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QB controversy looming for Cal U?

| Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

The Cal U football team might have a new starting quarterback Saturday when they travel to West Chester.

Vulcans head coach Mike Kellar said Sunday the odds were even that James Harris will supplant fellow sophomore Cody Schroeder under center. Harris replaced Schroder late in the second quarter of Saturday's 20-7 loss at PSAC West rival IUP.

“We're going to look at it through the week … Cody's had a good start and James has gotten better and better each practice,” Kellar said. “Right now, it's 50-50. If there is a (quarterback) controversy, it's not so much because of what Cody's doing wrong but how James has developed, and it's happened a lot faster than anyone expected.”

Schroeder, who started eight games last season in place of the injured Pete Lalich, was benched Saturday after tossing three interceptions – two into the end zone that resulted in touchbacks. He finished 8 of 16 for 79 yards.

“After watching the tape he wasn't playing that bad, we had some red zone snafus and the kids from IUP made some plays,” Kellar said. “When you're struggling, you can't change the entire team. You can only change the QB.”

“He's handled it like a mature kid, he knows it was just a tough day at the office,” Kellar added.

Harris didn't fare much better Saturday against the Crimson Hawks, tossing two interceptions while completing just 5 of 13 attempts. However, Kellar and his staff are intrigued by Harris' athleticism and rifle arm.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Harris made his Vulcans' debut two weeks ago against Kutztown, connecting on all three pass attempts for 71 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown to Garry Brown.

“It's no secret we run a quarterback-friendly system,” said Kellar, who was the signal caller at Glenville State and Fairmont State in the early '90s. “We've talked about having packages for James and we've talked about having packages for Cody. It's just the way this game is.”

A baseball player by trade, Harris was a 50th-round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2010 and played three seasons for the Wake Forest baseball team. After playing nine games for Demon Deacons this past spring, he transferred to Cal U to play football.

This summer, Schroeder edged out Harris in a camp battle for the Vulcans' starting quarterback gig. Harris had not played football since his senior year at Etowah High School in Woodstock, Ga.

“The two, quite honestly, were dead even, but we felt Cody was a little further ahead in the system,” Kellar said. “James comes from a very athletic family and I knew going in he had a high level of talent. My biggest concern was he hadn't played in three years.”

Kellar said he and his coaching staff have already adjusted their play calling to fit younger personnel this season as the Cal U offense still relies heavily on four-receiver sets.

“Last season, we had kids who could do a little bit of everything – blocking and running – and now, there's a lot of new kids you're using for one set of skills and another kid for a different set of skills,” Kellar said.

“This is how we're built right now and we're evolving into what we want to be. At this point, we're fortunate to be 3-1.”

Kellar said he would meet with both quarterbacks Monday.

“You go with someone (new), you need to stick with them and let them play out their problems and we've done with that with Cody,” Kellar said. “Right now, the focus is on what's the best thing to give us a chance to win against West Chester.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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