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Terps need to play keep away, not give away

May 21, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

The fortunes of the University of Maryland football team can be reduced to a game of finder's keepers.

The Terrapins will have a great chance to be successful in the 2006 season if they can find a way to keep the football.

Maryland sat near the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference in a number of offensive categories in 2005, but only managed a 5-6 record and missed an invitation to a bowl game.

The main reason was turnovers - particularly interceptions thrown by quarterback Sam Hollenbach.

"To me, Sam Hollenbach should be a good quarterback for us, but he has to stop turning the ball over," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen during Wednesday's weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Hagerstown. "I was looking at our statistics. We were second in offense and he was third in passing efficiency. We were averaging more than 200 yards a game passing. He just has to stop turning the ball over."

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Maryland turned the ball over 25 times in 2005 on 17 interceptions and eight fumbles. Hollenbach, the incumbent at the position this fall, threw 15 of those interceptions.

The Terps were only outscored by five points (275-270) last season, yet they finished with more losses than wins for the second straight season.

The quarterback position was thrown open again during Maryland's recent spring practices, but Hollenbach is holding the inside track for the job because of his experience. Jordan Steffy got a lot of work during the spring game and a number of quarterback prospects also are in the picture, but playing time gives Hollenbach the early leg up.

"The difference is just mental mistakes on the physical and technical standpoints," Friedgen said. "Sam's ahead right now, but anything can happen in the fall."

A major problem for Maryland in 2005 was the the offense's inability to stay on the field. Quick series, a lack of first downs and an abundance of turnovers forced the Terps' defense to spend too much time on the field.

Controlling the ball and clock may be a major concern for the Terps in 2006 because of sweeping changes.

Maryland has some uncertainty at quarterback and running back while trying to replace tight end Vernon Davis, the No. 6 pick in the NFL draft, and rebuild a thin receiving corps.

On defense, the Terps lost D'Qwell Jackson - their heart and soul - and William Kershaw at linebacker along with some experience in the secondary.

And to top it all off, Maryland will have new offensive and defensive coordinators this season.

"I was very happy with the tight ends during spring practice," Friedgen said. "We don't have any Vernons, but they all block well and did a good job receiving the ball. At linebacker, we did lose Jackson and Kershaw, but we have a lot of depth there and I feel OK about it."

Getting balance on the offense is a concern, though. If Maryland can make its opponents play honest, it might go a long way to cutting down turnovers. Honesty will be a big thing for the Terps, who have a rugged schedule which includes a Thursday night game at West Virginia along with home dates against Florida State and Miami.

"I'm a little concerned with the wide receivers right now," Friedgen said. "At running back, we have some good young talent with Lance Ball and Keon Latimore. Josh Allen was far enough along (after missing all of last season with an injury) and made some strides in the spring."

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