- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 27, 2002

For 14 spring practice sessions this month, Maryland quarterbacks Orlando Evans, Chris Kelley and Scott McBrien have been shuttled through drills, competing to succeed the departed Shaun Hill.

While all have taken snaps, they know only one of them can lay claim to the starting position this fall. The question is which one.

Coach Ralph Friedgen and the Terps end a month of spring practice today with the Red-White Game at Byrd Stadium, and the quarterback competition stands much as it did at the start: Kelley is ahead, but McBrien and Evans are close behind.

"I think all of them have improved, but I think no one's really made a significant move where he's ahead of the pack," Friedgen said. "If we had a leader now, it'd be Kelley. But I don't think McBrien or Evans are that far behind. We've got to get all three of them ready to play."

All three quarterbacks will take snaps with the first- and second-team offenses in today's 4:30 p.m. game in which Friedgen will split the squad into two units. The first-team offense and second-team defense will oppose the first-team defense and second-team offense, respectively. But players could switch teams, and injuries could affect Friedgen's plan.

Regardless, much of the focus will remain on the play of the quarterbacks. Friedgen will not name a starter until the fall because all three quarterbacks have had good days and off days this spring.

Kelley, who will be a redshirt sophomore, had a head start coming in because he took repetitions last season behind Hill and now-wide receiver Latrez Harrison. McBrien, a rising sophomore who redshirted in 2001 after transferring from West Virginia, often ran the scout team but, beginning in midseason, sat in on quarterbacks meetings and had a chance to grasp the offense. Evans, a transfer from City College of San Francisco who enrolled at Maryland in January, has had to start from scratch this spring.

"It's a lot to learn, so I'm just trying to get focused," said the 6-foot Evans, who redshirted one season at Oregon before moving to junior college. "[Kelley and McBrien] are taking a little bit more [snaps] than I am, but they know more than me right now."

McBrien, who attended DeMatha High School, played in 10 games at West Virginia as a freshman including three quarters of action against Notre Dame and a start against Syracuse but transferred when he didn't fit into new coach Rich Rodriguez's plans. At 6-2, he has the size, but McBrien said Friedgen wants him to bulk up about 10 more pounds from his current 183.

"I just have to do my job," McBrien said. "I have to worry about things that I'm in control over, not anyone else. What I'm in control over is sitting down and learning this offense. After that, it's up to Coach to make the decision."

After weathering two major injuries to his left knee, the 6-2 Kelley is waiting for the chance to fulfill the tremendous promise he displayed coming out of Seneca Valley High School in 1999. Kelley has a strong arm and is extremely athletic, so much so that Friedgen said Kelley's execution of the running attack has surpassed that of the passing part to this point.

Kelley's experience with the offense cannot be understated; both McBrien and Evans said the complexity of Friedgen's schemes have been the toughest aspect of spring practice to handle.

"I came in here No.1," Kelley said. "I came in here with one thing in mind, and that's to keep that status. I feel I've done that. I feel a lot more comfortable than this time last year. Right before we went away to the [Orange] bowl game is when I really feel like the offense kicked in."

No matter how the race stands after today, Friedgen said it could change during summer workouts, when there is time for significant improvement, so he wants to hold off naming a starter until fall camp begins and then give that player the most reps. Friedgen said all three quarterbacks need improvement in reading coverages and making the right reads in timely fashion.

For perspective's sake, Friedgen said all three of the candidates are ahead of where Hill was at this time last year in terms of understanding the passing and option attacks. After a shaky start, Hill progressed throughout the season and eventually became a consistent passer. Friedgen is looking for that same type of production, if not better.

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