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Freshman QB duo waits behind Ellis

Nearly four months after he vowed to "reinvent the corporation" following a 63-21 debacle in the MicronPC.com Bowl, George Welsh quells any commotion that his promised overhaul will start with his quarterback.

Dan Ellis remains his point man.

The same can't be said for the backup job, where a pair of diametrically opposed freshmen candidates, strong-armed Matt Schaub and fleet-footed Bryson Spinner, are deadlocked in a duel to be the man. The man next in line, that is.

"Ellis is still our first-team QB," Welsh said before tonight's annual spring game, which begins at 6 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium. "I guess you could say there's a No. 2 quarterback controversy, but that spot won't be decided until 10 days before [the season starts]. They've both played well."

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    Both Schaub and Spinner insist, though, that while the backup position may be the more viable option, their sights are set squarely on starting the season with the first unit. With Ellis separating his shoulder and missing eight spring practices, both redshirt freshmen have received ample practice time to shine.

    "I'm trying to win the job," said Spinner, a product of Episcopal High in Alexandria. "Competition is good because it gets the adrenaline pumping, knowing that you can't slow down because there's a guy right behind you or right next to you trying to win your job."

    Schaub, a SuperPrep All-American his senior season at Pennsylvania's West Chester East High, echoes his counterpart's sentiments.

    "I'm definitely looking to start," Schaub said. "Anyone who's an athlete wants to be on the field and help the team win."

    Schaub and Spinner represent a blatant contrast in styles: Schaub a husky dropback passer built in the pro-style mold, Spinner a slippery open-field flash who's been tagged as a right-handed Michael Vick.

    And while it's become custom to pigeonhole Spinner as the runner and Schaub as the passer, Spinner prides himself on his versatility.

    "Most quarterbacks want to be known as a versatile quarterback who can run and throw," Spinner said. "Quarterbacks can't just run or pass. They have to be able to do both."

    The competition between the pair is fierce. Though Schaub and Spinner let the backup battle spur them on, they haven't let it splinter their off-field bond.

    "We're just out there trying to help each other get better and learn the offense," Schaub said. "We're friends off the field, so competition for the same spot hasn't affected our relationship."

    While his shoulder separation had relegated Ellis to spectator during the 15-practice spring session, he has also assumed the role of mentor, sharing his experiences as an 11-game starter with his precocious pupils.

    "He shows us a lot," Spinner said. "When we have trouble reading the defenses because they change it up, he'll go out and help us. He's been good like that."

    Ellis resumed workouts with the squad earlier this week and expects to see significant time.

    "The shoulder feels pretty good," Ellis said. "It's going to be sore when I get hit, but I'm not going to be tentative. I think it's important for me to get the reps against a live defense."

    Injuries will keep defensive linemen Colin McQueeney and Lubomir Stamenich, safety Shenard Newby, wide receiver Demetrius Dotson, tight end Billy Baber and tackle Evan Routzahn out of action.

    All things considered, though, Welsh said he feels fortunate to escape the spring season with few serious hits to his lineup.

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