While many football fans around the country hope and pray that their starting quarterback never goes down, fans of Charleston Southern football can rest easy.
The quarterback position may indeed be the deepest part of CSU's roster in 2010. Head coach Jay Mills has his top two signal-callers back from last season and added three more this fall, two of whom are not far from being ready to play.
Never before has the position had this much talent and depth at Charleston Southern. It made for a solid competition through the spring and summer and has carried over into the preseason camp.
Returning starter A.J. Toscano, a senior, is at the top of the depth chart entering the season. Toscano threw for 2,166 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and was third on the team in rushing yards with 325.
Toscano, however, threw 11 interceptions last season, and a few were costly. He took the mistakes that he made to heart and did extra work over the summer to improve his decision-making.
"A.J. had a great summer here, really working hard on the playbook and learning so much about the offense," Mills said. "He has certainly earned the right to lead this team, and his teammates are behind him. I expect a big season out of him."
Senior Andrew Trudnowski has solidified himself as the No. 2 QB, a role he held last season. Trudnowski came to CSU from Los Angeles Harbor College, where he threw for more than 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in two seasons. He attempted 38 passes last season as the backup and was named the most improved quarterback of spring ball.
Trudnowski has every reason to have a chip on his shoulder, but instead embraces the role of a backup, knowing his time on the field could come at any moment.
"For me it's a different experience," he said. "I've been a starter since my sophomore year in high school, and obviously all quarterbacks want to play. I feel I'm adapting to the role a lot better now. When I need to go in, the team is ready to jump on my back and they will have the confidence in me.
"A.J. has earned the right to be the starter. He has worked so hard and he's been great in camp. There is no animosity or jealousy. We're great friends and we push each other. If I can help him by pushing him, it makes our team better. We're all about winning."
Richard Mounce, the former South Carolina Mr. Football, transferred last fall from Clemson, where he was a member of the baseball team. After two years away from football, Mounce knew getting back into the game would take some time. It didn't help that Mounce tore an ACL in December and was cleared for football action in July.
"It's been a big adjustment, a lot of hard work and studying," said Mounce, who passed for more than 6,100 yards and 73 touchdowns in his final two high school seasons at Blythewood High. "I'm making progress but I'm not frustrated. It's a long process coming back, but I feel more comfortable every day. The knee is fine. The mental part of the game, learning this offense, is the biggest hurdle for me right now."
Mounce's decision to attend CSU drew a lot of publicity because of his past high school accomplishments. Some thought he might step right in to a starting role. Mounce himself knew the road ahead would be a long one. He says his teammates have been great in terms of preparing him for the position and learning the offense.
"They're all great guys, very supportive and we get along great," he said. "A.J. and Andrew have been here for a few years. They're ahead of me right now. I learn so much from them every day. Both of those guys are great leaders. They have accepted and helped me from day one."
Mills calls Toscano one of the team's top leaders, as all quarterbacks should be. Toscano takes the role seriously and realizes his backups have to be ready to play should he go down.
"All of the quarterbacks here are very talented so I can't relax," he said. "But we all help each other. I try to encourage those guys as much as I can, and they are right there supporting me."
Redshirt freshman Derek Hatcher, a Florida native who spent last season at Arkansas, has battled Mounce for the No. 3 role all camp. Freshman Malcom Dixon of Tifton, Ga., is headed for a redshirt season but shows great potential, according to Mills.
Aside from the quarterback position, the rest of the 2010 Bucs is pretty solid as well.
If the quarterback position is not the deepest, the receiver position might be. Returning seniors Gerald Stevenson and Kwame Krakue combined for more than 100 receptions last season, and senior Deon Lee has had a huge camp. Tight end Josh Atkinson is another threat in the passing game.
Returning along the offensive line are starters B.J. Baker, Jordan Lancaster and Levi McFatter. Seniors Demarcus Moon and B.J. Hackworth headline the running game.
Defensively, senior end Joel Walton is a returning first-team all-conference selection. End David Jackson and linebacker Fred Godfrey are both former players at West Ashley High.
Linebacker Chris Patrick, cornerback Jacques Bazile and safety Chris Kuzdale also return defensively.
Senior John Paglia returns as one of the top placekickers in FCS football.
"We have great leadership on this team, and it has been evident since the spring that this football team is committed to winning," said Mills.
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