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Practice isn't perfect for Terps' Portis

August 16, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - To Josh Portis, practice is a necessary evil.

In fact, it is both necessary and evil at the same time.

That's the world Portis is living in during the University of Maryland's football training camp. He is a player in the competition for the Terrapins' starting quarterback positions with Jordan Steffy and Chris Turner.

By the same token, he is limited to what he can show.

Portis, a cousin to the Washington Redskins' Clinton Portis, transferred from the University of Florida for a chance to be the Terps' quarterback. So practice is something he needs to perfect Maryland's complicated offense.

But Portis' talents include the ability to roll out of the pocket and make things happen. Those are things he rarely gets the chance to show during practice.

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"I'm a different player when we line it up," he said. "In practice, I'm held back and have to throw the ball. In a game situation, I'm not wearing a yellow jersey, so I can do more.

"But practice is practice and games are games. I think if you practice well, you play well."

Those practices have developed into an interesting battle for the top quarterback job, a position coach Ralph Friedgen vowed to fill quickly.

"I feel good about our talent," Friedgen said. "I'm not going to take a long time on making a decision. We just don't have the experience that we would like to have. I feel like once we get that experience, I'll feel pretty good about the quarterback situation."

But Steffy, Portis and Turner have made the final selection complicated for Friedgen.

Steffy is on the top of the depth chart mostly because of his familiarity with Maryland's system. He has worked with it for three years, including two seasons of signaling plays to Sam Hollenbach while getting some limited playing time.

Turner wasn't mentioned at media day, but could be the dark horse in the competition. He hasn't seen any action outside of running quarterback on the Terps' scout team, but has hit a couple of long scoring passes during the preseason.

And then there is Portis, who has the moves, but not the complete knowledge of the Maryland system.

"It's a complex offense," Portis said. "We are doing repetitions over and over again because you have to do a lot of things. You have to know what's out there. I mean, I came for a program like Florida, which was equally complex. I think it's comparable."

The three different styles of quarterback have made the competition intriguing, even for the players.

"I think it's a competition where we have competitive desire," Portis said. "We both have certain competitive skills than will make it more intense. I think we are on equal ground. (Steffy) will probably get more reps at first, but I'll have plenty of opportunities. I expect it to be pretty intense."

Maryland has many of its offensive weapons back from last season's Champs Sports Bowl team. Everyone, that is, but the quarterback.

Getting the right one - be it Steffy, Portis or Turner - may be the key to the season for the Terps.

"Most importantly, I just want this team to win," Portis said. "I don't care if I start, if Jordan starts or if Chris starts. There's nothing more important than winning."

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