Around 11:30 this afternoon, Ralph Friedgen announced in a press conference that redshirt senior Jordan Steffy would be the Terps’ starting quarterback, ending a 3-way competition with fellow quarterbacks Chris Turner and Josh Portis, both redshirt juniors.
Terrapin Nation made an announcement shortly after with cries made by players, Maryland beat writers and passionate Terps fans:
“WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU THINKING RALPH?”
Let’s backtrack a little. You can read my previous blog on Terps quarterbacks (Part 1 of the unfinished Terps football series) to get in depth analysis of all three contenders but here is the short version.
Jordan Steffy is known as a great practice player as repeated over and over again by Coach Friedgen. Steffy played little in his first three seasons but was given the starting job in 2007. He started the first five games but was injured against Rutgers and was never able to reclaim the starting sport. In his starts, Steffy did a good job managing the game but seemed to lack pocked presence and the ability to take shots down field. Against West Virginia, the Mountaineers loaded the box with eight defenders, daring Steffy to throw the ball behind their secondary, something that he refused to do. He missed several open receivers in the game and was even criticized for making a wrong read by Ray Lewis while he was being interviewed on ESPN.
Chris Turner, on the other hand, does not practice as well as Steffy but performed well in games, beating two Top 10 ranked teams in Rutgers and Boston College. He also led the Terps to high-scoring victories over NC State and Georgia Tech. Turner was able to get the ball downfield to the talented Maryland wide receivers, leading to several big plays. Turner entered summer practice as the #1 quarterback on the Maryland depth chart.
Finally, Josh Portis came to Maryland after transferring from Florida. One of the nation’s top quarterback recruits out of high school, Josh is a prototypical dual-threat quarterback with the ability to run and pass. Offensive coordinator James Franklin called Portis “one of the sickest athletes” he has seen. Due to a cheating violation, Portis was ineligible for the 2007 season, but Coach Friedgen has said that the Californian will have special packages designed for him to change the pace of the game. Portis is simply explosive and will almost definitely receive some playing time in 2008.
That being said, this decision was not like one that I have ever seen before. At least 90% of Maryland fans were openly rooting for Turner to get the job. There was no split amongst the fan base like that in Green Bay. A very clear majority of Maryland fans wanted to see Chris Turner out there on August 30th.
With that in mind, it makes sense that Friedgen almost sounded like he was trying to win over reporters with the announcement that Steffy would be sounding. He sounded unsure and very passive in his announcement.
Now onto the more disturbing part
I’m not going to lie to you and say that I’m a Maryland Football insider. I’m in high school, I know a few players on the team and have some friends that are insiders, but I consider myself just a very passionate fan.
However, I have heard from two different, current players that the team morale went down significantly with the announcement this afternoon. One of these players in particular seemed very upset at the news that Turner would not be their leader. He said (and this is a straight quote) “Coach (Friedgen) might be losing us”. A lost locker room in any sport, and it’s time to pack your bags and find a new coaching gig.
Also, I have heard from a source close to Chris Turner (and I promise you this is very, very close) that Turner could be transferring from Maryland. A native Californian, Turner’s parents may want him closer to home. While Steffy will be gone next year, there is speculation that Josh Portis would start next season leaving Turner again as the backup. This transfer is strictly a rumor from a source very close to Maryland Football and Turner that I have talked with on a Maryland online site, but this could all happen this week, this month, at the end of the season, or never.
Finally, take a look at the two main Terps message boards (Turtle Sports Report and Terrapin Times) to see the fans’ reactions. These people are diehards with season tickets and thousands of dollars donated to the Terrapin Club, and they are not happy. Heck, I’m not happy.
Ralph Friedgen has had trouble with quarterbacks before, choosing Chris Kelley over Scott McBrien, Joel Statham over Sam Hollenbach, and now Jordan Steffy over Chris Turner twice.
Maryland football people (players, fans, etc) are not happy. That is a fact. At this point, there is really only one way to make us happy. Jordan Steffy needs to go out and dominate Delaware, Middle Tennessee State, and Eastern Michigan to show us that he is ready for California-Berkley and ACC play. If that happens, Maryland Football has the chance to be great this year.
If that doesn’t happen, things could ugly real fast.
P.S. Apologies to readers of my blog, but I do not plan on finishing the 10-part Maryland Football series. I simply bit off more than I can chew at this point. There will be an in depth season preview sometime before August 30th. GO TERPS!