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Door appears wide open for Terps QB Turner

October 03, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen may have started a controversy by trying to stop one.

The question was about the status of Maryland starting quarterback Jordan Steffy, who left last Saturday's game at Rutgers with a concussion just before halftime.

The answer had more wiggle room than Jell-O on a cruise ship at sea.

"Jordan is improving. He's questionable for this week," Friedgen said Tuesday during his weekly media conference. "He was at practice (Monday) but didn't participate, but I'm hoping he'll be ready to play on Saturday. He is day-to-day. There is no time frame. It is a daily thing. We are waiting for whenever the doctor says he can play."

It wasn't what Friedgen said. It was how he said it.

The term "day-to-day" left the door wide open for backup quarterback Chris Turner to make his first start Saturday when the Terps host Georgia Tech.

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Friedgen stopped short of saying so - a standard coaching cloak-and-dagger practice to keep his cards close to his vest and away from Georgia Tech. A story by The Associated Press anointed Turner as this week's starter.

Turner ignited Maryland's offense, rallying it with big plays to help the Terps to a 34-24 victory over then-No. 10 Rutgers. The sophomore hit on 14 of 20 passes for 149 yards and engineered four second-half scoring drives to help the Terps erase a 17-14 halftime deficit.

"Chris is kind of a loose guy. He doesn't get too excited, doesn't get too nervous," Friedgen said.

Although Turner, who was named co-Atlantic Coast Conference offensive back of the week, had success by coming in in relief of Steffy, it doesn't mean he will automatically enjoy the same glory as a starter.

"It's a little bit different starting than coming in. It's how you handle that situation," Friedgen said. "But I think the kids have a lot of confidence in Chris, and I do, too. He played extremely well last week and I'm hoping he can do that this week."

That's about as close as Friedgen came to saying Turner will start. If he does start, it will complete an improbable rise up the depth chart.

Turner, who is the son of John Turner, the original drummer for the band Ratt, started the season on third string but was considered a dark horse for the starting job behind Steffy and Josh Portis. He showed some flashes in preseason drills to impress Friedgen.

Steffy won the starting job, mainly because of his familiarity with the Maryland offense, and Portis was the backup until he was ruled academically ineligible for cheating on a quiz before the opener with Villanova.

Turner was suddenly No. 2 and received playing time against Villanova, once to spell Steffy, who was shaken up in the first half, and later in mopup duty.

And then, with one hit of Steffy, Turner is suddenly looking like the next starter for the Terps.

Part of the concern for Friedgen is that he never knows if Turner is actually ready to be a full-time quarterback.

"He plays better in games than he does in practice," Friedgen said. "Sometimes I think in practices he doesn't get as focused as he is in a game. (But) I see him developing. I think Saturday should do a lot for him from a confidence standpoint."

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