Starks, a redshirt sophomore, has been observing the freshman as he prepares for Saturday's game against Connecticut, and sees the same calm, consistent approach that has marked Smith's play this year.
"[He's been] the same as usual," Starks said of the freshman quarterback. "He has a good work ethic and works hard every day. He's getting prepared like he usually does."
Although Starks has just one snap at quarterback this year, he has been considered a backup behind the likes of Smith and red shirted freshman Coley White. While Starks keeps most of his focus on his primary position of wide receiver, he knows he can't never rule out the possibility of going in at quarterback. Whether it could be as a replacement for starter Jarrett Brown and Smith in the event of injury, or as a quarterback running a spread option package similar to West Virginia's offense of the past few seasons, he is trying to keep his mental preparations ready for any event.
"I always keep that in the back of my mind but at the same time I focus on my duties at wide receiver and make sure I get that down also," said Starks. Starks has seen limited reps at quarterback during practice, but those have picked up slightly since starting quarterback Jarrett Brown went down with a concussion. Although the coaching staff isn't discussing it, some of those repetitions could be in preparation for a change-up, when Starks would come in and run a handful of plays designed as a change of pace against opposing defenses. That could have been an option against Marshall, which blitzed West Virginia and overplayed the wide receiver screens and sweeps that are fundamental parts of the Mountaineer attack. Smith ran a handful of read option plays, and that's a sequence that Starks is very familiar with.
"It throws a little mix in there now and again," said Starks. "Puts a little wrinkle in [the offense]. It feels good. I will take a couple of reps [at quarterback] and then go right back out at wide receiver."
Although he is not ruling out the option of playing quarterback, Starks was impressed with the play of Smith against the Thundering Herd on Saturday. and believes that the rookie quarterback is ready to step in again when needed.
"I just think [Smith] had to get the nerves out really," said Starks. "As you can see after he got his feet wet, he just started playing like he usually does. Playing the game and managing it and not doing anything but managing the game."
Despite Smith working through some obvious freshmen jitters, Starks did not provide the freshmen with much insight on the field. From his own experiences, Starks let Smith find his own comfort level on the field.
"I didn't say much to encourage him on the field because I think he knew what he had to do," said Starks. "As the older group in front of him, I think we just wanted to take the pressure off of him and make him feel like it's not all on his shoulders."
While seeing Smith get so much valuable experience at quarterback would have some backup quarterbacks jealous, Starks is thankful for the playing time he has gotten no matter where he is on the field. The possibility of making an appearance at quarterback remains, but Starks doesn't spend time thinking about what might have been.
"I'm definitely happy with the way that things worked out," admitted Starks. "God has blessed me to be in this position and be on the field playing football at West Virginia. I couldn't ask for more."