Maryland's Ball ready to bounce into new season

August 11, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Football is serious business at the University of Maryland.

It's no sing-along, yet if the Terrapins want to know all the right words, they might try to follow the bouncing Ball.

Running back Lance Ball is showing all the signs of being a senior. He has a long memory, the perspective of experience and a little bit of know-how when it comes to getting things done. With all that tucked in his hip-pad pocket, Ball says Maryland might be ready to roll.

"This team can be 10 times better than last year," the senior said during the recent Maryland media day. "Last year, it wasn't a true Maryland team. It has a whole different swagger and demeanor."


Last season was just good enough to be satisfying, but a number of things were left unresolved, leaving those coming back wanting more.

The Terps enter the season with most of their offensive weapons still intact. Ball will be sharing time in the backfield with Keon Lattimore - a tandem that accounted for 91 percent of Maryland's rushing offense last season. Tight end Joey Haynos is back and so are receivers Darrius Hayward-Bey and Isaiah Williams.

The only thing missing is the starting quarterback, which will be determined in a preseason battle between Jordan Steffy, Josh Portis and Chris Taylor.

Ball knows what that kind of competition can be like. Last season, the focus was on Ball's battle with Lattimore for the top running back job. Coach Ralph Friedgen pushed them as the lynchpin to determining the Terps' success last year.

This year, the pair has become the most comfortable part of Maryland's game.

"If we can't throw the ball, we can run," Friedgen said. "But it will be easier to run if we can pass."

The quarterback battle, which primarily features Steffy and Portis, is the new version of what Ball and Lattimore experienced last season. And Ball can say on the rebound that it might only help the Terps down the road.

"It is good for them," Ball said. "They are competing for the job, but that's the way it's been here since Scotty McB (quarterback Scott McBrien who led Maryland in 2002-03) left. (Lattimore and I) were both fighting for a spot last year. We both wanted it. We both wanted to be there for the first snap (of the game)."

The Ball-Lattimore battle became a big positive for Maryland and turned the running backs into close friends.

Ball led the Terps in rushing with 815 yards while Lattimore had 743. That became important since Maryland never scored more than 28 points in a game last season and won three games by scoring 14 points or less.

"At first, it felt kind of funny, because I was getting most of the carries," Ball said. "Last year, we split and it felt kind of different. After the games, it didn't feel like I played a whole game. I felt like I could go another quarter. But that definitely helps the team because I feel like I'm fresh and I can go out and pound guys in the fourth quarter when the defense is getting tired."

The quarterback battle could produce a similar situation, especially since Friedgen indicated that he wouldn't be opposed to using two quarterbacks this season.

Once that's decided, the Terps can turn to working on their swagger and finishing off what they started last season.

Maryland went 9-4 and played better than most expected. Still, the Terps lost their last two regular-season games, which cost them a trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game and a possible league title.

"We got the momentum, but now we have to finish," Ball said. "That's the way it's been since pee-wee ball. I want to finish as positive as possible. We were so close last year."

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