Most eyes at yesterday's first day of the University of Maryland's spring football practice were riveted on one end of the field where quarterbacks were participating in passing drills.
Maryland's primary concern is replacing departed quarterback Stan Gelbaugh, and Coach Bobby Ross hopes that that problem will be solved when practice ends in 20 days. Right now, no fewer than four players are vying for the job.
"We will probably do more work involving game situations because we are so inexperienced at quarterback," Ross said yesterday, before the Terrapins began their first workout. "We have had new quarterbacks three of the past four years, but this group is the least experienced. None of the guys have any game experience and each of them will get a lot of work. The spot is wide open and we're hoping one of them will come to the surface by the time the spring practice is over."
As far as experience goes, Dan Henning, a 6-foot, 184-pound junior, and Drew Komlo, a 6-3, 210 sophomore, have a slight advantage over redshirted freshmen Rob Nutile (6-4, 200 pounds) and Neil O'Donnell (6-3, 200). Henning played in one game and threw one pass last year as he and Komlo were the reserves behind Gelbaugh.
Both Komlo and Henning feel, because they have a better knowledge of the Terrapins' offensive scheme, they have a small advantage.
"Dan and I have been here longer and worked with the offense, so that does give us an advantage," said Komlo, who played at DeMatha in Hyattsville. "But all of us still need to become more familiar with the offense, get in as many snaps as we can. We have only 20 days and it'll be tough to say who is best. But each of us will get a chance to prove ourselves and that's all you can ask. The competition will be good for us and the team."
Nutile and O'Donnell, both of whom have powerful arms, welcome the open competition.
"I love this offense," said Nutile, who threw for more than 1,900 yards as a high school senior. "Maryland ran a lot of the same type of plays we ran in high school [Elmwood Park, N.J.]. All of us are young in terms of game time and it may take a little more than 20 days for Neil and I to pick up the offense. I'm a bit nervous because this is my first spring practice. But we all know someone has to play."
"The key is becoming familiar with the offense and reading defenses," O'Donnell said. "But we will all get a chance."
Last year, more than 50 percent of Maryland's total yardage came on passes. And Ross doesn't plan to change anything.
"We need to work on our offensive line and the secondary, also," he said. "But a lot of attention will be focused on the quarterback spot. I'm hoping one will surface soon. One has to, if we are to have a good team."
The confident elder statesman of the quartet, Henning, who played an Annandale, said he has been looking to this day for some time.
"We've had seven and eight guys in camp before, so four is not too many," he said. "I've put in a lot of time on the field, in the classroom, watching films . . . This wide-open competition should bring out the best in all of us.
"We'll get plenty of game situations to prove ourselves. Spring practice is when you win a job. This is when you lay everything on the line."