COLLEGE PARK -- First-year Maryland football coach Mark Duffner has chosen the run and shoot as his offense. It's a wide-open, exciting system, one built around the quarterback's ability to read defenses quickly, call audibles and pass accurately.
Now Duffner just has to find a trigger man.
Maryland begins spring practice tomorrow with six quarterbacks competing for the starting job. It will be the third straight year Maryland has to use an inexperienced player in the position.
"It's a wide-open race," said Duffner, whose offenses at Holy Cross were consistently ranked nationally. "I haven't seen any of them throw except John Kaleo and Tony Scarpino on film. Actually, I wish I had seen more, but then again I'm glad I have not. This puts everyone on an equal footing."
Redshirt freshman Scarpino and junior Kaleo have the most experience, but most of it came during mop-up time for former starter Jim Sandwisch. Kaleo, a transfer from Montgomery-Rockville Community College, was considered the No. 2 quarterback last season, but differences with former head coach Joe Krivak may have cost him playing time.
Freshman Scott Milanovich seemed to be heir apparent to Sandwisch if Krivak had remained, but now he must battle another freshman, Tom Marchese.
Neither freshman Greg Lister nor sophomore David Mike seemed impressive a year ago, and there was talk about moving the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Lister to outside linebacker.
Which one is best?
Lister and Scarpino have the strongest arms. Mike and Kaleo have the best mobility. Milanovich and Marchese have the most "football savvy."
The run and shoot requires a combination.
"This offense is something we really know, and it has been very prolific for us," said Duffner, who was hired in December. "We have adopted to our personnel in the past, and will continue to do so, but this is the system we plan to use. We ask our quarterbacks to make good pre- and post-snap decisions as well as having accuracy and arm strength."
Maybe the biggest adjustment is that all were expected to be straight, dropback quarterbacks in Krivak's one-back set. The run and shoot is geared mostly to three- to five-step "soft" rollouts.
Quarterbacks and receivers have a number of option routes at the line of scrimmage, but they must make the same decision.
"I have never run a down in this offense, but I heard there are a lot of option routes," said Milanovich. "I think I have a pretty good head, though, and it makes me what I am. I'm anxious to practice, but the only pressure I feel is pressure that I put on myself. I'm not the type to worry about what anybody else thinks or what anybody else does."
"I'm glad it's an open race, but I think there is a little fear in the back of everybody's mind," said Scarpino, who directed a run-and-shoot offense in high school. "There's the fear that, if you don't do well, you could get lost within the number of quarterbacks we have. It's a motivating type of fear. But there is no doubt, absolutely none, that whoever is picked will get the job done. All of us have enough athletic ability to run any type of offense, except the option."
The quarterback position is not the only area where Duffner plans to do some shuffling. Maryland lost three starters on its defensive line so key offensive linemen like Dave deBruin, Rich Phoenix and Madison Bradely will play on the defensive line to start spring practice. Tight end Joe Cooper also has been moved to the defensive line and No. 2 H-back Chad Wiestling to outside linebacker. Duffner said no major moves have been made at running back where the Terps have Mark Mason, Doug Burnett, Larry Washington (Randallstown High) and Rapahel Wall (Wilde Lake).
"In some cases, kids asked to be moved, and in other cases, we asked them to move in an effort to get our best players on the field," said Duffner. "If it doesn't work, they can be moved back. That's what spring football is for."