Senior Gordie Whitehead, the logical choice to be Virginia's starting quarterback, has one strike against him as the Cavaliers endure two-a-day drills in preparation for the Sept. 11 opener at Navy.
Whitehead, an outfielder for Virginia's baseball team, injured his throwing arm swinging at a pitch last spring and was unable to participate in contact work during spring football practice. That enabled challengers Mike Eck and Wayne Schuchts to get first crack at impressing George Welsh, the Cavaliers' new coach.
"Wayne and Mike worked hard all spring and they deserve 1-2 (Welsh, however, has not named a pecking order) right now," Whitehead said. "I have to work hard in preseason drills to get the job back. I'm biased toward me, but I think all three of us are really good quarterbacks."
Off history, Virginia will be forced to call on all three before it completes its 11-game schedule. Injuries to Whitehead and graduated starter Todd Kirtley were key factors in the Cavaliers' 1-10 record a year ago.
Whitehead had Virginia on the way to a possible upset victory over North Carolina Nov. 14 when he was tackled hard by the Tar Heels' Calvin Daniels, suffering a separated left shoulder. Carolina won, 17-14.
The injury to his right shoulder, diagnosed as sprained ligaments, was more scary, because it was to the throwing arm. Whitehead had arranged to play baseball, except when it conflicted with the 20 spring football sessions, but one swing ended both.
"It was an inside pitch and I must have pulled away," Whitehead said. "Something popped . . . I went on a rehabilitation program, doing single weight exercises with my arm and throwing as much as I could, then putting ice on it. It was a slow process, but I paced myself.
"I don't think it put me behind as far as the new system goes. I went to all the meetings and I was out on the field, even though I couldn't play. The system is not that complicated. You just have to get used to it."
Eck, although beginning his third year at Virginia, is a sophomore in eligibility, since a broken collarbone in the first scrimmage ended his 1980 season. Eck played parts of six games last year, starting against Maryland, and he was impressive in spring practice.
"I got my feet wet, but not enough to say I'm comfortable," Eck said. "I felt pretty confident with the new plays and new system in the spring. Gordie naturally is No. 1, but he was hurt all spring and no one is real sure where we stand.
"Coach Welsh hasn't given any indication on 1-2-3-4. I'm sure he'll decide on who moves the team best and who shows the better understanding of the system -- the way he wants it understood, not how we understand it."
Schuchts, biggest of the three at 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, is the unknown in the quarterback triangle. He played as a sophomore at Colgate two years ago, passing for 1,556 yards and 10 touchdowns. But Colgate is a long way from the Atlantic Coast Conference, a major factor in Schuchts' decision to transfer.
"My dad went to Colgate, so I went, too, but it was too small a school, not what I wanted," Schuchts said. "I like the opportunity football gives here and I like the temperature and the social atmosphere. I'm from Florida and I thought about going there, but Florida has plenty of quarterbacks."
Schuchts, as a transfer student, spent last fall on the scout team.
"I was a little rusty in the spring, mentally rusty as well as physically," Schuchts said. "With the scout team I saw very little scrimmage work and I had to discipline myself to improve some things--my drop back, for example.
"I had a good summer. I've been here the last six weeks, taking a class and working out and being around the players. I don't think there's that much difference among the three of us. We're pretty close and if one guy goes down, the team won't have to feel that we've had it."
Welsh, concerned about major gaps at linebacker and in the secondary, is in no hurry to assign 1-2-3 labels to the three quarterbacks. He is pleased to have three capable candidates.
"I'll probably pick the starter the week before the game (against Navy)," Welsh said. "I'll do it before if somebody sticks out. But I don't feel I have to do it any sooner. We have to look at a lot of quarterbacks, but we have to look at a lot of other people, too."