ORONO, Maine —- A quarterback controversy to start a preseason is old hat for University of Maine redshirt junior Drew Belcher.
In his three previous seasons, he was battling for the starting job at the outset of the campaign.
Dan Collins won the job last fall and went on to become a third-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection. Belcher wound up sitting out the year as a redshirt and still has two years of eligibility remaining.
Belcher is battling graduate student Max Staver, who transferred to UMaine in January, and redshirt freshman Chris Ferguson. True freshman Isaiah Robinson from Bowie, Maryland, is also in the picture.
UMaine held its first practice on Wednesday afternoon at Morse Field in Alfond Stadium as the Black Bears prepare for their Aug. 31 opener at the University of New Hampshire.
Belcher completed 115 of 272 passes for 1,468 yards in his first two seasons at UMaine and was the second leading rusher each season, carrying the ball 203 times for 626 yards.
“I’m kind of getting used to [the quarterback controversy]. It’s good. It’s Division I football. You’re going to have competition every year,” said Belcher, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound native of Reading, Massachusetts. “I know what I have to do. The main thing is consistency. You can’t have a good game and then a real bad game.
“You have to remain consistent all the time. If you make a bad throw, you’ve got to bounce back,” he added.
Staver transferred from Houston Baptist where he completed 95 of 224 passes for 1,183 yards in his last two seasons. He threw for 3,587 yards in his last two high school years at Brentwood Academy in Tennessee. He spent a redshirt season at the University of Florida.
“As a quarterback, the last thing I need to be worrying about and dwelling on is the quarterback competition,” said Staver. “I need to get better myself. I need to focus on myself because I can only control what I can control. I’m going to use all of these practices as opportunities to get better.
“Anywhere you go, consistency is what a quarterback has to be about. Coach [offensive coordinator Liam Coen] told us as a group we have to make the easy throws easy. We all came out and make impressive throws but we’ve got to be able to get the easy six yards.”
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Staver, who was impressive in the 13th annual Jeff Cole Memorial Scrimmage in Portland in May, said he feels “good” about everything.
“I’ve really settled in her at Maine,” said Staver who worked with a quarterback coach from the National Football Academy in Atlanta over the summer and also improved his fitness dramatically. “I had four different coaches in high school and a bunch in college so I’ve had to had to learn to adapt quickly. I think I’ve run every offense known to man except the Veer.”
Belcher said he worked hard on his pocket passing and throwing downfield.
Ferguson, a 6-4, 226-pounder from Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, focused on improving his “arm strength, my accuracy and my footwork.”
He said he’s much more prepared for everything now that this is his second preseason.
“The first training camp [last fall] was something else. But you need to go through it,” said Ferguson.
Coen said Staver and Belcher have the inside track right now “because they have the most experience.
“But [Ferguson] has been getting better and Isaiah has done some nice things,” said Coen. “All of them have done a phenomenal job working on their weaknesses.
“Right now, I feel pretty good about it,” said Coen who noted that it will come down to which quarterback can consistently “manage the game, be able to make throws on third down and, when we get in the red zone, put the team in the end zone.”
Their teammates are confident all of them can do the job.
“They’re all leaders,” said senior wide receiver Jaleel Reed. “I love all of them. It’s going to come down to who can put us over the top. It’s going to be a very tough decision for the coaches. I’m glad I don’t have to make it.”
“I feel great about them,” said sophomore running back Josh Mack. “They all have their own styles. You need your quarterback to be someone like [New England quarterback] Tom Brady who has that fire, that urge to win.”
The starting quarterback will benefit from having a veteran offensive line, an impressive running back corps and a deep and talented group of receivers.
“Being the trigger man for this offense is exciting, especially with all the wide receivers we have to pick from,” said Staver.