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Central Arkansas quarterback Wynrick Smothers. (Special to the American Press)

Central Arkansas quarterback Wynrick Smothers. (Special to the American Press)

Smothers keeps UCA streak of strong quarterbacks going

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 6:44 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Nathan Dick?

He’s sooo last year.

Replacing an all-conference quarterback has been no sweat for No. 21 Central Arkansas (4-2, 2-1 Southland) this season as junior Wynrick Smothers is proving he was paying attention as Dick’s understudy the past couple seasons.

Smothers, a Destrehan native, is second in the Southland in total offense with an average of 284.7 yards per game — 251 passing and 33.7 rushing. He’s also second in the league to SFA’s Brady Attaway with 15 touchdowns.

That’s not to say Smothers is invincible. He has thrown six interceptions, which knocks him down to fourth in the conference in passing efficiency.

Overall, UCA coach Clint Conque has given a positive assessment of Smothers’ progression into a starting role.

''He’s taken investment and ownership in what we’re doing,” Conque said. “Quarterback development is a real key to our team’s success. To win games, our quarterbacks have to play well.”

Smothers is a much different quarterback than his two predecessors, Dick and Nathan Brown, who put up big passing numbers but did their damage within the confines of the pocket.

“(Dick and Smothers) are similar in that they both throw nice balls, but different in that Dick was more prototypical,” Conque said.

Any quarterback is made better by great targets, and Smothers may have the best 1-2 punch in the Southland Conference. Jesse Grandy and Dominque Croom rank second and third in the league, respectively, in receptions per game. Grandy averages 5.5 catches for 50 yards per game, while Croom hauls in 4.8 catches for 70 yards per game.

Croom has five touchdowns to Grandy’s one, but Grandy is also a dangerous weapon on special teams. Grandy is second in the Southland in punt return average (18.3 yards per return) and kickoff return average (29.6 ypr). The second stat is particularly worrisome for McNeese, which is currently ranked 113th in the FCS against opposing kickoff returners.

“He’s returned one for a touchdown and two more that have been called back,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Big plays are also regularly made — and sometimes given up — by the Bears defense. Despite ranking seventh in the league with 419.2 yards allowed per game, UCA rates second to McNeese in scoring defense, surrendering an average of 24.7 points per game.

That’s largely because the Bears are the Southland’s most opportunistic defense with a league-high 18 forced turnovers. The Bears also boast the best red-zone defense in the conference, limiting opponents to scores on 70.8 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line.

“They have a really nice team,” Viator said. “I’m impressed with what they do from A to Z.”

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