By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University quarterback Geno Smith is one of five finalists for the 2012 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
His competition comes from Matt Barkley of Southern California; Collin Klein of Kansas State; E.J. Manuel of Florida State, and A.J. McCarron of Alabama.
Candidates for the Golden Arm Award must be completing their college eligibility or be a fourth-year junior, on schedule to graduate with his class. Candidates are judged upon character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities and athletic accomplishments.
Interestingly, missing from the list is Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, considered one of the top QBs in the nation coming into the season. He plays against Smith at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Smith is probably an underdog for this award now after four straight losses, while Kansas State’s Collin Klein was leading his team into the nation’s No. 1 ranking, but his numbers remain as impressive as anyone’s. The words uttered by other coaches earlier this year echo loudly toward his election.
“What Geno Smith did the other day, when you look at the numbers, you say, ‘How can that possibly happen? How can a guy sit there with those types of numbers against a very good competitor?’” Kansas coach Charlie Weis said. “It’s kind of scary.”
And then there was Mack Brown looking at Smith as his team got ready to face WVU earlier this season.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out today. They’re just unbelievable. Geno’s thrown 20 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s probably ahead of the curve that Robert Griffin set last year. He’s got to be a leader for the Heisman (Trophy) and he just makes no mistakes.”
Smith has thrown for 10,498 yards and 87 touchdowns during his career as a Mountaineer. Through last week’s games, Smith had a 159.2 QB rating with 3,041 yards, 31 TDs, and a 71.3 completion percentage.
Smith has not been carried away at any time this season when media was talking of him winning the Heisman Trophy or any of the other top awards like the Unitas.
“I don’t listen to it,” he admitted earlier this year. “Not to disrespect the Heisman and their voters, but that remains in the back of my mind.”
This is what the other candidates have to offer:
Matt Barkley (USC) has thrown for 113 touchdowns and amassed 12,026 yards in his career as one of the top Trojan QBs of all time. Through last week’s games, Barkley had 226 completions in 349 attempts for a 160.0 QB rating.
Collin Klein (Kansas State), a former wide receiver who often functions as a tailback in the Wildcat’s zone-read offense, leads the nation in pass efficiency. Through 10 games this season, he has 12 touchdowns and 145 completions in 208 attempts for a 167.4 QB rating.
E.J. Manuel (Florida State) is the most accurate QB in FSU history, with a 66.9 completion percentage. This year, Manuel has completed 186 passes in 272 attempts for 2,641 yards and a QB rating of 169.3.
A.J. McCarron (Alabama) has tossed 20 of his 39 career TDs this season, while compiling an impressive 168.2 QB rating with 157 completions in 238 attempts and only 2 interceptions.