Nathan Brown, a great in his own right, looks at Wynrick Smothers and sees potential greatness.

"Wynrick has as much potential as any quarterback who has ever played here," said Brown, the University of Central Arkansas quarterback coach. "It’s a matter of maximizing what he does."

That assessment comes from one of the best and most prolific quarterbacks in UCA history.

Quarterback was a major question mark for the Bears entering the spring. Nathan Dick, a two-year starter and a first-team all-conference performer last season, had graduated. Smothers has been his backup for the last two seasons but has yet to finish a season because of injury.

In spring scrimmages, a healthy Smothers had some of the most efficient efforts ever produced by a quarterback in coach Clint Conque’s 12-year tenure.

"He’s done the work both in the spring and the fall to prepare himself to be ‘the guy’ at quarterback," Conque said. "He has command of the offense and can make all the throws."

"We talk everyday about two things every quarterback needs — consistency and a short-term memory," said Brown, who passed for 10,558 yards during his time as UCA quarterback. "And I’m excited about how he’s putting for the time and effort in improving every day."

Smothers does two things extremely well — knowing the offense and being able to turn a busted play into a good one with his scrambling ability.

"His attention to detail in this offense is what sets him apart," Brown said. "We ask a lot of a quarterback in this offense. He has to make reads and decisions. Pass efficiency is the most important thing for a UCA quarterback. Things have to run through his eye and he has to recognize movement in an instant. His attention to detail is impeccable. It’s as good as I’ve been around and his physical ability is also.

"Wynrick has the unique ability that if an offensive lineman misses a block to get out of the play with his legs. We haven’t had that kind of running ability at quarterback here since Brian Stallworth."

Smothers takes all the praise modestly.

"I know the offense, but there’s a lot of thngs I can do better and I have to work on — my footwork, consistency, accuracy," he said. "I can improve on recognizing pocket pressure. But I feel I’m ready to do my part."

"And he doesn’t have to make the great play all the time," Brown said. "We have as many playmakers around him as we’ve ever had."

"If I get the ball to the right people, they can run and catch," Smothers said. "Just go down the line of our receivers and running backs. They all can make big plays."

As strong as Smothers has been, he has competition behind him. Arkansas transfer Jacoby Walker and sophomore Ryan Howard, in his third year in the program, are in a tight battle for the No. 2 spot.

" Ryan is improving every day, has been in the offense three years," Brown said. "He has good technique and a quick releae. Jacoby is the same type quarterback as Wynrick; he’s just young in the offense, He’s learning and the main thing he needs is confidence. But we don’t have a harder worker on the team.

"When the light bulb comes on for Jacoby, he’ll be a good one and that’s exciting."

It may not be long before that question mark at quarterback becomes an exclamation point for the Bears.

Sports columnist David MCCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net