West Virginia's 2009 recruiting class took a significant hit last month when formerly-committed quarterback Tajh Boyd re-opened his recruitment. On Monday evening, that same class was given a sizeable shot in the arm when another quarterback, Eugene Smith of Miramar (Fla.) High told the Northside Automotive Statewide Sportsline on MetroNews that he would be playing his college football in Morgantown.
Smith visited the WVU campus this past weekend.
"After the visit, being in Morgantown showed me a lot about the fans and the atmosphere and the campus and about the football team in general," he told Sportsline co-hosts Tony Caridi and Travis Jones. "I'll be verbally committing. I feel good about the situation there in Morgantown."
In Smith, the Mountaineers will be getting a strong-armed dropback passer who also has the ability to make plays with his feet. That standout skill set was enough for Smith to claim scholarship offers from top-ranked Alabama and defending national champion LSU. Boston College, Clemson, Michigan and USF also offered the 6-3, 190-pound signal-caller.
None of those schools, however, wowed "Gino" quite as much as the Mountaineers did during his weekend jaunt to Morgantown. That feeling of comfort was more than enough to convince Smith that West Virginia was the right place for him.
"It's just a family environment," Smith explained. "The atmosphere was basically centered around the football team. Those guys have a lot of support and a lot of fans. On game day, you can see the tailgaters and the passion and devotion that they have for (WVU).
"The coaching staff, you know they're all great guys, all classy guys," said the talented Floridia. "The team is just phenomenal. They never have really any off-field problems. They're an 11-win team for the past four years and they are always playing in a bowl game."
Smith plans to finish high school in December and enroll at West Virginia in January to get a head start on his collegiate career both on the field and in the classroom. By enrolling early, he will be allowed to participate in winter conditioning as well as go through WVU's spring practices in March and April.
For the past four seasons, Patrick White has had a stranglehold on the starting quarterback position in Morgantown. His breathtaking ability on the field has led West Virginia to big victories and heightened its national exposure in both college football and recruiting circles.
"I can do a lot of those things that Pat does," Smith told the show. "He's probably a better runner than I am, but I'd say that I am a more polished passer. The thing that I can bring to the table is I can sit back in the pocket and deliver the ball under pressure. If the pocket happens to break down or things happen to get rough out there, I can always make plays with my legs. I'm a passer first, a runner last."
His visit for West Virginia's overtime loss to Cincinnati coincided with visits from committed receivers Logan Heastie and Deon Long as well as committed running back Daquan Hargrett of Miami's Northwestern High School. Those players, along with Smith and Miramar teammate Steadman Bailey (who also cast his lot with the Mountaineers on Monday), could very well form the core of a future high-flying offense in Morgantown.
"It showed me that if all of us come there, we can really make it happen up there at West Virginia," Smith said. "We were watching the game together. We were picturing ourselves in those same shoes. It opened a lot of our eyes and made us realize that it was a place that we should be at.
"We feel like if we all come together, we can win at least two or three national championships."
For now, though, Smith is just happy to have his decision out of the way. While he said he won't completely shut the door on listening to other schools, he feels that the fit at WVU is the best for him.
"I don't want to say that I'm shutting the door completely, but I like to be a man of my word. I think this is the place for me.
"West Virginia is just the school I feel like I should be at. It was just a decision I was going to make my heart. After evaluating, I feel like my heart tells me that I should be at West Virginia."