Statham moves forward as Terps' QB

September 01, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Riddle: Who is in fast constant motion but prefers to move slowly, and has to move forward quickly to make everything around him slow down, while applying the brakes of patience to get anywhere?

Answer: New University of Maryland quarterback Joel Statham.

In reality, if Statham was a sports car, his gears probably would be stripped by now. The redshirt sophomore has been hurrying just for the chance to take his time, all because he is about to get the keys to drive coach Ralph Friedgen's offense when the No. 22 Terrapins open the 2004 season Saturday against Northern Illinois.

"This is something I have been looking forward to for two years - the chance to play a whole game," Statham said.


It is now Statham's time, even though you might not be able to tell by his demeanor.

Statham admits he's not a limelight kind of guy. The lights, cameras and action that go with the job of being a starting quarterback aren't his favorite pastimes, but he's learning to cope.

"I like to do all this," Statham said quietly during his first Tuesday sit-down meeting with the media. "But I don't like to talk a lot. I'm much better than I was when I first got here. I didn't talk at all then."

He didn't have to over his first two years at Maryland. He was watching as Scott McBrien's backup, watching him guide the Terps while holding a clipboard.

After the 2003 season, Statham was named the heir apparent to McBrien. The early vote came off his six games of playing time, mostly in mop-up roles in lop-sided Maryland victories.

The only outing of note came on an ill-fated night against Georgia Tech when McBrien was injured in the second quarter. Statham, then the third-string quarterback, was shoved out on the field, with no preparation, to guide the Terps, who were in a drive to stay in the Atlantic Coast Conference title hunt.

On that night, he went just 10 of 22 passing for 110 yards as Maryland lost 7-3 before a national television audience. He didn't have the practice to cope with the speed of the Yellow Jackets' defense.

"It was very chaotic for me at the time," Statham said. "But it helped me grow up in that I know what to expect."

Now as the Terps' new starter, college football's fast action is starting to slow down for Statham as he gets more practice and experience under center.

Still, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is sticking with the basics when it comes to offense, partially because of Statham's game inexperience and partially because of the youthful makeup of the Terps' starting team.

"We definitely have a lot fewer plays than we had last year," Friedgen said during his weekly media press conference. "A lot of them are just variations on them. We've kind of condensed (the playbook) that way. We'll try to get as tight a package as we can.

"I think it's very important not to beat ourselves."

Maryland's youth makes breakdowns Friedgen's main concern. The playbook is limited so the Terps can execute while Statham works to slow the whirlwind of action around him.

Statham is a much different person behind center than he is behind an interview podium.

"Joel, by his personality, wants to do things, and he speeds up, and that's not him," Friedgen said. "With as many young players that we have, we're going to experience some of that on Saturday. It's just a matter of staying patient and not panicking."

Statham admits he's still not completely ready for his first start, but he admits he wouldn't know because he hasn't been in this situation for the Terps.

"This is definitely more work and there is more pressure to do things right on the field," Statham said. "There are more people watching you, and when you make a mistake, everyone knows it. I have to focus and get all my keys right. But nothing's changed now that I'm the No. 1 quarterback. It will always be a competition. No matter if I'm No. 4, No. 2 or No. 1, I have to be focused."

And that's the way Joel Statham wants it - to be on the field to get the first snap to put the Terps in motion against Northern Illinois.

"I was "The Man" in high school and then I have been sitting out the last two years," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."

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