Mike Callahan enters the 2010 season as William and Mary's longest-tenured quarterback.

He's also one of the longest shots to win the Tribe's starting job.

Callahan, a fifth-year senior who missed all of last year after tearing his ACL a week before the season opener, is part of a four-way fight to replace R.J. Archer's 2,778 yards and 16 touchdowns behind center.

Popular consensus is that North Carolina transfer Mike Paulus, the focus of most of the attention at Monday's annual team media day at Zable Stadium, will be the starting quarterback at Massachusetts on Sept. 4. But Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock says Callahan, redshirt freshman Brent Caprio and junior D.J. Mangas, limited by a knee injury to a few snaps in one game last season, are still in the mix.

"I definitely believe that I'm a solid contender," said Callahan, a scout team quarterback as a freshman who spent the next two seasons on the travel squad. "I think we're all good candidates, and it will be a heated competition all camp."

Caprio redshirted last season after throwing for a school-record career 4,298 yards at Mainland (N.J.) High School, while Paulus, a junior, transferred after playing in four games in 2008 with the Tar Heels.

"I understand the offense pretty well, even as a young guy, and I'm accurate," Caprio said. "(Paulus) has a real strong arm, Callahan knows the offense really well, Mangus is quick and athletic. We're all not the same exact mold. It's been fun to compete with those guys all year."

Paulus said spring practice increased his comfort level with the Tribe's offense.

"I had trouble with the new terminology, saying the plays, getting the signals, that kind of stuff, but I feel 100 percent about it now," Paulus said. "We all worked extremely hard, every quarterback did, and I know everyone feels like they've got a chance at it, so they're going hard at it."

Callahan, listed at 5-foot-11, doesn't have the 6-4 Paulus' size. He doesn't Paulus' arm strength or speed.

He does possess a wealth of institutional knowledge after four seasons spent soaking up Laycock's system.

"Leadership, I think, is my best quality," Callahan said. "It means something to me. The guys are very important to me."

So how much weight does that carry?

"He understands what we're doing and what's going on offensively," Laycock said. "Now obviously he doesn't have the experience of handling it under pressure and handling it in a live situation. This spring, he didn't get to do it because he was recovering from a knee (injury). Last fall, he didn't get to do it, but we'll see how he does now."

When he walked on at William and Mary in 2006 out of Hempfield High in Mountville, Pa., Callahan did so to develop in Laycock's quarterback-friendly system and to get a top-notch education.

"You've just got to bide your time and focus on school, and the football comes as you get older," Callahan said. "I got to learn from three really, really good quarterbacks - (Jake) Phillips, (Michael) Potts and (Archer). I've had an opportunity a lot of guys don't get, plus the education on top of that - it's pretty cool."

That doesn't mean that he's fully satisfied with his college experience.

"I can't say that," Callahan said. "I came here to play. Just as much as I came here to get an education, I came here to play football.

"I'm not 6-4. I don't have that big arm, and I'm not the NFL body, so this is it. You've got to make it happen."