Terps' young QB becoming Big Man on Campus

October 17, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Initially, the University of Maryland football team gives the impression that Chris Turner is all it has at quarterback.

But as time goes by, there is a sense that the sophomore quarterback is all the Terps need.

Turner, the third-stringer thrust into the starting roll after academic and injury casualties, will start again for the Terrapins on Saturday night when they host Virginia on Homecoming in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen confirmed Turner will be the starter, but made it sound like he didn't have any other choice since original starter Jordan Steffy is unavailable. Steffy sustained a concussion three weeks ago against Rutgers.

"Steffy is improving," Friedgen said at Tuesday's media conference. "He doesn't have clearance, so he's out."

OK, so there were no horns blaring in coronation of Turner becoming the starter. It ended up being more of a process of elimination. Still, the more Friedgen talked, the more it sounded like Turner could be starting for the long haul, barring anything drastic.


Not that that was confirmed by Friedgen, either.

"I don't think I can answer that until I see how Jordan is when he comes back," said Friedgen when asked if Turner would be the starter if Steffy was available. "Obviously, the longer Jordan is out, the more he will have to get the rust off and everything else."

It becomes the best of situations for Turner, and maybe the Terps.

Turner has provided a dramatic improvement in Maryland's passing attack since moving under center. He has thrown for 404 yards in his last six quarters - Steffy only has 674 passing yards over 4 1/2 games.

In the process, Turner rallied the Terps to a come-from-behind win over Rutgers before a victory over Georgia Tech on Oct. 3.

The Turner Project was put in the shop during last week's bye in an effort to work the kinks out and make him more comfortable as a starter.

"The bye week was a big benefit," Turner said. "It was a chance to get back to the basics and correct mistakes. I'm getting more reps (in practice) now and I'm getting more comfortable. It's been a good experience."

Friedgen had been worried about Turner, who seemed to have a problem showing improvement in practice. But in games, Turner has shown a cool head and the ability to improvise to find open receivers - even if he doesn't always follow the playbook.

"I think he's practicing better," Friedgen said. "He is practicing with the first team. I would rather have guys like him where they play better during games than in practice, but I think Chris is a guy who just kind of stays on an even keel. He doesn't get too high and he doesn't get too low.

"We should be very appreciative of how he has played and how he's handled the situation. It's one thing to come in and play one game and then to start another and have a big turnover. Yet he hung in there and was able to win the football game."

Turner will be tested this week by Virginia's defense, which has 22 sacks. There won't be a lot of blitzing pressure, but the Cavaliers excel at the standard 1-on-1 pass rush.

"He is progressing," Friedgen said. "Last week, he had a couple of sinking spells, but it's not all his problem. We still need a couple of people to raise their game to help him out. He could be a very good quarterback."

A win over Virginia might be all Turner needs to prove it.

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