Henderson, Gronkowski are OK with moving on

Ex-quarterbacks both agree to switch positions

Maryland notebook

College Football

August 17, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Erin Henderson and Dan Gronkowski both dreamed of one day running out onto the field as the starting quarterback for the University of Maryland.

This week, both came to the realization that it probably wasn't going to happen.

Henderson, The Sun's 2003 All-Metro co-Offensive Player of the Year, apparently went to Maryland offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe on Sunday night and told him he was ready to switch positions. His older brother, E.J., was an All-American middle linebacker for the Terps in 2001 and 2002, and is currently starting for the Minnesota Vikings.

Erin Henderson led Aberdeen to a state title in 2003, throwing for 1,580 yards and 20 touchdowns, and said in November a major reason he chose Maryland over Virginia was that the Terps promised him a chance to play quarterback. Henderson played quarterback for the first week of practice, and even earned several compliments from coach Ralph Friedgen. But yesterday he apparently informed Friedgen he was ready to become a linebacker. He'll start out trying to earn playing time at the Terps "WILL" linebacker spot, which lines up opposite the tight end.

"He wants to play this year, and this gives him a better opportunity to do that," Friedgen said. "It gives him an opportunity to get in on our special teams and play in our defense. ... He did some good things from what I saw today. I don't think he even knew what he was doing, but I saw him make some plays."

Gronkowski, who played quarterback at Williamsville (N.Y.) North High School, signed with the Terps in 2003, but deferred his scholarship to 2004 and didn't join the team until the last week of the season, when Maryland was practicing for the Gator Bowl. He spent most of the spring practices as the fourth-string quarterback, but Sunday, the coaching staff convinced him his size (6 feet 6, 250 pounds) was ideal for the tight end position.

"I definitely like quarterback better," Gronkowski said. "But it's a lot of work [especially] if you don't play. I'm just trying to get on the field."

Passing game struggles

The offense had its second consecutive lackluster day of practice yesterday, according to Friedgen. The running game is coming along fine, but the Terps passing attack continues to struggle.

"It's a combination of a lot of things," Friedgen said. "We're not protecting very well. We're not throwing very well. We're not catching the ball very well. We've got to get better, and I'm sure we will. ... Right now I'm thinking about cutting back on the installation and trying to solidify what we've got."

Friedgen said Joel Statham is the only quarterback performing with any consistency right now, but that both Ryan Mitch and Jordan Steffy are pushing Sam Hollenbach for the No. 2 spot.

"They're pushing him hard," Friedgen said.

Et cetera

Chris Kelley didn't practice yesterday after suffering a concussion in Sunday's brief goal-line scrimmage. ... Maryland continues to struggle with hamstring injuries. ... McDonogh wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and DeMatha defensive back Anthony Wiseman gave Maryland oral commitments this week. Both are ranked in the top 15 in the country at their positions.

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