Terps name QB Statham starter

Friedgen makes decision based on preseason whole

College Football

August 27, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - It was not one of Joel Statham's best days yesterday inside Byrd Stadium. It was, perhaps, not even one of his good days.

But Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen made it official anyway, naming Statham as his starting quarterback for the Terps' Sept. 4 opener against Northern Illinois. The move did not come as a surprise. Friedgen had said a week ago Statham, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, was leaps and bounds ahead of his other quarterbacks, and that something dramatic had to occur for someone to overtake him. But Friedgen also said he wanted to wait and see how Statham performed in Maryland's last scrimmage before setting it in stone.

As it turned out, the scrimmage factored little into things. Statham went just three of 10 for 27 yards, but his overall body of work this preseason was good enough to convince Friedgen he deserved the nod. Statham played just three series, but led Maryland's offense to a touchdown drive on his third try, getting into the end zone on a 1-yard run by Mario Merrills.

"I didn't think Joel played very well today," Friedgen said. "But he's so much better at getting them in and out of the huddle, and he put us in the right play all the time. He had a couple long drives, and I think if we had left him in there he would have done better. ... He didn't show me enough [bad things to convince me] he wasn't the guy. Or, no one else showed me they're better than him."

"I just wasn't really ready to go," Statham said. "I talked to Coach [Charlie] Taaffe over there, and he told me I need to be ready by 5:30 for a 6 o'clock game, not 6:45."

In total, Friedgen said he felt yesterday's scrimmage was an improvement from Saturday, when the Terps committed 14 penalties and multiple turnovers. Maryland was without starters Kevin Eli, Reuben Hagler, Jo Jo Walker and Shawne Merriman because of hamstring injuries, and was missing Stephon Heyer and Steve Suter on offense because of knee problems. All but Eli should be ready to play against the Huskies. Eli, who has missed most of preseason camp, won't be ready until at least the Temple game Sept. 11.

"I just talked to the doctor with Kevin and I know he was very disappointed," Friedgen said. "Hopefully, we'll get him back. I'm a little worried about Merriman too, but I think we just need to be smart with him this week."

There are still some loose ends to tie up before Maryland officially begins game preparation. Friedgen said he plans to pick a backup quarterback today after examining the scrimmage performances of Jordan Steffy, Ryan Mitch and Sam Hollenbach on film.

Steffy went 10 of 15 for 135 yards and ran for a touchdown, but he also threw an interception and fumbled a snap. Mitch went nine of 14 for 104 yards and threw two touchdowns, including a 41-yard fade to Drew Weatherly, but it's unclear just how much he hurt his cause this week by skipping two practices when he was contemplating transferring. Hollenbach went five of nine for 64 yards, but threw two interceptions.

"I realized that I'm going to make mistakes, but I'm also going to make plays," Steffy said. "I just have to do what I can to minimize my mistakes, and if I make them, make sure they're not dumb mistakes."

Defensively, Maryland appears to be rounding into form, though the injury to Eli presents a major concern on the defensive line. It's almost certain that a true freshman or a second-year freshman will be one of the Terps' starting defensive ends come the opener. Jack Griffin, Mack Frost, Patrick Powell and Omar Savage are all competing for that spot.

"That's kind of scary right now," Friedgen said.

NOTES: Domonique Foxworth had one of the defense's three interceptions. ... Linebacker Erin Henderson, who began camp at quarterback, made seven tackles yesterday, two behind the line of scrimmage. ... Freshman Kevin Barnes (Old Mill) picked off a pass for the second scrimmage in a row, but Friedgen said he'll still likely sit out the season as a redshirt.

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