This time a year ago, then-freshman quarterback Trevor Thomas made his Maryville College debut on the final possession of a 35-point loss to Berry.
Those 12 snaps showed Maryville coach Shaun Hayes everything he needed to see. It was one of the few times the Scots offense looked like a threat as Thomas marched it 74 yards down the field, the play clock expiring being the only thing stopping it from finding the end zone.
“He was different,” Hayes told The Daily Times. “His speed changed our offense.”
The upside of Thomas and Nelson Smith made the Scots commit to a two-quarterback system for the final nine games of the 2018 season, and they entered Saturday’s 31-10 season-opening loss to No. 16 Berry at Honaker Field with the same plan.
Smith showed undeniable growth in the first game of his sophomore campaign, completing 15 of his 23 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Thomas struggled, going 1-for-6 for four yards and an interception.
Maryville (0-1) averaged 3.2 yards per play (165 yards on 51 plays) in the eight series Smith commanded the offense — a figure that dropped to an anemic 0.17 yard per play (two yards on 12 plays) during Thomas’ four possessions — all of which resulted in three-and-outs.
“Trevor just never got in a rhythm,” Hayes said. “We put him in two bad situations backed up (deep in our territory). … Maybe I didn’t call the football game to Trevor’s skill set.
“With that said, I need to have a conversation with Trevor and make sure that he’s OK and let him know that I love him. I know some of the things he has to do, and it all depends on whether Trevor does those things or not.”
Smith, who set the program’s single-season record for completion percentage last season (62.8 percent), was at his best during the Scots’ two scoring drives, completing eight of his 10 passes for 95 yards while also rushing for 12 yards.
The Beech High School alum fired a pair of dimes in succession to sophomore wide receiver Austin Burke while getting hit in the pocket, the latter of which got the Scots in the end zone against the Vikings for the first time since 2017.
He also delivered a strike to senior wide receiver Pierre Watkins on fourth-and-6 to preserve a drive that ended with a field goal as Maryville attempted a feeble comeback attempt in the third quarter.
“The biggest difference (from last year to this year) would definitely be in myself,” Smith said. “This year, I’ve really tried to work on my pocket awareness. We have some really good guys at receiver, and I’m doing my best to trust them and make them go make plays.”
Smith made a case for being the lone quarterback under center going forward Saturday, albeit with a small sample size that included varying results.
Maryville isn’t considering making a change yet, but Thomas needs to get back to the player he was in last season’s opener to avoid losing his role in the offense.
“I got three good quarterbacks in this room, and they will all compete,” Hayes said. “Whoever does what I need them to do, I won’t have to make the decision because they will.”