Despite finishing as the third-highest rated passer in the MIAA, Northwest Missouri State quarterback Trevor Adams' junior season was partially stained by two mistake-filled first halves in two of the team's three losses.
There was the first half at Central Missouri in which Adams threw a pair of interceptions, both of which set the Mules up with short fields and led to points.
In the team's 38-35 second round playoff loss to Minnesota St.-Mankato, Adams was picked three times in the first half and threw his career-high fourth interception in the second overtime.
Those six interceptions comprised nearly half of Adams' season total of 13, and the first five put the Bearcats in halftime holes they couldn't quite overcome.
With Adams entering his senior year and second as the full-time starter, it's the hope of Northwest offensive coordinator Charlie Flohr that he'll be able to eliminate those lapses in decision-making that plagued him last year.
"He just needs to go out and play the game," said Flohr. "We know he can do it. Our kids have rallied around him. He's a great leader. He has all those qualities we're looking for in a quarterback. I think there were times last year where he tried to do everything so perfect. It hurt him in certain situations. Now, he's just got to go out and play."
Adams, who threw 23 touchdowns last year and completed 64 percent of his passes, has started 19 games over the past two seasons and won three in the playoffs.
One of the more experienced signal-callers remaining in the MIAA, Adams has displayed the kind of awareness and pocket presence this spring that indicates he's ready to elevate his game as a senior.
"The big things I'm seeing right now is he's very confident in the pocket," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Adam Dorrel. "He's throwing on time. He's getting the ball out of his hand in good time. He seems to be doing a little bit better job of reading coverages before the ball is snapped. We do so much motion, and I've seen him really grow in his understanding of that."
As Adams continues his development this spring, redshirt freshman Brady Bolles and freshman Kyle Zimmerman are doing the same while locked in a battle for the back-up job.
Bolles and Tyler Seals shared that role last season and each one took meaningful snaps when Adams sat out two games with an ankle injury.
Appearing in 10 games, Bolles completed 25-32 passes for 261 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was also the team's fourth leading rusher with 367 yards and five touchdowns.
He ran for a team-high 75 yards and a touchdown in a 37-13 win over Nebraska-Kearney in week four.
Page 2 of 2 - "Brady is still a young quarterback," said Flohr. "He got some game experience last year. He's able to move around a little bit more. He has a little stronger arm (than Trevor), but just the maturation and learning curve of the game, he's getting there, but he's not there yet."
Zimmerman is going through his first spring practice with the Bearcats after redshirting as a true freshman in the fall.
The Blue Valley (Kan.) High School product impressed during the team's final fall scrimmage, and while struggling with accuracy this spring, he has shown an unusually firm grasp of the offense.
"He's doing a really good job processing (our offense)," said Dorrel. "He needs to complete more passes than he's completing right now, but he's doing a really good job with the snap count and the motion and all the formations we're doing. For a guy his age, he's really ahead of most freshmen quarterbacks I've had. That's why we're very excited about his progress right now."
Zimmerman and Bolles have a chance to make an impact this fall even if neither one sees regular duty at quarterback. Dorrel brought up the possibility of a temporary position switch for both, which would allow their athletic talents to be utilized on defense or special teams.
"Our philosophy is get your best people on the field," said Dorrel. "Right now, those kids' ability to compete, to retain information and basically regurgitate it on the practice field is impressive. We're just not going to have good athletes standing on the sideline."