ORONO, Maine — The starting quarterback job remains up for grabs as the University of Maine football team moves into its second full week of training camp.
Juniors Marcus Wasilewski and John Ebeling received ample opportunities to prove themselves Monday afternoon as the Black Bears conducted their first intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium.
Ebeling and Wasilewski (pronounced Wash-uh-LES-ki) are competing to replace graduated senior Warren Smith, who last season became UMaine’s first 3,000-yard passer while leading the Bears to a 9-4 record, a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision national quarterfinals and a No. 8 ranking.
UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove said the duel continues, with no timetable established for a decision to pick the starter.
“When we’re ready to say ‘this is the guy,’ we’ll say that,” Cosgrove said. “We’ve got to have a starting quarterback for Boston College (on Sept. 8), that’s our goal. It could happen two days from now, two weeks from now.”
Wasilewski was determined to make a good impression early. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder did so, directing the No. 1 offense on a lengthy scoring drive.
He went 4-for-4 passing on the possession, including a 36-yard completion to wide receiver Maurice McDonald. David Hood capped the march with a 5-yard scoring run.
“I thought we had a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement, the first drive and I was really pleased with the whole offense on how the first drive went,” said Wasilewski, who wore a red jersey identifying him as a player not to be tackled or hit by defenders.
Wasilewski had a fumbled exchange with center Garret Williamson on the ensuing possession and wound up making the tackle, then was intercepted by Darlos James on the next series.
Wasilewski later added a 5-yard TD run, set up by his 23-yard, fourth-down throw to tight end Justin Perillo.
“There’s a lot of positives, but there’s a lot of things that really are going to be detriments to success,” Cosgrove said of the turnovers.
Wasilewski got most of his snaps with the first-team offense, while Ebeling worked primarily, though not exclusively, with the second string.
Ebeling was forced to call a timeout on his second play because of a personnel alignment issue.
“I made some plays here and there, but I really need to get better on the operational side of things and get people on the ball,” Ebeling said. “There’s things that we can get better on at the line of scrimmage.”
Shortly thereafter, he responded by completing a 21-yard, third-down pass over the middle to wideout Derrick Johnson. That set up a 39-yard field goal by Jeff Ondish.
On his last series, Ebeling (6-4, 205) completed three throws, including back-to-back passes to Daniel Upson and Johnson. However, Javar Coleman’s interception on a quick throw to the right side ended his day.
“With every rep, all the time watching film, I get more comfortable behind the line of scrimmage,” Ebeling said, “and I can see things better than I did in the spring, blitzes and run keys and stuff like that.”
Ebeling did not wear a red shirt, meaning he was fair game in terms of absorbing contact. He also took a few reps lined up as a slot receiver, a position he also played in 2011.
“That’s a little bit of a thing we’re looking at,” Cosgrove said.
“We had a couple guys out, so we decided to plug him in there today and get some work in,” he added. “He adds to our offense.”
Ebeling also is UMaine’s long snapper on punts.
Freshman Daniel Collins closed out the day at quarterback and completed three passes to spark a drive that culminated in a 25-yard TD throw to Jordan Dunn on a post pattern.
Cosgrove said one area of emphasis for the quarterbacks on Monday was to demonstrate the ability to set up and run the offense with the play clock running.
“We had some issues getting lined up, signal system and stuff like that, that I know we’ve got to do a better job of, clock management and things like that,” Cosgrove said.
The potentially worrisome aspects included some minor penalties and the turnovers. He expects Ebeling and Wasilewski to demonstrate the ability to limit mistakes, even though they lack much Division I game time at quarterback.
“They’re getting those reps in practice,” Cosgrove said. “It isn’t like this is the first dance for them. We want to see them, like we did on that first drive, move the chains and make the right throws and make the right decisions.
“Quarterbacks are huge decision-makers for you,” he added. “In one series, you make one bad decision, it can cost your team an opportunity to put points on the board.”