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Terps' QB choice on QT

November 01, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Old philosophy states that if it's not broken, don't fix it.

Things have been on the fritz lately for the University of Maryland football team. Now, coach Ralph Friedgen is considering a do-it-yourself fix-it plan.

The Terrapins head into their ninth game at North Carolina at the same place they were in after their fourth game - thinking about a change at starting quarterback. Friedgen is considering going back to Jordan Steffy as the No. 1 signal caller over the emerging Chris Turner.

"I'll pick the quarterback on Saturday," Friedgen said. "A lot will depend on their production in practice and Jordan's health."

Turner took over as the Terps' top quarterback in the second half at Rutgers on Sept. 29. Steffy sustained a concussion near the end of the first half and the sophomore came on to rally Maryland to a 34-24 victory over the then-No. 10 Scarlet Knights.

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Turner stayed in the starting spot the last three games - losing two - in part because Steffy was ruled unable to play. He has been practicing in non-contact drills, but still needs medical clearance to take the field.

"Jordan wants to play, but I haven't had a chance to sit down with him to discuss it," Friedgen said. "The doctor is expected to give him clearance (Wednesday) and I expect he will be ready to play this week."

It opens the door to a change Friedgen considered making during last Saturday's 30-17 loss to Clemson.

"I had thoughts about putting him in in the third quarter (against Clemson), but we talked about it and I decided not to," Friedgen said. "It was a question of who we had playing at the time."

Who has been playing is a big concern for Friedgen as Terrapins players continue to drop like flies. Maryland has a number of injuries other than Steffy - including three of the five starting offensive linemen and five linemen overall - which has made Friedgen hesitant to put his opening-day starter back on the field.

Maryland is working with a makeshift offensive line, with two freshmen pulling duty until the injured parties can return. Friedgen didn't want to put Steffy in harm's way.

Also complicating the situation is the play of Turner. He is 2-2 in his 3 1/2 games at the helm and has helped the Terps find a downfield passing game. Turner has thrown for 722 yards in that span, compared to 674 yards for Steffy in the first 4 1/2 games.

"I expect to start. I'm going to be ready," Turner said. "If I don't, I don't. Coach Friedgen will make the decision. Right now, I plan to be starting if I keep doing what I have been doing. During the films, they tell me I did good things and some bad things. Nobody is saying I'm doing things too bad to be starting."

Friedgen has much to weigh in this decision.

First, the Terps need to win between two and all four of their final games to earn a bowl invitation - the chances of winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title are all but non-existent after last weekend's loss to Clemson.

With Steffy, he has a quarterback who has the reputation to be a little more mobile in the pocket than Turner. That becomes important because of the offensive-line injuries, plus it opens any hope of running an option sequence.

Finally, a change could shake up the Terps' fortunes in a positive way.

"We have got to score on offense. ... Touchdowns and not field goals," Turner said. "Everyone is getting on the defense, but we didn't put them in good situations. We gave (Clemson) the short field and that's tough on the team. We've got to make plays and can't turn the ball over."

Maryland was behind 30-3 when Friedgen toyed with the idea of inserting Steffy into the game in the third quarter. Turner knew there was a possibility he'd trade his helmet for a headset.

"I noticed him warming up, but I wasn't worried," Turner said. "Still, I was coming off the field after we dropped a pass and a drive ended. I was wondering what I had done wrong."

Friedgen didn't pull the trigger and Turner engineered two touchdown drives in the final 11 minutes to tighten the final margin.

But with Steffy practicing and becoming healthy, the temptation exists.

"Jordan has looked ready to me since Georgia Tech," Turner said. "He has looked clear and has thrown well."

It may all come down to what the team doctor says because Friedgen has finally come to grips with allowing Steffy to play again.

"As long he plays, he will have risks if it is now or two years from now," Friedgen said. "He will still be susceptible to concussions."

"I'm not against Coach making a change," Turner said. "If they feel Jordan gives us something that I can't provide, fine. I want to win football games."

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