Smith, WVU Bring "Swag" to Big 12 Race - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Smith, WVU Bring "Swag" to Big 12 Race

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MORGANTOWN -

Geno Smith is probably growing weary of the requests to compare where his team is today compared to where it was this time last season.

It's a reasonable question, no harm asking it and the answer should be one that gives many Mountaineers reason to be quite optimistic for the fall. Still, not a single interview goes by without that reflection, the resulting response always something about progress and maturity and experience.

So rather than harping on the Xs and Os, let's disregard the numbers and the chemistry and focus on a different aspect of West Virginia's growth: Its swag.

"You can't buy swag, but we have a lot of it on this team," Smith says with a laugh. "It goes down from the coaches to the staff and swag is just, when it comes to football, it's just confidence. It's nothing about being showboats or dressing up funny, it's just about confidence."

This word, swag, was tossed around when WVU director of football operations Alex Hammond first joined the Mountaineers staff as the recruiting coordinator last summer. He used it, but only loosely defined it. It was supposed to be some tangible thing that could be seen by those on the outside viewing West Virginia, perhaps for the first time.

Recruits could be lured by this swag and opponents would find it intimidating. The swag would emit some sort of aura that would alert anyone who came near it that WVU football was indeed swagged out.

Smith understands this perhaps better than anyone else on the team. As the quarterback, the natural leadership position, he often fields the most interviews and receives the most recognition for his part in West Virginia's success. His voice, his words are what many people outside the state use to judge that team from Morgantown.

How many times have you, as a fan, felt like West Virginia does not get the recognition it deserves? Players talk about it, coaches think it but do not voice the opinion – one that has made the Mountaineers synonymous with the word underdog on a number of occasions.

"All of that stuff that happens off the field is really nonsense," says Smith. "We can't determine that. The only thing we can do is make sure that we work on our craft, which is play football. We all love football. Everything else really doesn't matter … It's us against them."

This mentality is displayed on white boards calling out some percentage of the nation for being wrong in voting against WVU in bowl games. It manifests itself in the charge to make a splash in the inaugural Big 12 season and what Mountaineer players are referring to as The Road to Miami, where the national championship game is held this coming January.

A former WVU football player once opined that the team's head coach needed to work toward removing the stereotype that followed West Virginians. The Mountaineers had the power to change perception of an entire group of people, and he said he felt the previous staff was not using the power properly.

The current staff not only wants to harness that power, but also to use it to become invincible. It's a word multiple players have chosen to describe the mindset they feel their coaches bring to practice and one that has them certain they will succeed.

It does not come off as arrogance or foolishness when they speak of it, but rather that real confidence that Smith uses to define swag and what it has brought to the Mountaineer locker room.

There is no question that a 70-point bowl game puts eyes on your program, but Dana Holgorsen and his staff are doing all they can to ensure the eyes do not leave, that West Virginia does not go back to being an afterthought on a national scale.

"I've always felt that when I met Coach Holgorsen, that's the one thing he told me is that as long as we do what we have to do, the success will come along with it," says Smith. "We have humble guys on this team, our coaches make sure that we're humble first of all, and I think that's not something that's going to get to our head, the exposure, the media and everything."

The exposure is there this spring, along with the media and though not strictly defined in this instance, everything seems to be hanging around, too. There will be distractions, but right now they are precisely the kind that WVU wants.

As Smith enters his fourth season for the Mountaineers, he hopes this time he and his teammates can soak in the attention and welcome new travelers on the bandwagon with no fear of giving them a reason to jump off again.

It is confidence that leads the charge and fashions the swag, which WVU plans to carry with it all the way through January.

"We love being underdogs," Smith says, "but I think it's about time we got some love."

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