Is QB Nick Smith The Future For Wyoming Football?
What happens if Josh Allen can not go for Wyoming this weekend?
Are the Cowboys getting a look at the future under center?
On Monday, Wyoming Head Coach Craig Bohl confirmed that Josh Allen suffered a sprained AC Joint against Air Force and was classified as “day to day.” Bohl stated that Allen would be a “gametime decision” for Saturday’s afternoon tilt against Fresno State. After Allen’s injury, Junior Quarterback Nick Smith replaced him just after halftime. In a very conservatively called offense, Smith’s stats were pedestrian, throwing 2 for 3 for 39 yards and rushing 6 times for 5 yards.
However, what can’t be gleaned from the stat sheet was the fact he lead Wyoming on a crucial touchdown drive when Air Force seemed to be taking back the momentum. His lone pass down the field was a spiral to a wide open Trey Woods that set up a touchdown to put Wyoming up 28-14 and to seal the win. Another important note; Smith did not turn the ball over….a crucial ingredient in the Bohl victory recipe.
So Allen’s injury and uncertain status for Saturday begs a couple of questions.
Can the Pokes beat Fresno State on Saturday with Nick Smith at the helm? Is Smith the heir apparent at quarterback in 2018 for the Pokes?
Fresno State Game
There is no doubt that the Bulldogs are greatly improved under the new Jeff Tedford regime. This game will be a great challenge for Wyoming even if Allen starts. The question is, if Smith is under center, can the Cowboys win the game? My opinion, absolutely yes.
This confidence is definitely more of a testament to Wyoming’s stout defense and to the friendly advantage of War Memorial Stadium than it is a compliment to Smith.
Regarding Smith, we don’t have much recent game film or stats to assess his ability to lead the offense (a testament to Allen’s durability). Smith’s stats from being the spot starter in mid 2015 (as a redshirt frosh) are admittedly below average. An under 50 percent completion percentage, two touchdowns, one pick and around 3.0 yards per carry. However, it’s safe to assume that: 1) the overall talent level surrounding Smith is higher now than in 2015; and 2) he should have a firmer grasp of running the offense (emphasis on “should”).
If Smith is under center for Saturday’s game, you can expect a run first, conservatively called gameplan by offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. However, Smith will almost certainly be called on to pass more than the three times he was asked to in the Air Force second half. If his connecting spiral to Trey Woods at the crucial juncture of the Air Force game is any indication of his passing ability, Wyoming should be able to do just enough to pull this game out. Having one of the top ranked defenses on the other side of the ball also won’t hurt Smith’s chances for success.
Now onto the negative….forget about arm strength, forget about release time, forget about, and forget about reading coverages. Probably the most glaring thing I observed from watching Smith in the Air Force game is how much SLOWER he appears to be with his legs compared to Josh Allen.
(There were also a few shaky handoffs by Smith that were near disasters, but I digress). How many times has Allen extended drives by stretching out or running through a defender on 3rd and short? If Smith is as slow as perceived on TV, then Wyoming could have tough time converting some of those crucial 3rd downs.
The biggest reason I believe Wyoming will win on Saturday is that since the start of 2016, Wyoming is 11-2 in home games, with one loss coming against SDSU last year and one loss against Oregon this year (when Justin Herbert was healthy). I realize this becomes a chicken and egg sort of argument with Allen having started ALL of those games. However, I think that a chilly game at 7220 feet, a large afternoon crowd and a tough defense make the difference in this game against the warm weather Bulldogs.
Smith’s role in 2018
Allen may well end up starting Saturday and the discussion above will all be wasted print. So the next question is….will Nick Smith be the starting signal caller for Wyoming in 2018? It’s an all but assured conclusion that Josh Allen will be gone to the NFL after this season (despite Matt and Jeremy not believing in his potential). Oh and one quick side note…Josh Allen will start for an NFL team in two years and will be above average. Mark it down. In any event, Allen will not be included in this discussion.
Aside from Allen, Wyoming has the following QB’s on it’s roster:
- Nick Smith – Junior
- Nick Szpor – RFrosh
- Tyler Vander Waal – Frosh (using redshirt this year)
No disrespect to Szpor, but I haven’t heard much about his quarterbacking skills and I don’t think he’s a viable candidate to be the starter next season. He is an excellent holder for field goals/extra points and to his credit, Wyoming has not had any issues in those areas. Perhaps he will prove me wrong in the spring.
With Vander Waal redshirting, I know very little about him. He was a 3 star recruit out of high school (for whatever that’s worth); which is what Smith was rated. Based on his build, he’s probably faster than Smith, although there isn’t any solid evidence to back that hunch up. Slight advantage Vander Waal (maybe).
Nick Smith has the advantage of having been in the offense system for a few extra years. And having watched the Bohl/Vigen duo since their time at North Dakota State, it seems they generally favor more experienced, upperclassmen to start at QB when it’s a viable option. Advantage Smith.
If Smith does get the nod on Saturday it could give Wyoming fans a glimpse of what to expect in the post Josh Allen era of 2018. Or if things go poorly it could potentially cement Smith’s role as a backup in 2018. Regardless of what transpires Saturday or in 2018, Nick Smith deserves high praise for the work ethic and character he’s displayed while the Josh Allen hype train has been in full effect for the past year.