Nationals

Eight was enough, WVU QB Smith's focused on Texas

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Eight was enough, WVU QB Smith's focused on Texas

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) After Geno Smith's record performance against Baylor, the West Virginia quarterback had a choice: Either spend some quality time with his mother who was in town to see him play, or go watch game film.

Sorry, mom.

Smith handed over his box of pizza and was off to a study room, ready to put a 656-yard, 8-touchdown display against Baylor behind him.

``I don't reflect on that,'' Smith said. ``It's way in the back of my mind. I don't even care about it, to be honest with you.''

What is on his mind is the eighth-ranked Mountaineers' first Big 12 game in a hostile environment coming up Saturday night against No. 11 Texas.

``Got to focus on Texas,'' Smith said. ``We don't take wins into the next week. It sounds cliche. But that's really how we do things.''

The approach is working. In four games Smith has thrown for 20 touchdowns without an interception. He's completing an astounding 83 percent of his throws and is averaging 432 yards passing - 36 yards more than his nearest competitor nationally.

His performance in the 70-63 win over Baylor moved him from Heisman Trophy hopeful to the center of attention. And any doubts about his elite status can be removed if the Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) beat the Longhorns (4-0, 1-0).

``He seems smart. He's composed,'' said Texas coach Mack Brown. ``He has all the pressure of trying to win the Heisman, handle all the stuff. He seems to handle it with poise and grace all the time. But, boy is he good.''

The last time Smith played before a huge crowd on an opponent's field came in 2010 at LSU. Smith was making his fourth career start and the Mountaineers were limited to 177 yards of offense in a 20-14 loss before 92,500 fans in Baton Rouge, La.

``Experience is a huge key, especially for a quarterback,'' he said. ``I've been a part of big situations in big games, on the road, loud crowds and all of that. So it won't faze me.

``I don't think there are any tricks to it. You've just got to go out there and be yourself.''

Film study is an important part of every quarterback's routine. For Smith, it doesn't matter what time of year it is or who he has to leave behind. It's something the three-year starter has taken seriously since arriving at school in 2009.

``If you put yourself behind the eight ball by not studying film, by not being prepared, you won't do well out there on the field,'' Smith said.

So not long after the Baylor game, Smith was off with quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital.

``When he's in Morgantown, he feels like he's on business,'' Spavital said. ``I thought it was the most bizarre thing when his mom walked in, he handed her the box of pizza and he went to the film room with me. I was like, `You want to hang out with your mom?' He's like, `I'll have plenty of time to hang out with her after the season.'

``He's just got a drive and a love for the game which I've never been around,'' said Spavital, who as a graduate assistant worked with Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Houston's Case Keenum. ``Hopefully that just keeps trickling down to our other players, because they see the success he's having and the attention he's getting.''

During the offseason, Smith studied both this year's opponents and NFL quarterbacks, including Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New England's Tom Brady. Looking for tips to incorporate into his own game, Smith raved about Rodgers' foot work and decision making, Brady's pocket presence and focus downfield.

Several of Smith's TD tosses against Baylor were long, accurate throws, which Spavital said he wasn't so good at a year ago. Smith's offseason strength conditioning and work on his foot speed have paid off.

``When it comes to the deep ball, if you look at how he threw it last year, he was kind of winding up and he was dropping the ball a bit,'' Spavital said. ``He was trying to get as much torque on his arm as possible. Now he's eliminated that and he's just worked on a fluid motion and keeping things consistent.''

On Monday, when WVU doesn't practice and players aren't required to formally gather to watch film, Spavital said he got a text message from Smith, who makes it a habit of looking at video on his iPad.

Smith wanted to know what the game and formation plans were for Texas. Spavital, in turn, often relays Smith's ideas to coach Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.

The same day, wide receiver Stedman Bailey got a text message from Smith with suggestions based on what he watched on Texas.

``It's a good deal to have him chirp in, because if a quarterback really likes the play, I'd think you'd want to run it out there in the game,'' Spavital said.

Spavital said he's had discussions with Smith about his constant presence in the film room, even suggesting the quarterback ``leave here, go be a college student and have some fun.''

But Spavital added that fun for Smith is playing football.

``The happiest he is is when he walks out there on the field,'' Spavital said.

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Nationals Roundup: Washington splits four-game stand with Diamondbacks

Nationals Roundup: Washington splits four-game stand with Diamondbacks

The Washington Nationals moved to 33-38 after splitting the four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend. Now, Bryce Harper and the rival Philadelphia Phillies come to town for a four-game stretch that can prove vital to Washington and the team's better play.

Player Notes:

Stephen Strasburg gave up six runs over five innings on nine hits over five innings in a loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday. His ERA is now 3.75 with 115 strikeouts in 96 innings with a 1.06 WHIP, but can rebound Thursday against the Phillies.

He's not yet 21, but Juan Soto is playing like he's been in the league for years. The outfielder went 2-for-4 with his 11th homer on Saturday. He now has 41 RBI on the season to go along with an OPS of .885 over 62 games.

Adam Eaton went 3-for-3 with an RBI, two walks and a run scored in the Nationals’ lopsided 15-5 win on Sunday. The 30-year-old outfielder is fully healthy, hitting .280/.365/.398 with 41 runs scored, 19 RBI and five steals in 302 plate appearances.

Superstar Anthony Rendon went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and three runs scored in the Sunday win, which included his 16th longball of the season. He'shitting .321/.415/.660 with 52 runs scored, 50 RBI and one stolen base across 246 plate appearances this season.

Injuries:

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

1B Ryan Zimmerman: Foot, could return mid-June

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, out indefinitely 

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

C Kurt Suzuki: Clavicle, sidelined

RP Kyle Barraclough: Biceps, 10-day IL

Coming Up:

Monday 6/17: Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Tuesday 6/18: Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Wednesday 6/19: Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Thursday 6/20: Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

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Source: Rotoworld

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Now that the Lakers got Anthony Davis, could the Knicks and others turn to Bradley Beal?

Now that the Lakers got Anthony Davis, could the Knicks and others turn to Bradley Beal?

With all but one of the brick-and-mortar movie stores closed down, there are really only two instances that you hear the word 'blockbuster' these days: when describing Marvel movies and for the type of trade we saw this weekend between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers.

The Anthony Davis deal is a blockbuster trade in every sense. It is big in the number of pieces involved and because Davis is one of the best players on the planet.

It is important because it could immediately vault the Lakers into title contention. And it provides a new superteam for the league to revolve around and for people to loathe with the Golden State Warriors currently licking their wounds.

But it is also the type of deal that will have major consequences around the league, one that will affect far more than just the teams at the top. It will force a collection of other teams to redraw their blueprints.

The obvious ones are the Knicks and Celtics, the two teams most closely linked to Davis in trade rumors. Now, it is New York that has more urgency, if not desperation, to strike in free agency. Boston to regroup and will probably need to ponder other trades if they want to reassert themselves in the Eastern Conference.

The Davis trade would be a major deal no matter the year, but it is fascinating to evaluate in the context of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's injuries. The league went from being very predictable to a wide open pasture of possibilities.

Now, the Warriors are good still but are also a beatable team. A window of NBA parity is cracking open and surely the Lakers won't be the only team to pounce.

Houston, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City are always aggressive and will clearly be thinking big. Portland and Denver could see this as the year to go all-in.

Not all teams looking to make a splash will have money to spend in free agency. That points to an aggressive trade market this summer, but there is arguably one big problem. After Davis, it doesn't seem likely many other stars will be available.

Teams seeking stars via trade have enjoyed plenty of options in recent years between Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. The formula is generally fairly simple: an All-Star player on an underachieving team with the end of his contract in sight. Recently, the supply has met the demand.

But currently, few fit that description. There are some like Mike Conley Jr. of the Grizzlies, and Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside of the Heat. But none of those players are All-Stars in their prime.

All of that makes it easy to connect the dots to the Wizards and Bradley Beal. They are in an interesting spot, needing to decide whether to retool for playoff contention or take the long view and undergo some degree of a rebuild.

Beal, as their best player, is the catalyst. There are logical reasons to keep him or to trade him. He is one of the best players in franchise history, is only 25 and he's on a team-friendly contract in the era of the supermax. But the Wizards are going to have a tough time improving their roster with John Wall's Achilles injury and contract, which starts at 35 percent of the salary cap. 

The Wizards have held a stance of not wanting to trade Beal and still do. They also likely wouldn't make such an important decision without a long-term team president in place.

But that won't stop teams from calling and there is already speculation around the league about whether Beal will be dealt. One front office executive told NBC Sports Washington that Beal could be the top prize in the trade market if made available now that Davis is gone. 

For a lot of these situations, trades are more likely when a player is entering his walk year. Beal is signed through the 2020-21 season and, even if he grows unhappy, will say the right things.

He won't create necessary drama. And, if you take him at his word in a February interview with NBC Sports Washington, he wouldn't request a trade himself.

Also, there is a reason to believe keeping Beal wouldn't hurt their ability to rebuild through the draft. With the new lottery system, bottoming out doesn't offer the guarantees that it used to. And even with Beal playing all 82 games last season, the Wizards still lost 50 of them and finished with the sixth-best odds.

Just like some have argued the Wizards have reasons to trade Beal, they also have reasons not to. But that won't stop other teams from picking up the phone.

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