Last season, the University of Maine football team discovered it had as many as three capable quarterbacks.
This spring, Warren Smith and Chris Treister, who will be juniors in the fall, are renewing the quest to earn the starting job come September.
The quarterback competition is among the key dynamics as coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears go through their spring workouts.
“We’re not hung up on any timetable or clock for this quarterback scenario,” Cosgrove said Tuesday. “It’s more two young men who we think are very good players and have proven that in this league and are getting better and competing every day.”
UMaine, coming off a 5-6 campaign in 2009, was scheduled Wednesday to go through the fifth of 15 spring practices with a 5:45 a.m. session on Morse Field in Orono.
“It’s a pretty exciting time for the guys on the team in a competitive sense and an opportunity sense,” Cosgrove said. “You sense that out there. The thing I like most is the attitude, the effort and the enthusiasm.”
The spring season is one filled with opportunities for players to prove they’re ready to step in and contribute. Spots have opened up because of graduation and injuries.
However, there is no such void at quarterback.
Smith, a transfer from Iona College, earned the starting nod early last season and helped transform UMaine into a prolific passing team. He appeared in eight games, making five starts, and completed 159 of 260 passes for 1,695 yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Smith was injured late in the game at James Madison, missed the final two contests and underwent surgery to fuse two bones in his foot. He is back at practice, but is still trying to regain full health in the foot.
“Warren’s not full strength yet from his offseason surgery on his foot, so he’s a little behind on some things physically,” Cosgrove said.
The Bears led the Colonial Athletic Association last season, averaging 247.6 yards per game through the air.
Treister, a Cape Elizabeth resident who played at Portland High School, demonstrated his readiness filling in for Smith.
He made his starting debut Nov. 14 against Rhode Island, completing a school-record 40 passes in 46 attempts and establishing a UMaine record with an .870 completion percentage.
Treister’s effort netted 468 yards and five passing TDs, along with one rushing score. He finished the season going 69-for-96 good for 771 yards, seven TDs and four interceptions.
“Chris has continued to grow each and every day,” Cosgrove said. “I think his physical status puts him in better stead than Warren [this spring].”
Cosgrove said both players are working hard to prepare themselves for the 2010 season.
“Competition is the best thing to help people grow and get better,” he said. “These two guys understand that completely. They work well together and they work well in competition, which is a compliment to both of them.”
Cosgrove subscribes to his own unwritten rule that a player who gets hurt doesn’t lose his starting position because of the injury. However, that doesn’t preclude Treister or any of the quarterbacks from outperforming Smith and ascending to the starting spot.
“I’ve never felt like we’re as competitive at the quarterback position at the No. 1 spot as we are right now and that’s good,” Cosgrove said.
UM’s Turcotte still on the shelf
One player who is not able to make his presence felt on the field this spring is Jared Turcotte of Lewiston.
Turcotte is on the mend after undergoing a second lower-abdominal surgery late last season. He suffered an undisclosed injury last summer that required surgery and forced him to miss the 2009 campaign.
“He’s progressing,” Cosgrove said of the 6-foot-2, 232-pound fullback, who was a force carrying the ball during 2008.
“I even caught a little smile out of the corner of his mouth [Tuesday] morning in a little conversation we had,” he added. “I think he’s probably a little frustrated. He wants to be out there with his teammates in a ‘full go’ capacity.”
Cosgrove said doctors are recommending Turcotte continue to take it easy now so he can be ready to participate in summer workouts and training camp in August.
“That’s medical advice from folks a lot smarter than I am about what he has and the challenges he’s facing,” Cosgrove said.
“We’re just going to be very cautious. We don’t want any more setbacks,” he added. “The kid couldn’t stand another setback. It’s really that important to him.”
Turcotte rushed for a team-high 640 yards on 105 attempts (6.0 yards per carry) and scored seven TDs in 2008. He also led UMaine with 25 receptions for 286 yards and a score.
His presence, along with a more seasoned offensive line, could help the Bears re-establish their ground game after a lackluster 2009.
“He brings something of a physical nature that is very special to a football team when they’re trying to establish a physical and mental dominance of the line of scrimmage,” Cosgrove said.
UMaine’s spring season culminates with the Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Scrimmage, scheduled May 1 at 10 a.m. on Morse Field.
Bears honor Baker, Tewksbury
Seniors Kristin Baker and Amanda Tewksbury were honored Saturday during the UMaine women’s basketball team’s season-ending banquet.
Baker, a guard from Bingham, earned the team’s Academic Award after posting a 3.606 grade point average. The America East All-Academic choice will graduate in May with a degree in kinesiology and physical education.
Baker averaged 10.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
Tewksbury, who hails from Clinton, N.J., was presented with the team’s Leadership/Community Involvement Award. She will graduate in May with a degree in elementary education.
Tewksbury averaged 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds before missing the last seven games with a knee injury.