Troy QB Smith adds more than deep ball to his arsenal

April 10, 2019

TROY – Sawyer Smith said “really” four times – and he meant it.

Troy’s quarterback, who was sharp in last Saturday’s scrimmage, was talking about the Trojan defense he faces in practice.

“Our defense has always been really, really, really, really good. It’s been that way since I’ve been here,” the rising fourth-year junior said. “So going against them every day in practice makes us really good, too.”

Smith, a 6-foot-3, 219-pounder from Cantonment, Fla., on Saturday looked just as poised and confident as his experience would suggest. Really. He led the Trojans when starter Kaleb Barker was injured in the sixth game in 2018 and was lost for the season.

Troy lost at Liberty in his first start, but Smith led four straight victories – including road wins at South Alabama and Georgia Southern. In his best game, Smith threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns against MAC champion Buffalo at the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile.

Last season he hurt opponents with an accurate deep ball. He showed Saturday that part of his game is as sound as ever. He had big plays with Reggie Todd, Tray Eafford, Bret Clark, Luke Whittemore and Daniel Crowell.

“I like deep throws. It’s fun throwing to the these guys,” Smith said after the scrimmage. “Everybody’s fast, everybody’s big. It makes it easy. It makes me look really good, but it’s really those guys. They’re really talented.”

But where he has progressed the most is on the short and intermediate throws. Troy head coach Chip Lindsey, who extensively watched film from last season, has been impressed by Smith’s overall development.

“We were talking about him the other day. I think he’s made as much progress as anyone,” Lindsey said on Saturday. “He just seems more comfortable, is throwing the ball better, making good decisions. I’m really pleased with his progress so far. Now, we’ve got two weeks left and hopefully, I’ll feel the same in two weeks.”

Troy’s second scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday morning. The annual T-Day game will be played April 20.

With Barker limited to seven-on-seven work this spring as a precaution due to his surgically-repaired knee, Smith is showing offensive coaches he can do more than throw the deep ball.

“Overall, there’s a calming factor when both he and Kaleb are in there,” Lindsey noted, adding that each of the quarterbacks have had their moments. “Gunnar (Watson)’s coming along well, too. Jacob (Free) has made some plays here and there. I think there’s really good competition in that room and that’s going to make them all better.”

Smith is having a ball working with a new-look receiver corps that must replace three departed senior starters.

“It was fun to see the new guys out there competing,” Smith said Saturday. “We’ve got a lot of talent out there. We added a lot of talent, too. We have talent from last year. The O-line did good this morning. Everybody caught the ball pretty good. I thought we really did pretty good.”

Asked specifically about the playmaking Todd, the quarterback’s eyes got big.

“Oh, it’s fun throwing to a guy who’s 6-5, I’ll tell you that,” he laughed.

He talked about facing a defense with a mix of new and familiar faces.

“You’ve got older guys like Melvin Tyus playing safety, they’re really good. Marcus (Webb) up front,” Smith said, throwing in a line about his non-contact status that’s routine for quarterbacks. “You’d better get that ball our really quick. I’m glad I’m in green.”

Lindsey certainly praised Smith, but he’s not ready to anoint him. The coach said the battle for the starting job – which was extremely close last season – with almost certainly go into fall camp.

“Oh yeah, there’s a battle at every position,” the coach said. “We make an effort to make sure that every position every day has to compete. That’s why we mess with the depth chart and change it every day depending on the performance of the day before.

“We feel like we’ve got two guys that have played a lot here and made plays and won games. It’s a good feeling to have.”