Terps' defense showing more spring in its step

Offensive units struggle in situational scrimmage

College Football

April 17, 2005|By David Selig | David Selig,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland cornerback Kevin Barnes wasted no time setting the tone for the football team's first full situational scrimmage yesterday.

On the day's first play, in a punt situation, Barnes drilled return man Jo Jo Walker after he failed to catch the ball.

The clapping of helmets and pads continued as the team practiced before about 250 onlookers at Byrd Stadium. The defense also remained stout throughout the scrimmage, proving it is at least one step ahead of the offense at the midpoint of the spring season.

"The defense, they're allowed to do everything right now," Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said. "A lot of teams don't even have people pressuring at this point in time. That's what we do, and they're a little ahead of the offense at this time, which is understandable."

The first and second defensive units were able to prevent lengthy drives with key stops on third downs and toughness at the line of scrimmage.

"This is the most physical defense that I've seen," junior defensive tackle Conrad Bolston said. "We're doing fine physically; we just have to clean some things up. Not everybody knows their [assignments] real well right now, but a lot of kids can play football."

Defensive coordinator Gary Blackney has scolded his players for being out of position several times this spring, but he is pleased that they have a knack for making big plays.

"A lot of our younger guys are feeling a lot more comfortable, and when you're in a comfort zone you play with a little more reckless abandon," he said.

Linebacker Erin Henderson led the team with 11 1/2 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks.

The offense came out with the intention of pounding the ball on the ground, but the backs couldn't break any big runs.

Tailback Mario Merrills and the first-team offensive line led a drive against the second-team defense to the 1-yard line, where quarterback Joel Statham lunged in for the first touchdown.

But before goal-line drills toward the end of practice, the offense only reached the end zone once more, on a 35-yard play-action pass from quarterback Sam Hollenbach to H-back Jason Goode.

Spending most of the time with the first team, Hollenbach was 12-for-19 for 178 yards. Statham was 7-for-15 for 74 yards.

"I don't think [the offense] played to our potential," Hollenbach said. "We had some good moments, but we were too inconsistent."

Friedgen said the quarterbacks are a little behind where he thought they'd be at this point, but he was pleased with the offense's lack of critical mistakes.

"The positive thing offensively: I don't think we had a fumble," he said. "We had one interception and that was just [because] the defense knew the check. We didn't have one delay of game and after the first part we had very few penalties."

Statham was intercepted by linebacker David Holloway, and the defense had eight sacks.

Jordan Steffy, the third member of the quarterback competition, continues to sit out with knee and arm injuries.

"I don't know where he's at yet," Friedgen said about the rising sophomore who was supposed to challenge Hollenbach and Statham for the starting job. The coach said last week that Steffy might miss the remaining seven spring practices.

Friedgen also said that Dan Ennis has pulled ahead of Obi Egekeze at kicker. Ennis was 3-for-5 on field-goal attempts with a long of 42 yards. Egekeze was just 1-for-5.

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