With summer heat rounding out the last few days of spring, I decided to think ahead to fall and football season. The happiest guy on the Maryland campus right now might be Maryland Head Football Coach Ralph Friedgen. Why? Because with all the negative attention on the basketball program, few people have had a chance to focus on the fact that the Maryland football program has had three losing seasons in the last four years.
I make no secret of the fact that I like Ralph Friedgen as coach; I admire his old school approach, his willingness to give kids a second chance, and his true love for the program. Let’s not forget where the Maryland program was before he arrived on campus in 2001.
The reason the Terps haven’t won lately is simple: they just haven’t had anyone that good to pull the trigger at quarterback. Jordan Steffy was supposed to be that guy when he arrived in College Park five years ago, but injuries and inconsistency have left him still searching. Ditto for Josh Portis who arrived two years ago with top flight tools, but suspension and the inability to grasp the offense have left him down on the depth chart following spring practice. California cool junior Chris Turner showed promise after taking over for Steffy last year; however, he has a maddening habit of not playing well in practice. Friedgen, like most coaches, believes you must first play well in practice before you can make it in the games.
This spring none of the three have taken a firm lead in the battle to be the starting quarterback. Complicating matters is that all three are learning the new West Coast offense of assistant head coach/offensive coordinator James Franklin. Franklin has redone the Terps offense getting rid of the seven step drop and going to more three and five step drops. Give credit to Friedgen, himself an offensive mastermind; he turned over the offense realizing it was too much for one person to do.
Steffy seemed to have a good spring and adapted well to the new offense. Portis seems to still have problems learning the system, and Turner, well he just plays better than he practices.
The Terps look ready in my eye to improve on last year’s 6-7 season. They have excellent depth and talent at offensive line, wide receiver, and plenty coming back on defense. The defensive line especially looks strong. The question mark is at that most important spot. Will someone emerge and take hold? Can Friedgen and Franklin find that elite signal caller? With a good season from one of these, the Terps could be ready to go to a big time bowl game and really make a strong run at the ACC Championship.
Who will it be? My pick is Turner. He has shown the most in games. The offense came alive when he took over last year, and with the added experience, he should be ready to rock (yes, his father was original drummer of Ratt) as the Terps’ QB.
Whoever it is, the answer needs to come prior to the first game on August 30th when the Terps take on the Joe Flacco-less Delaware Blue Hens at Byrd Stadium.