Terps' Kaleo must prove he's not short on ability Quarterback's critics still harp on height

April 30, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- John Kaleo always has been too short to play quarterback. At least that's what his critics suggest.

Major-college scouts ignored him despite an outstanding senior season at Bowie High nearly three years ago. And a lot of Division I-A scouts didn't come around the Montgomery College-Rockville campus last season, when Kaleo was named Junior College Player of the Year.

So as Kaleo finished his first spring practice with the University of Maryland, guess what he still is hearing?

"I'm used to it now," said Kaleo, who seems so defensive about his height that he mentions that he is 6 foot 1 in cleats. " 'John Kaleo can't quarterback at a Division I-A school. John Kaleo can't quarterback at Maryland,' " he said, mimicking his critics.

"But there have been a lot of great quarterbacks who aren't 6-4, and the best place that demonstrates that is Brigham Young, where they have had Jim McMahon [6-1] and Ty Detmer [6-0]," pTC said Kaleo. "All quarterbacks have trouble seeing over the line of scrimmage; it's just a matter of hitting the seams. My goals here are to win the starting job, make Maryland a winner, perform well and try for the ACC title and go to a bowl."

The expectations are high, especially for a quarterback unproven at this level. Kaleo wasn't overly impressive in spring practice, which ended Saturday. Occasionally, he had trouble seeing over the line of scrimmage and had problems under-throwing the ball on long out patterns. Kaleo's mechanics weren't bad, but he just seemed unsure of himself.

Kaleo ended the spring sharing the No. 2 spot with redshirt freshman Tony Scarpino while junior Jimmy Sandwisch, last year's backup, ran the first team.

Maryland coach Joe Krivak didn't name Sandwisch the starter but did say, "He will probably be the man."

"John needs more time to work with the offense. He's not fully comfortable yet," said quarterbacks coach Jerry Eisaman. "You can still tell that he's not in harmony yet, trying to figure out things like who are the top three receivers on the post pattern and so on. It's going to be interesting to see what he does when he gets back here in the summer after digesting all of this."

Maryland starting wide receiver Gene Thomas, who played with Kaleo two years ago at Montgomery, said he has no doubt about Kaleo's ability.

"They said Doug Flutie was too small, but that didn't stop him from winning the Heisman," said Thomas. "John is that same kind of player. He's not a scrambler, but very elusive. He doesn't have a great arm, but an adequate one. He makes things happen."

It was Kaleo's field leadership that impressed the Maryland coaching staff. Terps outside linebacker coach Kurt Van Valkenburgh immediately liked Kaleo on film, then went to watch him play.

Van Valkenburgh then made another visit, this time taking Eisaman. He liked Kaleo, too.

"There was the negative on him because he was under 6-2," said Van Valkenburgh. "But since he had played against junior-college competition, and their offense was similar to ours, we were not as worried.

"One of the most impressive things about him was his competitiveness. He was very confident in himself, and he made a lot of good audibles at the line of scrimmage. I wouldn't say his arm is great, but I saw him throw a number of different passes, including several where he had to throw in tight situations."

Thomas has no question about Kaleo's arm strength. Two years ago, Montgomery was playing Nassau Community College, and Thomas ran a post pattern, stopping when he thought the right-handed Kaleo had been sacked.

"All of a sudden, I saw him running to his left, and he heaves the ball about 60 yards," said Thomas. "I was kind of jogging, then I had to run to catch up with the ball. We scored a 75-yard touchdown."

Kaleo threw for 2,936 yards and 32 touchdowns last season in Montgomery's four-wide-receiver offense, a variation of the run-and-shoot.

Like Maryland, which also uses a one-back set, the Knights had an H-back. And like the Terps, Montgomery threw a lot, made numerous sight adjustments at the line of scrimmage and used the basic three- to five-step drop-back.

But in the past three years, Maryland has had what National Football League scouts call "specimens" at quarterback in 6-4, 225-pound Neil O'Donnell and 6-5, 220-pound Scott Zolak, both drop-back passers.

There is strong speculation that Maryland will add a number of sprint-outs, bootlegs and waggle pass plays to its offense this spring because the Terps lost their two best offensive tackles, and they were weak at guard and center last season.

Such additions would be ideal for Kaleo, 200 pounds, who has been timed at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"The basic concept of both offenses are the same," said Kaleo, who was recruited out of Montgomery by several Atlantic Coast Conference schools, including Clemson and North Carolina. "I came here because I knew Maryland did not have a quarterback who had played. Jimmy had played mostly in mop-up situations.

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