ORONO — The Maine football team is in the process of building a quarterback from the ground up.
The three candidates showed Saturday during the team’s first scrimmage that they’ve got the “ground” part figured out.
That’s where they spent much of a trying morning at Alfond Stadium, planted by a relentless Black Bear defense. There were sacks, fumbles, misplayed snaps and interceptions.
And Coach Jack Cosgrove can’t wait to see what his young quarterbacks do next.
“The quarterback has to have a special and unique makeup. That’s something we’re going to find out about them off of today. What will they do when we watch film on Monday? They need to elevate themselves. If they don’t, we’re not going to be a very good football team,” Cosgrove said.
Maine is coming off a 10-3 season during which senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski passed for 3,238 yards and 25 touchdowns. In line to replace him this fall are three novices.
Sophomore Daniel Collins went 4 of 6 in his two brief appearances last year and is running the first-team offense this spring by virtue of that experience.
Redshirt freshmen Kellen Croce and Daniel Hoffer are going through their first spring drills.
The inexperience showed Saturday, when none of the three distinguished themselves. Collins showed the strongest arm, but still managed to complete only one pass of 20 yards or more.
Croce was the superior runner and did end the scrimmage on a positive note by leading a drive to a field goal that included a fourth-and-14 completion to Matthew Cosgrove, the coach’s son and his roommate.
Hoffer played the least. His most notable moment came when he drew his coach’s ire for attempting to blame an errant snap on his center.
“A lot of guys are real good in the meetings, then they come out here and they’re still trying to figure it out on the field,” offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin said.
“The bad snaps and exchanges. I’m more worried about that than any plays. You’ve got to get that down first.”
In the quarterbacks’ defense, the rest of the offense was no sharper.
An offensive line that needs to replace three starters was overmatched.
Receivers struggled to get open and occasionally dropped passes, notably tight end Sean Reuss.
Neither Cosgrove nor Bourgoin were overly concerned about one scrimmage. Both expect the quarterback derby to last until late August.
“There’s a time where you wonder if you have the ability. There’s a time when you get it,” Cosgrove said. “How are you in the pocket? How are you when the pressure’s on, and how do you react?
“I didn’t see anybody who was scared out there.”
Collins and Croce acknowledged their struggles, and vowed to redouble their efforts in the film room. The team will scrimmage again the next two Saturdays.
“It’s a different speed. You’re expected to go fast,” Collins said of facing the starting defense for the first time.
“I’m ready to step in and be the quarterback. But I’ve got to work on my speed more, be quicker in the pocket and making decisions.”
Croce and Hoffer spent last year directing the scout team, mimicking that week’s opponent for practice purposes.
Croce said facing a live defense for the first time in 18 months was eye-opening.
“The defense played very well. They were always in my face. But that’s what these days are for,” Croce said.
“Hopefully, the coaches give me a chance. I need to show them that I can learn as a player. I can go out and do the things we were talking about on the football field.”
Those are the sentiments Cosgrove was hoping to hear. He needs his quarterbacks to get up off the ground.
“I would be shocked if they didn’t learn and advance from this scrimmage,” he said.
NOTE: Among the injured players who missed Saturday’s scrimmage were senior defensive backs Axel Ofori and Khari Al-Mateen, junior offensive lineman Chase Hoyt and senior wide receiver Arthur Williams. Senior fullback Carlton Charles hurt his ankle midway through the scrimmage and did not return.
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: