It's official. Frank Dolce is the University of Utah's new starting quarterback.

Coach Ron McBride made the announcement on Monday.Dolce, who redshirted last season, edged Mike Richmond, a part-time starter last year, for the job during spring practice, which ended Saturday.

"Up until a week and a half ago, Frank and Mike were neck and neck," said McBride. "Then Frank began moving ahead."

McBride made his final decision Monday morning after watching films and consulting with his offensive and defensive assistant coaches. "I asked the defensive coaches which guy gave them the most difficult time," McBride explained.

McBride hopes that Dolce, a 1989 junior college All-American at El Camino (Calif.), will "take the job and keep it." A year ago the Utes shuffled Richmond and Jason Woods in and out of the lineup, a situation that McBride clearly did not like.

Says McBride, "What I really like about Frank is, No. 1, he's a good decision-maker. No. 2, he's a good leader. No. 3, he throws well on the run. No. 4, he's a good play-action passer as well as a drop-back passer. He's a good quarterback in this offense."

Dolce, a pre-med major from Culver City, Calif., passed for 3,772 yards, 33 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions in two seasons at El Camino and completed 62 percent of his passes. During that time, El Camino was 19-2-1.

Dolce, who is 6-foot, 200 pounds, reported to Utah last spring, but struggled in spring practice and wound up redshirting the 1990 season.

"I was disappointed with the way last spring went, not winning the job," says Dolce. "I didn't play well at the beginning, but the last couple of weeks I came on. It was a tough transition, with a new offense and new reads."

"He showed signs last spring that he could do it," said McBride, "but he was the only guy of the three who had a redshirt year. Over the long run it pays off for us, because I don't think any of them could have been successful last year because we were not good up front (on the offensive line). The guy this year has a better chance, because the line will be better."

After watching the Ute offense struggle throughout last season, McBride recruited offensive linemen heavily during the off-season and hired a new offensive assistant - Rick Rasnick, the former offensive coordinator at San Jose State.

"The offense is going to be a lot different," says McBride. "It will be more diversified. There will be more options on each play. Rick has really tied the loose ends together for us."

For Richmond, the latest news is nothing new. Hampered by an injured throwing shoulder, he began last season as the No. 2 quarterback but finished as No. 1. The injury flared up again this spring and forced him to miss the last week of practice.

After learning Monday afternoon of McBride's decision, Dolce planned to call his family in California with the news. "I'm real excited about this," says Dolce. "But now I have to go to work. The season is coming up."