For the fourth time in five years, Maryland Coach Bobby Ross will be looking for a quarterback when spring football practice opens today.
Ross said the position is wide open and no fewer than four and possibly five players are in the running to replace last season's starter, Stan Gelbaugh.
"Our first priority is to find replacements for the few positions where we lost key people," Ross said, "and we'll be starting at the quarterback spot. We also will be looking to replace four offensive linemen and two secondary people.
"I think the key word for the spring is competition. First, the number of losses at the positions where we lost people will result in good competition," Ross said. "Even at the other spots where we have returnees, we should have good competition."
The Terrapins, who finished 9-3 last season, including a victory over Syracuse in the Cherry Bowl, have fine depth at other positions, particularly at linebacker and running back.
Ross said Dan Henning and Drew Komlo, the backups last year, along with redshirts Rob Nutile and Neal O'Connell, are the four main competitors at quarterback. Two-time All-Met quarterback Gary McIntosh from Gonzaga High School might be redshirted but probably will get a look this summer in preseason drills, according to Ross.
"We'll have to see what happens," Ross said. "There isn't a timetable to get a quarterback, but we would like to have the problem solved by the summer."
The Terrapins will scrimmage this Saturday and again April 12 and May 3.
In Annapolis, Navy Coach Gary Tranquill has two experienced quarterbacks, but he has a handful of other problems as he enters the second week of spring drills.
The first priority is to rebuild the offensive line. Four of the five inside people graduated along with 10 other starters, including superb place-kicker Todd Solomon and all-America tailback Napoleon McCallum.
On the positive side, Tranquill is pleased with his team's speed, especially that of his wide receivers and running backs.
Bill Byrne and Bob Misch, who have dueled for the starting quarterback position the last few years, are steady, capable players. Byrne suffered a ruptured spleen late last season that forced him to miss the last two games of the season, but he has recovered fully.
The defensive line is solid and linebacker Vince McBeth and cornerback Marc Firlie are quality players. The Midshipmen will have their final scrimmage April 26.
Virginia got a head start on the other schools, beginning workouts March 20. Its fifth-year coach, George Welsh, trying for a fourth straight winning season, is using this 20-session workout mainly to find offensive linemen and linebackers.
The Cavaliers lost their front five, including all-America Jim Dombrowski, along with linebackers Charles McDaniel and Russ Swann, the two leading tacklers in the school's history.
In last Saturday's scrimmage, Welsh was pleased with returning quarterback Don Majkowski, who completed 11 of 14 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Welsh and his staff apparently have decided to return Chris Warren to his natural position of running back.
The former All-Met tailback from Robinson High School started at cornerback last year but because of the loss of Barry Word, Warren is once again playing tailback. In Saturday's game, he gained 148 yards on 16 carries and scored twice, once on a 70-yard run. Fullback Antonio Rice, injured most of last season, has decided to return for a fifth year.
In an attempt to shore up the linebacking corps, Sean Scott, a two-year starter at defensive end, has been moved to inside linebacker.
Of the 75 players reporting, only 10 have been starters. The Cavaliers lost reserve wide receiver Willie Snead, who left school for personal reasons.
Unlike the other area schools, Howard has a wonderful nucleus of returning veterans to work with. Fourth-year Coach Willie Jeffries welcomed 80 players, a sizable increase over last season's turnout, including 19 starters from last fall's 4-7 team.
"We plan to spend a great deal of the time on fundamentals and conditioning," Jeffries said. "We put on the pads today and our main emphasis will be improving our pass rush and pass coverage and on offense, our passing game."
The Bison's passing was inconsistent a year ago, and Jeffries hopes for better efforts from returning quarterbacks Lee DeBose and Leon Brown. Tailback Harvey Reed and receiver Curtis Chappell are among the returnees, as are all-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference performers nose guard Bill Dores and linebacker Marvin Jackson.
Two key performers on the offensive line, tackle Roy Pierson and center Todd Meiklejohn, will not participate in spring drills. Both hurt knees last season and Jeffries decided to hold both out until the summer practices.
Howard's new facility isn't completed and the team is working out at nearby Banneker Field. The artificial surface field is expected to be completed this summer. The Bison's annual Blue-Gray game is April 26.