Senior Austin Dantin was the starter last season until suffering a concussion. He was 21st in the nation in passing efficiency.
Looks of bewilderment greeted Matt Campbell when he entered a staff meeting to discuss the outcome of a vote to select team captains.
"You'll never believe this," Campbell, University of Toledo's coach, recalls an assistant telling him. "But our quarterbacks got the exact same number of votes."
No objective measurement has been able to separate Terrance Owens from Austin Dantin or Dantin from Owens. Not the 15 practices in the spring, not summer workouts, and not the 19 practices so far this preseason. Neither did an election at the end of last school year involving 100 or so ballots.
Thus, it seems only fitting that Owens and Dantin are listed as co-starters on a revised depth chart that was released Tuesday. Every other position shows a starter -- at least for the time being -- for the Sept. 1 season opener.
His voice dripped with more excitement than disappointment when Campbell said: "You keep waiting for one to pull away from the other or for one to take that giant step or for one to fold his tent. That hasn't happened. Those two continue to fight, they continue to battle, and they continue to make our football team a lot better."
Campbell said he will announce a starter on the Wednesday of game week and that practices until then will influence the hierarchy against Arizona. Gamesmanship might be holding back Campbell from divulging too much, but he did offer that both guys will take snaps in the game.
Owens, a redshirt junior, might have the upper hand based on his going 3-0 as a starter to end the 2011 season when Dantin missed two games with a concussion. Owens ranked sixth nationally in pass efficiency, which only gives him a slight edge over 21st-ranked Dantin. Dantin, a senior, is nothing if not consistent. He has completed between 64 and 66 percent of his passes every season and thrown only 16 interceptions in 499 pass attempts.
Owens, the Cleveland product, and Dantin, of Florida, have established themselves as the faces of the program. They, along with Campbell, adorn the cover of the media guide. It was the quarterbacks who were selected by Campbell to represent UT last month at Mid-American Conference media day. Also, evidenced by the captains vote, they're beloved by their teammates.
"It says a lot about those two kids," Campbell said. "It's such a great story."
Terrance Owens, a junior, won the final three games of the season for the Rockets, finishing sixth in the nation in passing efficiency.
Cornerback is the only other position in which competition could spill over into game week. Campbell anticipates an "ongoing race," with Byron Best and Kishon Wilcher trying to unseat Chris Dukes (field side) and Cheatham Norrils (boundary side). A fifth contender, believed to be sophomore Keith Suggs, is still in the mix.
Also, Cassius McDowell has secured the backup role to running back David Fluellen, redshirt freshman Alonzo Russell has grasped one of the starting spots at receiver, and Junior Sylvestre has supplanted Vladimir Emilien at star linebacker. This means Emilien, a University of Michigan transfer, will not start against the team led by his former coach with the Wolverines -- first-year Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.
Of Sylvestre, Campbell said "he's tackled really well, and he's been the most consistent of the two through this point."
Three true freshmen are on the two-deep, all as backups: tight end Alex Zmolik, safety Chaz Whitaker, and defensive tackle Orion Jones. Campbell last week named nine true freshmen contending for a two-deep spot.
Defensive end T.J. Fatinikun called Jones, a three-star prospect from Tulsa, "raw" and "talented."
"Clearly there's a lot of trust and a lot of confidence in him for him to be second on the depth chart," Fatinikun said.
CAPTAINS: Although their names were not revealed to the public until Tuesday, six captains were anointed at the end of last school year. If a player met an unspecified set of qualifications, he could stand up before his teammates and campaign for his being chosen. Garnering the distinction were Owens, Dantin, center Zac Kerin, linebacker Dan Molls, and safeties Mark Singer and Jermaine Robinson. Redshirt juniors Owens and Kerin are the only nonseniors. Campbell is considering instituting a seventh captain, someone different each week.
"Those six were voted far above and beyond anyone else on our football team," Campbell said.
NUMERO UNO: A No. 1 has been removed from Bernard Reedy's jersey. The receiver, who formerly wore No. 11, has switched to No. 1, this as an honor bestowed upon him by coaches to recognize his achievements. Reedy, the Military Bowl MVP, totaled 758 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2011 on 40 catches.
Unlike former coach Tim Beckman, who forbid anyone from wearing it, Campbell dangled the No. 1 jersey to motivate his offensive skill players and his defensive backs.
"When we got the job we said that the No. 1 jersey is available and the guy we felt earned it would earn the right to wear it," Campbell said, adding that Reedy locked it up two weeks into the preseason.
Mount Union, where Campbell and three of his assistants played, uses the same enticement. As does Michigan, where a line of great receivers have donned the number.
No Rocket has worn No. 1 since Nick Moore in 2008, the year before Beckman's arrival.
Inheriting Reedy's No. 11 is Norrils, a St. John's Jesuit graduate, who will ditch No. 36.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.
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