Terps going under knife for new look

August 14, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

The University of Maryland football team is undergoing some plastic surgery.

The Terrapins are getting a nip here and a tuck there in an effort to put their best face forward offensively this year.

For now, the face of the offense is would-be starting quarterback Jordan Steffy, but he might not have to be as complete as other quarterbacks to help the Terps look good and be good.

"One thing that I have confidence in in Jordan is that he knows what to do," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said at the Terrapins' annual media day. "What I want is for him to be able to run and pass and put us in a position to be successful."


Last season, there was always doubt about who would be the face of the Terps, the guy who gave them an identity.

Maryland tried to make quarterback Sam Hollenbach that man, but at times it was either running backs Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey or even defensive players like Josh Wilson or Wesley Jefferson.

Some would argue that the face of the Terps was Friedgen himself, the mastermind who got everything out of the players and then some.

This year, Steffy - or quarterback Josh Portis - could be the main man and catalyst for the Terps and their many weapons.

"If we can't throw, we can run," Friedgen said. "It will be easier to run though, if we can pass."

Last season, the Terps were looking for Ball or Lattimore to establish himself as the feature back. The Terps needed one of them to have a good game to make it easier for Hollenbach to throw.

This season, Ball and Lattimore are the experienced players, in charge of helping out the new quarterback.

"I think we have the balance we want," Friedgen said with confidence.

Changes in Lattimore

Lattimore is back from a bad back.

Lattimore, who combined with Ball to rush for 91.6 percent of Maryland's yardage on the ground, is recovering from a back injury he suffered in the spring.

"He appears to be doing well," Friedgen said. "He's running well. He only was released about four weeks ago and he just passed his conditioning test (Monday). He doesn't seem to have any pain but he hasn't hit anybody yet either."

Leg men

One of the major concerns for Maryland during training camp will be to find replacements for its two kickers - punter Adam Podlesh and placekicker Dan Ennis. Both have graduated and have left a huge void for the Terps.

"That's not an easy task," Friedgen said. "They were two of the best kickers in the country, but we have talent there and much like our quarterback position, we've got to go out and do it."

Podlesh was a two-time All-ACC kicker and a two-time semifinalist for the Ray Guy award. He averaged 43.6 yards per kick. He was trying to catch on as a kicker for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ennis was a walk-on who excelled for the Terps, winning the job after the graduation of Nick Novak. Ennis hit 20 of 25 field goals in his senior year.

Junior Obi Egekeze is in line to replace Ennis. Egekeze has been in the Maryland program for three seasons and has performed the kickoff duties. Other possibilities are Chris Roberts and Travis Baltz, who also double as candidates for the punting position.

Kickoffs pushed back

It used to be the coin flip was a formality. Win the flip and you can choose whether to kick or receive.

Lately, the macho thing to do was to choose to kick off first and put the defense on the field.

It might all be changing.

The NCAA has added five yards to kickoffs, moving back from the 35-yard line to the 30.

The move has coaches, like Friedgen, rethinking how to handle the coin flip.

"The new rule to move back the kickoffs will have an impact on college football," he said. "Teams won't just want to go out there and defer the kickoff. The extra yards will make sure you will have to have good coverage on every kick."

Turtle waxing

What has Friedgen learned in seven years at Maryland?

"Kids change and dealing with kids can always be different. There are always some things I want to try and do differently. We've consistently always had a slow start, so I've looked at myself and tried to think of what we can do differently."

Ball was not at a loss for words when it came to describing Friedgen, who will be starting his second season in the dual capacity of head coach and offensive coordinator.

"He's a genius. He's a teacher of the game. He's an offensive guru." Ball said.

Portis gave a quick inventory of his abilities as a quarterback.

"I'm a passer first, runner second," he said. "Obviously, when things break down, I can make something happen. I consider myself a playmaker. I think all the quarterbacks on our team are playmakers, as well. It's just a matter of them doing it."

Portis is in competition for the starting quarterback job with Jordan Steffy. Steffy has the experience from working in the Maryland system for three seasons, while Portis is still learning the offense after redshirting last season after transferring from Florida.

Friedgen said Maryland has retained 91 percent of its season ticket holders. He said that the home game with West Virginia on Sept. 13 is all but sold out.

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