QB issue another Morgan mystery; Position is weakened as recent vacancies hurt recruiting, continuity; State notebook


For two months during the heart of the 1999 recruiting season, Morgan State went without a football coach. For eight months, the school went without an athletic director before tapping Bowie State's David Thomas last week.

So while help is on the way, it shouldn't come as a surprise that when the football team scrimmages near Hill Field House Saturday morning at 10, and again on April 22, it will do so without a quarterback.

Morgan went without a natural quarterback for the last four games of last season, a 2-8 campaign.

Former Morgan quarterbacks Otis Covington and Donald Green have been filling in when needed on drills during the spring session.

"You just run the system and do what you have to do to get what you need to get done," said Covington, in his second season as Morgan State's co-offensive coordinator. "I do snaps and handoffs, but we do that a lot anyway."

Morgan coach Stanley Mitchell saw this quandary last year. His late hiring hindered the recruitment of quarterbacks to back up starter Willie McGirt, who separated his shoulder in the sixth game of his final season.

When the backup, freshman Marques Brown, got a concussion in the same game, Mitchell used wide receiver Marc Lester and running back T. J. Stallings at quarterback for most of the last four games.

This spring, McGirt is gone. Brown is sitting out to concentrate on schoolwork. Michael Barney, a freshman from Fort Meade, is in limbo while the NCAA decides if he's eligible. Custavious Patterson, expected to earn the starting spot this fall, is finishing his studies at a junior college in New York.

And it didn't make much sense to waste Lester and Stallings at quarterback in April when they won't be needed there in August.

"We should have three to four more quarterbacks," Covington said. "In the best-case scenario, we'll have up to seven quarterbacks."

Mitchell recovers, adapts

Less than two months after suffering a heart attack, Mitchell, 51, is trolling the sidelines again, though in more of a passive role.

The second-year coach, who had triple-bypass surgery on Feb. 11, spent three weeks resting before returning to work part time. He screams less, and now puts in four hours on normal off-season days -- eight hours on practice days -- leaving the rest for his assistants.

This is an adjustment for Mitchell.

"Now, I've got to observe and just express myself to the coaches," he said. "I may be more hands-on in the season, but right now, [the assistants] are doing an excellent job. When I see a kid making a mistake, the coaches are already on it."

McIver also recovering

Former Morgan State men's basketball player and current sports information director, Joe McIver, underwent triple-bypass surgery last month following a heart attack. McIver is recovering at home after being released from Sinai Hospital last week.

Combs overjoyed

After a surprising third-place finish in the Patriot League, the main task for Towson's football team is to replace quarterback Joe Lee, running back Jason Corle and cornerback Jabari Garrett.

Still, three days into spring practice (which ends May 6), Towson coach Gordy Combs says, "This team makes me smile."

Nine returning starters on defense and six more on offense usually leads to gratuitous displays of teeth, particularly in a group that has gone up from two wins in 1997 and five in 1998.

"We have great experience and outstanding leadership and they're hungry, because they got a taste of it last year," the coach said. "It's very comforting."

Weller to compete at NCAAs

This weekend, Towson gymnast Gabi Weller will compete in the NCAA championships in Boise, Idaho, having placed second in the all-around at the Southeast Regionals during the first weekend of April.

Weller, a junior from Heuchelheim, Germany, and gymnast of the year in the Eastern Atlantic Gymnastics League, is seeded second among individual all-arounds behind Florida's Chrissy Van Fleet.

She is vying to become Towson's second all-American in Division I, following Erin Shanley in 1997.

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