Each of the Washington area's five major college football programs is in a preseason of transition at the game's most important position -- starting quarterback. Concluding today, The Post looks at how, and with whom, each team is progressing.

A few days before Maryland's preseason camp started, Coach Ron Vanderlinden was asked whether freshman quarterback Latrez Harrison might challenge Randall Jones for the starting position. Vanderlinden said something that proved rather prophetic.

"Calvin McCall is very good," Vanderlinden said. "Don't forget about him."

Vanderlinden certainly hasn't, and it now appears McCall and Jones will both play in Maryland's opener against Temple on Thursday.

"I think it's very likely that you'll see two quarterbacks" against Temple, Vanderlinden said. "I expected Randall to come back and be convincingly the number one quarterback. Randall experienced elbow discomfort during two-a-days. . . .

"When he came back he was rusty. It really slowed his progress and gave more of an opportunity to Calvin. I think Calvin's going to be a good player, but it's going to be his first game at quarterback. The quarterback decisions that I make going into the opener are to try to give us the best chance to win the opening game."

A sore throwing elbow sidelined Jones for four days and lingered after his return. Meantime, Harrison showed his considerable talents on the field during the first part of camp, but he struggled to learn the system.

That opened the door for McCall, a redshirt freshman, and he had a great camp, consistently demonstrating his ability to run the offense. Vanderlinden has praised McCall highly throughout camp, saying repeatedly that while the coaches like all three quarterbacks, McCall has impressed them.

"I wanted to see Calvin handle a little adversity, I wanted to see Calvin handle me a little better. I'm impressed with the way he's stepping up," Vanderlinden said yesterday. "He has really a big upside. I'm excited about his potential."

"Since he redshirted last year, nobody had really heard of him," tight end John Waerig said. "Randall started last year, and Latrez is coming in with all this hype, so maybe he did get lost a little bit, but we sure found him now."

McCall was unhappy most of his first semester at Maryland. He spent most of the time in his dorm room listening to his beloved country music and wondering if College Park was the right place for him.

Tailback LaMont Jordan said the players just thought McCall was quiet. But McCall, who attended Dr. Phillips High in Orlando, was wrestling with the tough decision whether to return home.

"It was very hard for me, and I thought a lot about going back," McCall said. "I talked to the coaches about it a couple of times, and they told me just let time go by and I'd get used to it, and that's what happened. I think I just needed time."

The 6-foot-3, 189-pound McCall played football, basketball and baseball at Dr. Phillips. But Jones beat him out last year for the starting job, and McCall found himself in an unfamiliar position -- on the bench.

Still, he dressed for each game and traveled with the Terrapins the entire season. The coaches decided to redshirt him after the Oct. 31 loss to Georgia Tech. After that, McCall made up his mind to keep working and bounce back this year.

"When Randall beat me out, guys sort of thought I wasn't any good," McCall said. "I just tried to play as hard as I could. I don't think I ever lost confidence, but I didn't say much because I wanted to surprise everybody, and I think that's what I've done so far."

He's impressed his teammates and coaches throughout the preseason practices, taking hold of the top spot when Jones was out and continuing to improve.

"I see a different Calvin," Jordan said. "Calvin is in charge. That's what we need. A quarterback is somebody that's going to step up and be in charge. If he was announced as the starting quarterback, I [would be] pretty happy with the decision. Calvin has really changed, and I think he's going to be the right person who's going to lead our football team."

Jordan said he doesn't want to write off any of the other quarterbacks, and neither does Vanderlinden. Jones has struggled at times because of his sore elbow, although Vanderlinden said he is regaining the form he showed in spring ball.

Jones came to Maryland after a stellar career at Thomas Johnson High in Frederick and a year at the Naval Academy Prep School. He changed his mind about attending the Naval Academy and came to College Park instead. The 6-2, 212-pounder doesn't have the arm of McCall or Harrison, but he's quick and smooth with the option.

"It was real hard [last year] . . . but just being in there, learning and getting the opportunity was exciting," Jones said. "Last year, I didn't know exactly what [to do], but this year when I step on the field I know I'm going to do something."

At first, most thought Harrison would battle Jones for the top spot. A highly recruited quarterback from Georgia, Harrison impressed many throughout the summer camp with a strong arm and his ability to run the option or throw the ball.

But Vanderlinden has taken pains to ensure Harrison is not rushed. Vanderlinden said he wants the 6-3, 214-pound freshman to learn the complicated offense. In fact, they've dropped him to fourth string for the Temple game, feeling he needs more time with the offense.

"He's still learning the position," Vanderlinden said. "He's demonstrated natural talent, but we're going to teach him the position."

Some coaches would feel that a three-quarterback duel would be bothersome. The publicity about the position has overshadowed most everything else. However, Vanderlinden continues to say that he's not in a bad position.

"We have a good situation here," Vanderlinden said. "We have three young quarterbacks who are getting better. I'd rather have too many than not enough."