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    CONWAY, Ark. _ Stellar early season play has led to the addition of quarterbacks Wynrick Smothers of Central Arkansas and Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, and running back Zach Zenner of South Dakota State to the 2012 Walter Payton Award Watch List.

    The Payton Award, presented by The Sports Network, and in its 26th year, is presented to the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision. This year’s winner will join a list of Payton Award greats such as Steve McNair, John Friesz, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, Brian Finneran, Armanti Edwards and 2011 recipient Bo Levi Mitchell.

    Smothers, a 6-foot-1, 208-pound junior from Destrehan, La., has burst on the scene in his first full season as a starter, able to exploit defenses with both his arm and his legs. His 281.2 yards of total offense per game rank 12th in the FCS. One of the nation’s more efficient passers, Smothers ranks 16th in passing efficiency (165.54 rating) and has completed over 66 percent of his passes. He has led the No. 20/24 Bears to a 3-2 record, including a win over then-No. 2 Sam Houston State, avenging his team’s only Southland Conference loss last year.

    Smothers has completed 110 of 166 passes this season for 1,217 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is also UCA’s second-leading rusher with 189 yards and 2 touchdowns.

    UCA's last Payton Award nominee was quarterback Nathan Brown in 2008. Brown, a Payton finalist in 2008, is in his third season as UCA's quarterbacks coach.

    Other nominees on the Watch List are quarterbacks Casey Brockman of Murray State, Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion, Kurt Hess of Youngstown State, Jeff Mathews of Cornell, DeNarius McGhee of Montana State and Brad Sorensen of Southern Utah; running backs Zach Bauman of Northern Arizona, Shakir Bell of Indiana State, Jamaine Cook of Youngstown State, Matt Denham of Eastern Kentucky, Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State, Miguel Maysonet of Stony Brook, Andrew Pierce of Delaware and Terrance West of Towson; fullback Eric Breitenstein of Wofford; and wide receivers Aaron Mellette of Elon and Ryan Spadola of Lehigh.

    The Payton Award will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season on Nov. 19. The top three vote-getters will be invited to the FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation on Dec. 17 in Philadelphia.
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