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Terps compete on Friedgen's island

September 26, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - There is no such thing as a safe place on the University of Maryland football team.

Everywhere the Terrapins turn, they are marked men ... and for the most part, they like it that way.

Last Saturday, for example, quarterback Scott McBrien and freshman tailback Josh Allen were doing their best to avoid the wrath of Eastern Michigan's defense. And by the looks of the 45-3 outcome, they seem to have done a pretty good job.

Those are the perks of not getting voted off in coach Ralph Friedgen's version of Survivor, the game that every Maryland player plays during the week.

In theater, they're called auditions. In football, especially at Maryland, it's called "open competition." And it's a policy that coach Ralph Friedgen has adopted since the beginning of the season and will stay with for the duration.

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"It's still in effect. I believe that competition brings out the best in everyone," Friedgen said. "You are only as good as your last game."

But in a sense, "the Christians vs. the Lions" method of practice with only Friedgen holding the power of thumbs up or thumbs down has been something the Terrapins have needed. Maryland has had such turnover in key positions because of graduation and injuries, the Terps have had to win the battles among themselves for the right to step into the Main Event on Saturday.

"I don't want anything just given to me," Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien said. "Having to compete for the job every week makes us work harder. It's difficult, but that's what we want. I'm competitive and I know (backup quarterback Chris Kelley) wants the competition. We want to earn our job so we are all in favor of competition."

McBrien would seem to have a leg up on keeping his job after last Saturday's performance in the 45-3 drubbing of Eastern Michigan. He passed for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a little over two quarters of work - including a 91-yard scoring strike to Steve Suter.

But Friedgen wasn't about to give McBrien immunity heading into Saturday's 6 p.m. game with Wofford. The competition is being used to make sure Maryland has alternate options in case of an emergency.

"Scott is my man ... as long as he keeps winning," Friedgen said. "But what if something happens to Scott. We have to go to Plan B."

Friedgen said he will be looking to give freshman Joel Statham some work at quarterback - plan B - to get him ready in event both McBrien and Kelley get injured. Statham will move into the spot occupied by Orlando Evans, who tore his ACL against Eastern Michigan.

Allen became a product of perseverance through the competition system when he rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown against Eastern Michigan. Allen is a true freshman who almost wasn't recruited by Maryland and started out fifth on the preseason depth chart.

"Josh was having trouble learning everything, but once he got in the game, he showed what he can do," Friedgen said. "I didn't know if we were going to offer him a scholarship. But when I saw him, I told the coaches to offer him a scholarship because I'd hate to have to play against him."

But Allen's work, combined with injuries to All-American tailback Bruce Perry, opened the door for him to play and show his abilities.

Even with his success, competition could knock Allen down a notch again. Perry is scheduled to play this week and if he's healthy, it will lessen every running back's workload.

"I'll do whatever the team needs," Allen said. "No matter where you go, you have to compete. And no matter what happens, you can't worry about it. If you worry about those things, it stops you from making the right decisions when you do play."

But the competition of Friedgen's "King of the Hill Camp" got Allen ready for his big chance.

"After the first play, I was in a daze," Allen said. "I told myself to shake it off and play football. This is what you tried to prepare yourself for your entire life. If you're nervous, you end up forgetting everything you learned. I didn't want to blow the opportunity. I wanted to take full advantage of it."

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