Friedgen says Mitch considering quitting

Redshirt freshman misses mandatory QB meeting, then skips Terps' practice

College Football

August 24, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Redshirt freshman Ryan Mitch - one of the contenders for Maryland's backup quarterback job - skipped practice yesterday and is contemplating quitting the team, Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said last night.

Mitch missed a mandatory quarterbacks meeting Sunday night and didn't call to explain his absence. When he didn't show up for Maryland's morning session of practice, Friedgen said that if Mitch didn't show up for the evening session, he would assume the quarterback had quit.

Mitch returned and met with Friedgen for about 45 minutes before practice, and informed the coach he was thinking about quitting or transferring.

"I was kind of surprised by it all," Friedgen said, adding that Mitch was still competing for the No. 2 spot and that no decision had been made. "I think the world of Ryan and I want to see him do well. I think he's going through some growing pains right now, but I thought he was having a good camp. I've been fairly high on the boy."

Friedgen also met with Mitch's mother, Janet Mitch, for more than an hour last night and described the meeting as "candid and amicable."

"I think as the evening went on, she felt better about things and that we weren't against Ryan," Friedgen said. "She loves her son very much. I go through this quite a lot. Ryan is going to sit down and decide whether or not he wants to come back. It's fine if he wants to. The door is open."

Mitch apparently also met with offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe to talk about his decision. A message left at Mitch's parents' home in McLean, Va., was not returned.

Mitch, a three-year starter at DeMatha High School, seemed to be having a good preseason. Several times, Friedgen went out of his way to mention to the media how much Mitch had improved from the spring. In Saturday's scrimmage, Mitch missed a blitz and got sacked for a safety on his first series, but his second time on the field, he led the second-team offense on a scoring drive against the second-team defense. His third series, he threw an 18-yard touchdown to Paschal Abiamiri and seemed upbeat speaking to reporters.

"The third time I was in when I threw the touchdown, that definitely boosted my confidence," Mitch said. "Overall, I started pretty slow, but I came on a little at the end. Hopefully the coaches saw I had a halfway decent day."

Friedgen had said before the scrimmage that Mitch, freshman Jordan Steffy and sophomore Sam Hollenbach were all well behind quarterback Joel Statham on the depth chart, but that the trio was "2a, b and c."

Mitch signed autographs during Maryland's fan appreciation day and then practiced with the team in Byrd Stadium, trading off series with Steffy and Hollenbach. That night, however, he didn't show up for meetings and did not tell any of the coaches that he would be absent.

At DeMatha, Mitch was a three-year starter and the only sophomore quarterback in 21 years to start for head coach Bill McGregor. Mitch is the school's all-time winningest quarterback (29-4), and as a senior in 2002, he completed 60 percent of his passes and threw for 1,377 yards and 11 touchdowns.

If Mitch does leave, it virtually assures that Steffy will win the backup quarterback job. Friedgen said there has been no decision yet, but has been impressed with how quickly Steffy has picked things up.

NOTES: Friedgen said freshman Keon Lattimore, who dislocated his shoulder Friday, wants to try to rehab the injury without surgery. Lattimore, who had a good chance to be Maryland's third running back before the injury, might be able to return in a month. Friedgen said Lattimore will talk with his family before making a decision. ... Reuben Haigler, who injured his hamstring in Saturday's scrimmage, might be able to practice in the next few days. Friedgen said the injury turned out to be less severe than it originally looked.

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