ORONO — University of Maine head football coach Jack Cosgrove didn’t mince words when discussing his quarterback situation.
He said seniors Warren Smith and Chris Treister have to play better than they did a year ago if his team is going to make significant inroads on last year’s 4-7 record.
Smith and Treister concurred with their coach.
“I definitely agree with that,” said Treister at the team’s media day on Friday. “Quarterback is a position where you can’t be inconsistent because you’re the general out there. The way you play dictates wins and losses a lot of the time. We need to be more consistent at the quarterback position.”
Smith added that the offense goes only as far as the quarterback takes it.
“I watched a lot of film all summer trying to correct mistakes. As the quarterback, you have to take the burden (of the offense),” Smith said. “All eyes are on you. You have to take care of things. You can’t turn the ball over in critical situations. If you eliminate turnovers, you’re going to win football games.”
Smith saw most of the action and completed 198 of 305 passes for 1,861 yards last season. But he had more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (9).
Treister completed 22 of 45 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown.
Cosgrove said Smith and Treister gave him “tremendous reasons” for optimism prior to last season based on their performances during the 2009 campaign in which Maine went 5-6.
Smith completed 159 of 260 passes for 1,695 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had 13 interceptions. And, after Smith got hurt, Triester completed 40 of 46 passes for 468 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Rhode Island and completed 29 of 48 passes for 303 yards and two scores in a loss to New Hampshire.
Treister finished with a 69-for-96 season in 2009, throwing for 771 yards and seven TDs. He was picked off four times.
“We made a decision to go with Warren as our starting quarterback last year and, from the get-go, we never felt like it was working,” said Cosgrove. “He didn’t have good stats. His touchdown-to-interception ratio wasn’t acceptable in this day and age. And when Chris got his chance, he just wasn’t the playmaker he had shown he could be.”
Smith and Treister are eager to make amends for last season and spent the summer in Orono preparing for their final seasons.
Cosgrove said the position is up for grabs with no clear-cut favorite.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin said the battle will boil down to “who is going to move the ball for us, who is going to put us into good situations, who is going to make the right checks (and the better decisions) and who isn’t going to turn the ball over. That’s what we’re looking for in that position.
“I wasn’t real pleased with how we played that position last year or how I coached that position,” added Bourgoin. “Our big focus in the preseason is understanding situations and being able to make snap decisions with the football.”
“We aren’t going out the way we did last season,” said a determined Smith. “I dedicated my whole summer with all the other seniors up here working out and getting ready for a successful season.”
Smith said he focused on the “little things” that needed fine-tuning.
“I worked on my footwork. Bad footwork leads to bad throws. I have to get myself in better position to make a throw in order to be more accurate,” he said. “And I studied defenses more. I want to be able to read (defenses) better and stuff like that.”
Treister said one of his major areas of focus is his leadership “both on and off the field.
“I need to develop relationships with the younger guys who will be an integral part of the offense this year,” said Cape Elizabeth’s Treister. “If they don’t feel that bond or cohesion with you, you never know if they’re going to play (up to their capabilities).
“Football is a game in which you need a bond and a togetherness. The older guys have to become role models for the younger guys because football is definitely a game in which you have strength in numbers (due to the injury factor),” explained Treister.
Bourgoin and Cosgrove agree that their two quarterbacks are much closer in style of play than they used to be.
Cosgrove explained that Treister was more structured and Smith was more spontaneous.
“Chris has become a little more creative and Warren has become a little more disciplined,” said Cosgrove.
Members of the offensive unit have complete confidence in both quarterbacks.
“I’m very comfortable with either one as is the rest of the offensive line,” said junior center Garret Williamson. “They both do a fantastic job.”
Junior guard Chris Howley added, “they’re both very good leaders on and off the field.”
“One of the big issues with quarterbacks is trust because they’re the main guys out there. And we trust them,” said senior tight end Derek Buttles.
Cosgrove said the quarterbacks should benefit from a better and more experienced supporting cast than they had a year ago. The offensive line returns virtually intact and Buttles (27 catches, 291 yards) and Derek Session (team-high 50 catches, 580 yards) will supply them with two top-notch receivers. Leading rusher Pushaun Brown (650 yards on 135 carries) is also back.
Cosgrove said both quarterbacks are exemplary leaders and are part of a senior class that has been more “profoundly influential” and “impactful” than previous senior classes which should be extremely beneficial.
“It’s a great feeling having all these players back (on offense),” said Smith. “The offensive line has been here for three years and they’re all on the same page. They make us go.”
Treister added, “The line is very smart and very athletic. They can do big things for us and make quarterbacks feel very, very comfortable.”
Treister and Smith are friends and said they’re ready to battle for the starting job.
“That’s how it has to be. It makes you bring your ‘A’ game to the table every day,” said Smith.
“It’s a very healthy competition like it has been the past couple of years,” said Treister. “Whoever they feel more comfortable with will get the job.”