(This is another in a position-by-position series on University of Central Arkansas footbal, from the players and assistant coaches' perspectives, from post-spring interviews, as the Bears go into the summer).
BY DAVID MCCOLLUM
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
At the end of the spring, a three-man quarterback battle at the University of Central Arkansas turned into 2 1/2.
Redshirt freshman Trae Cook, one of the fastest players on offense, shifted to wide receiver in many packages, including a wildcat alignment. He's now primarily listed as a receiver on the post-spring depth chart.
"We're still developing the packages that work with Trae's skills," said Buster Faulkner, quarterback coach. "There are several different options we have with him, both at quarterback and receiver."
"Oh my gosh, he's fast," said linebacker Vance Fizer. "He's one of those players who doesn't look like he is moving but he is really moving. I was kinda excited during the spring game that they took off the yellow jersey. It gave us a chance to get back for all the times he ran by us in spring practice."
Robbie Park, Nathan Brown's backup for three years, will start the fall at No. 1. Pushing him will be Nathan Dick, a University of Arkansas transfer.
"Both have their skills and we can work with a two-quarterback system," Faulkner said. "Robbie has been in the system and has had a good learning curve. He's a guy who waited in the wings for his chance. What impresses me is that he's has remained in our system and works hard. It tells me he wants to be here.
"After the spring Nathan came along just fine for someone 15 days into our system. He's got three years to learn and play."
"It's a different aspect for me," said Park, who saw limited action as a backup to Brown. "The team has changed. There is different personnel, a lot more opportunities."
Dick, who started three games as a freshman for the Razorbacks, is learning his third offensive system in three years.
"Everyone offense is a little different," he said. "Particularly here, I've had to adjust to our screens and dump passes. We do things from a lot of different formations. We all are learning together on offense. It's a matter of getting people on the same page. Right now, I lot of us are still thinking about what we're supposed to do. we need to start reacting and going out and having fun."
One new aspect is the absence of Brown, holder of most of UCA records, as a quarterback and the most prolific passing quarterback in state history. Another is Faulkner, who takes over as quarterback coach after coming in during the spring from Valdosta State. He replaces Todd Cooley, who took a similar position at Northwestern State.
Even though Valdosta State has a West Coast style offense, Faulkner said there has been an adjustment and a difference.
"This offense is more pro-style," said Faulkner, who also led Valdosta to an NCAA Division II runner-up finish. "It's more play-action, bootleg and pocket passing."
"Coach Faulkner has been a blessing," Park said." But it was different. He came here and had to learn the offense. This was the first time I've had to help teach the offense to the coach. But he has been a successful coordinator and he brought along some good ideas."
Park added he's ready to become a major leader for the Bears, who are coming off a 9-2 season and a first-place finish in the Southland Conference.
"Quarterback is always going to be a leadership position," Park said. "You call the plays in the huddle and give direction. There are more expectations of us senior now. Some great leaders are gone and we've moved up the depth chart."
Dick added, "No matter what, the quarterbacks are the leaders on the team. We have to lead by example and you need a leader to step up and take charge of the team."
Both Park and Dick said the competition this spring has been good.
"You've got to be a competitor on the field," Park said. "It's like studying for exams or a test. You can know the application, but you've got to get it done on the field. On the field, like on a test, is where you put what learn use. You make your case on the field."
"Cream alwasys rises out of competition," Dick said. "the main thing is to go out and do what you can do. I think my strength is the ability to lead the team with my arm, being able to produce on offense, knowing the defense will be playing at a high level."
"I think we can score points," Park said. "That's what offenses at UCA do. The quarterbacks have a lot of respect for each other. We don't all have the same personality or ability. But I think we can feed off each other."