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Probst, Newhall-Caballero give Rhode Island a pair of accomplished college QBs
When Steve Probst transferred to the University of Rhode Island after Hoftsra dropped football at the conclusion of the 2009 season, he expected to red-shirt because Chris Paul-Etienne was the returning starter and a senior. Coach Joe Trainer expected Probst to use the year to acclimate himself to the URI system.
So it was no surprise that Probst did not assert himself during spring practice in 2010. He thought his time would come in 2011.
But the grand scheme changed when Paul-Etienne injured his knee in the first preseason scrimmage. Probst, who had played as a freshman and sophomore at Hofstra, suddenly was the starter.
“He didn’t get into the groove until the fourth or fifth game. By the end of the season he was as good as any quarterback in our conference,” Trainer said Thursday during the Rams’ second week of training camp.
When Kyle Newhall-Caballero reported to Brown’s training camp a year ago, he was a senior, a captain and the 2009 first-team All-Ivy quarterback. He expected to take the Bears deep into the Ivy League championship race. But a week after leading them to a dramatic victory over Harvard in the first night game at Brown Stadium, he broke his wrist on the last play of the fourth quarter at URI, a game the Rams won on Probst’s 25-yard touchdown run in overtime.
Newhall-Caballero was finished for the season. He received a medical waiver from the Ivy League — unlike most Division I programs, which allow 10 semesters to participate in sports, the Ivy League allows only eight semesters — and is back for his fifth season after having spent the spring semester working for a private equity firm in New York.
“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to come back here,” he said Thursday after preseason practice.
Probst, Newhall-Caballero and Bryant senior Mike Croce are the three Division I quarterbacks in Rhode Island returning for their last hurrah.
Probst is brimming with confidence as he and his teammates prepare to kick off at Syracuse on Sept. 10. They are coming off their best season in a decade, 5-6 overall, 4-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“The advantage I have is just being around the guys for another year,” he said. “I got here last year and didn’t have any chemistry with the guys.”
By the end of the season he did. Trainer cited the finale against UMass and the late touchdown drive Probst directed to win the game.
“Steve had the fortitude to take the team down the field and put the ball in the end zone for the touchdown we needed. You can talk about it, but it doesn’t mean anything until your quarterback does it.”
Probst played in every game in 2010 and passed for 1,876 yards and nine touchdowns and ran for 600 yards and 7 TDs. He scored three times in the Brown game. He has added 15 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame and now checks in at 230 pounds. Despite the increase in size and strength of his quarterback, Trainer does not plan to run him as often this season.
“I hope not. Last year I think we might have gone to the well too often,” he said.
As far as Probst is concerned, whether he is running or throwing, it’s all about execution. “Whatever it is, everybody has to do his job.”
Newhall-Caballero’s 2010 season was one of frustration. He had injured his hand during training camp before fracturing his wrist in the URI game.
“I had played the entire year the season before without any injuries. To go down like that — being on the sideline wears on you,” he said.
Newhall-Caballero became the equivalent of another coach. He worked with classmate Joe Springer and sophomore Patrick Donnelly.
“I remember him on the sideline,” coach Phil Estes said. “He would see things before Joe saw them. He kept himself and his mind in the game.”
The Bears finished 6-4 overall, 5-2 and tied for second in the Ivy League.
“That showed a lot about our senior class for last year,” Newhall-Caballero said.
He remained in Providence this summer and worked out with a group of Brown players. He reported to camp in great shape and said his wrist is fine.
Newhall-Caballero received the highest compliment from his teammates when they elected him captain again at the conclusion of practice last spring. It was only the third time in Brown football history that a player was a captain twice. J.H. Lindsey was coach and captain in 1890 and 1891, and W.B. Hopkins was captain in 1893 and 1894.
“And he wasn’t even here. He had to take the spring off,” Estes said. “It was near unanimous. There were a lot of great kids they could have picked, but they went back to Kyle based on his influence two years ago. That shows the trust the kids have in him.”
Newhall-Caballero was having breakfast on a Sunday morning when Estes called with the news.
“I smiled and was giddy as a kid,” he said.
The Bears will kick off the season on Sept. 17 at Stony Brook.
Bryant coach Marty Fine was expecting this to be Croce’s third season as Bryant’s starting quarterback, but he arrived at training camp in a walking boot. He has a stress fracture in his left foot from stepping in a hole while playing Wiffle ball in his backyard. The injury occurred just before camp and will sideline him for another month.
Sophomore Mike Westerhaus will start the season. He did not play in a varsity game as a freshman.
Croce transferred from Merrimack after the 2007 season and sat out 2008. He started 11 games as a sophomore in 2009 and finished third in the NEC with 154.1 passing yards per game. He threw only five interceptions.
Last year, Croce passed for 1,780 yards, third in the Bryant record book. He moved into second place on the career passing list with 3,475 yards and third on the touchdown pass list with 26.
The Bulldogs will open their season on Sept. 3 at Maine. Bryant was 7-4, 4-4 in the Northeast Conference, in 2010.
By MIKE SZOSTAK, The Providence Journal