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Hollenbach gets the chance he asked for

September 01, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It took a lot of work, but Sam Hollenbach added one letter to his job description.

Now instead of being pass, he's the University of Maryland's passer.

There was a time last year when Hollenbach was considered outdated, past his prime as a possible quarterback for the Terrapins. He started the season third on the depth chart, behind Joel Statham and Jordan Steffy, who struggled although they were ahead of him.

"Last year, he was working just to get a spot to be one of three quarterbacks we were going to work with," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "I remember he had some guys open and missed them. I talked to his dad and told him that I wasn't sure if he wanted it."

But times changed. Not only did Hollenbach want it, Maryland needed him. He turned into a story of what perseverance and self-belief can do, as now Hollenbach will be the Terps' starting quarterback when they face Navy on Saturday at M&T Stadium in Baltimore.

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"He's now like night and day," Friedgen said. "He's really improved from where he was in the spring. He's seeing things better, his decision-making is very good, and his accuracy is probably as good as we've had since we've been here."

When Friedgen mentioned accuracy, he put Hollenbach in the same sentence with Scott McBrien, the dependable left-hander who led Maryland to its second and third straight bowl games with steady play and precision passing.

"That's saying a lot," Friedgen said. "I'm proud of him. He could have transferred, but he likes it here. He stayed quiet and pulled back and worked. You might not always find success right away, it might take time and work."

Hollenbach has told the story hundreds of times of how he considered transferring from Maryland. He went to the Terps coaches and didn't ask for playing time. He just wanted to know if he had a chance. He did, and now he has made the best out of it.

"I don't know how I feel ... I'm pumped up for it," Hollenbach said. "We haven't really had a game situation in this camp, so you're never really sure how it's going to be. But I have faith in the coaches. I think they gave us a pretty good look in camp, defensively, and I felt good in the scrimmages."

Hollenbach earned his opportunity after leading the Terps to a last season's victory over Wake Forest in the final game. He wasn't dazzling, but he was efficient, which is a quality that Maryland needed - and needs - desperately.

It gave him the starting point to win the job in what is becoming a pivotal season for the Terps.

"I think the main thing is I'm becoming more confident," Hollenbach said. "I'm getting more reps with the first team. (The accuracy) is a result of hard work during the summer. I was throwing to receivers five days a week. This passing game goes on timing, and a lot of it is making sure the receiver is on the same page."

Hollenbach attempted just 36 passes last year and didn't throw a touchdown. Friedgen is hoping for a breakout season, much like the ones enjoyed by Shaun Hill and McBrien, who both came out of nowhere to lead the Terps before Hollenbach.

"The biggest thing Sam has to do now is take it from the practice field to the game," Friedgen said.

That is a feeling that Hollenbach will have to experience. It means getting the confidence to be able to experience the feeling of all the action slowing down around you.

"I'd like to say it has," said the 6-foot-5, 218-pound junior. "I feel good about the ability to see different things on the defense. It helps me look on the offense and getting my reads. I'm still working on getting better."

The time has come to see if Hollenbach has earned his new job description.

"I really just hope I can come out there Saturday and be relaxed, have fun out there," Hollenbach said. "That's probably my No. 1 goal. Like the coaches say, winning is having fun."

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