ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team opens its 2014 season at home on Saturday evening.
As of Monday evening, the Black Bears still had not named a starting quarterback.
UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove has not revealed who will lead the offense onto Morse Field at Alfond Stadium for Saturday’s 6 p.m. contest against Norfolk State.
“I’m not in a race here or it’s not in a two-minute drill,” Cosgrove said when asked during the weekly Colonial Athletic Association weekly teleconference whether a starter had been chosen.
“We’re going to make a decision based upon the production of our quarterbacks,” he added.
Going into preseason camp, redshirt sophomore Dan Collins was considered the front-runner. It is his third season with the program and he appeared briefly in two games during 2013.
“Danny certainly has the edge on everybody else in terms of being in the system, but nobody’s [on the roster] ever started a CAA game or a Division I college football game yet,” Cosgrove said.
Collins, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from Williamstown, New Jersey, has been challenged by freshman Drew Belcher of Reading, Massachusetts, and redshirt freshman Daniel Hoffer of Yonkers, New York.
Belcher (6-3, 220) has impressed with his skills and his aptitude.
“Drew is a big, physical kid and has impressed us with his arm and other areas, with his feet and his ability to learn our offense,” Cosgrove said.
Collins and Belcher shared the snaps during a walk-through practice with no pads or helmets on Monday afternoon at Morse Field.
“We do it at every position, but I think this is the one that creates the greatest amount of interest and concern, maybe, too,” Cosgrove said of the QB evaluation process.
The players’ performance up to and including a mistake-plagued intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 20 created concerns for Cosgrove.
“[Their production] has gone way up since the last scrimmage, which has made this thing even more competitive,” Cosgrove said. “I think they finally got it that they didn’t have to impress the head coach by trying to force balls into seams and getting them picked [intercepted], that they had to play smart and just move the offense.”
Cosgrove said a decision is forthcoming. When asked whether it could come down to a game-time decision on Saturday he said, “I probably wouldn’t do that to anybody.”
“I’m just not going to run into making a hasty decision,” he explained.
The quarterback dynamic is a familiar one for Cosgrove.
In 2012, there was no fanfare when Marcus Wasilewski earned the starting nod, edging out classmate John Ebeling, who was converted into a slot receiver.
That decision came 16 days prior to UMaine’s opener at Boston College.
Wasilewski took over for Iona College transfer Warren Smith, who had earned the confidence of the coaches only six days prior to the first game in 2011.
A year earlier, Smith had edged out Cape Elizabeth native Chris Treister for the starting job just four days before UMaine’s opener. In 2009, Smith wrested the job from Mike Brusko a month into the season.
Smith (2009-2011) finished his career in third place on UMaine’s career passing list with 8,025 yards and tied for fourth with 22 touchdown passes. He guided the Bears to a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision national quarterfinals in 2011.
Wasilewski (2012-2013) departed after last season as UMaine’s No. 5 passer (5,612 yards) and ranks third with 25 TD tosses. He led the team to a combined 15-9 record, the program’s first outright Colonial Athletic Association championship and its first home playoff game, both in 2013.
Earlier this month, it caused a stir when former Cony High School of Augusta standout quarterback Ben Lucas did not appear on UMaine’s 2014 roster.
It was suggested at the time that Lucas, the winner of the Fitzpatrick Trophy — presented to the state’s top senior player, student and sportsman — chose not to join the team because he had planned to have surgery on his injured right (throwing) shoulder.
It turns out Lucas has another much more compelling reason for sitting out. According to published reports his mother, Alison Lucas, is fighting cancer after being diagnosed in May.
On Aug. 16, friends of the Lucas family held a fundraising event at the Cony football field to help defray medical costs and other expenses incurred during Alison Lucas’ illness.
Lucas is undecided on his football future, but has been in touch with some of the schools that recruited him prior to his commitment to attend UMaine.
Cosgrove said Monday he has declined to comment about Lucas’ situation because of its personal nature.