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Terps play quarterback shuffle

September 04, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Ron Vanderlinden's flair for the dramatic was missing, well, drama.

The University of Maryland coach's announcement of who will start at quarterback was neither earth-shattering or a ringing endorsement.

"(Ken) Mastrole will start at quarterback for us on Saturday ...," Vanderlinden said during his weekly media luncheon. "... unless something interesting happens."

Mastrole was the odds-on favorite for the job ever since senior Brian Cummings packed away his helmet last season. The job was the junior's to lose, provided that there was someone in the program to challenge him.

That's what made the first question to Vanderlinden so interesting.

"Who's the second-string quarterback?"

Vanderlinden's answer started a line of intrigue.

"Randall Jones and Calvin McCall will compete for the No. 2 position," the second-year coach said. "Gil Harris is coming on, but the young guys have passed him up."

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Vanderlinden's answer all but had a subtitle of "The Future Is (fill in the blank)."

The tone of the Mastrole announcement didn't sound like a vote of confidence. The statement about Harris -also a junior - didn't make him sound like a challenger for the job, either.

Instead, the two freshmen, particularly Jones, who quarterbacked Thomas Johnson to the Maryland Class 3A finals two years ago, made leaps and bounds in practice to be considered heirs to the Terrapins' job.

Jones played quarterback at Navy Prep last season after graduating from TJ. He came to Maryland with hopes of playing safety, but Vanderlinden saw the 6-foot-2, 207-pounder's ability when he ran the freshman offense during preseason camp.

"Randall is a year older than Calvin and feels comfortable in the offense," Vanderlinden said. "They both have strong arms. Calvin is just in his second year as a quarterback, but he has picked up the offense. He's just a slight bit tentative."

Throughout the preseason, Vanderlinden sidestepped questions about the starting quarterback situation. Maryland revamped its offense in the spring, putting all the quarterbacks in a helmet. Mastrole was the only signal caller with college experience.

The Terps have switched to more of a run-oriented offense after spending most of the last five years in a run-and-shoot game. Mastrole has a stationary style, but has worked on his mobility in the off-season.

Still, with Maryland's new offensive line, mobility may be the key to both success and survival.

"The thing I like about (Jones and McCall) is that they have elusiveness," Vanderlinden said. "They have the ability to make something out of nothing. I like that ... kind of the (Baltimore Ravens) Jim Harbaugh type."

Experience or mobility? In this era of rebuilding at Maryland, experience doesn't amount to job security.

"Right now, if or when any of them play depend on the game situation," Vanderlinden said. "It also depends on how Kenny does and if he stays healthy."

So much for a strong vote of confidence.

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