ORONO — Late in Friday’s University of Maine football practice, Drew Belcher was running the scout team offense on one end of the field while Dan Collins was throwing to the starting wide receivers on the other.

Does that mean a decision has been made on the starting quarterback for the opener next Saturday against Norfolk State?

“That’s really got no significance at all,” Coach Jack Cosgrove said.

So the Black Bears will have their final practice of the summer session Saturday without identifying who will man their most important position. Cosgrove didn’t even indicate he would make that decision by Monday.

Collins, a redshirt sophomore from Williamstown, New Jersey, appears to be the front-runner. Belcher, a true freshman from Reading, Massachusetts, has been pushing him hard despite having only three weeks worth of working knowledge of the offense.

Both said they believe they have shown the coaches enough to be named the starter, but neither said they would be disappointed to receive the bad news that they will be the backup.

“I’d be more understanding than anything else,” Collins said. “A lot of these guys make the same sacrifices as I do. They have the same commitment as I do. So if they beat me out, that’s on me.”

Collins was the backup to Marcus Wasilewski last year, when Maine won the Colonial Athletic Association championship. Such team success, though, meant that Collins rarely saw the field. He completed just 4 of 6 passes.

He also comes from a high school program that ran the wing-T offense, joking that he only threw three or four passes a game. So running Maine’s pro-style offense has provided a steep learning curve, one he’s still tackling.

Collins said his biggest improvement this month was learning to read defenses. The Black Bears’ experienced unit has come after him and he said that’s made him better.

Still, he said he wasn’t happy with his play in Tuesday’s final scrimmage. There were no major mistakes but also few big plays.

“I didn’t go at it how I thought I should,” Collins said. “A lot more is expected of me because I’m the older guy so I should have done a little bit more. I have to be more consistent.”

Cosgrove echoed those thoughts but said he’s been impressed with how readily Collins has been able to rebound from a poor play.

“He’s able to put things in the history books and not let it drag on into other parts of the practice or continue to be prohibitive to his being successful,” Cosgrove said.

“Quarterbacks have to have incredibly thick skin and have to be able to, whether it’s a bad play or a bad series, come in and right that.”

Belcher ran an offense similar to Maine’s while at Reading Memorial High. That was one of the reasons he chose the Black Bears over Albany, Lafayette and Bryant in January.

He said he’s not surprised to find himself in a battle for the starting quarterback job only seven months later.

“That should be everyone’s mentality, to come in and be ready to compete for the job,” Belcher said.

“You never know what happens, so the quarterback should be ready to go at any given point.”

On Tuesday, Belcher showed some speed with a couple of long runs, including a 22-yard touchdown. He also showed some youth, with a fumble and a few aimless passes.

Where does that leave Cosgrove?

“We’re where we were yesterday and the day before,” he said of his quarterback decision. “I’m not worried about it, either, because they’re getting better. So that’s what you want to see.

“We’ll get to it.”


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