When University of Maine football head coach Jack Cosgrove announced last month that Warren Smith had again won the starting quarterback job, a lot of fans shook their heads.
Black Bear supporters, having witnessed unspectacular QB play during the last two seasons, feared more of the same.
Two games into the 2011 football season, Warren Smith is the biggest story at UMaine.
Smith arrived in Orono back in 2009 eager to prove he was worthy of a Division I scholarship. He had played one season at Iona, a nonscholarship program that subsequently was disbanded.
At UMaine, Smith was not an overnight success, even though he took over as the starter early in the 2009 season.
It took him two full seasons to adjust to the Football Championship Subdivision level — both in the physical and mental aspects.
Smith always had a good arm. What often got in the way was his Brett Favre-like penchant for trying to make big throws — even when the plays weren’t there or the situation didn’t warrant it.
This season, Smith is clearly a changed quarterback. He is commanding the offense with confidence and poise, but without the reckless “gunslinger” mentality.
Smith knows that efficiency running the offense, limiting mistakes and staying within himself are critical to the success of the unit.
Last Saturday’s late-game charge against Pitt was a prime example of what Smith and the Bears are capable of doing. He directed two touchdown drives in the last 8:39 to give the Panthers cause for concern.
Smith wound up achieving a career best with 334 passing yards. He also threw for three touchdowns.
So far, he is 41-for-65 passing (.631) good for 469 yards and three TDs. Smith has not yet been intercepted.
He has exhibited the benefit of his considerable experience, which has helped him develop maturity and poise.
Smith has also been healthy after experiencing some residual problems last season after undergoing ankle surgery at the end of 2009.
Smith, with the help of the UMaine coaching staff, has turned himself into a legitimate Football Championship Subdivision quarterback. With continued growth, the Bears have reason for optimism this fall.