daikiel Shorts, Darryl Worley, Michael Parker, Jamel Sanders, Damian Nicholson, Jamel James, Andre Patton, Nate Godwin, Justice Rawlins, Wendell Smallwood and Zack Yousey. How many of them will become future Mountaineers? It's impossible to predict, but it won't be a surprise to see more than one commitment come out of the big weekend.
The future of these visits are two-fold, but the answers won't be known as quickly as those of the 2012 season. Even if those verbal commitments come, they won't be binding until signed letters of intent are obtained the first Wednesday in February, and even then that's just the first step in the process. Most players will require at least a couple of years of development before they are ready to make a contribution, so the ultimate judgment on the result of this weekend's camps won't be valid until about 2015 or so.
Is there a future Geno Smith in the bunch? That's the answer which is the furthest in the distance – but one that all West Virginia fans will have the most fun making the journey to find.