Portis speeds up Terps' QB debate

College football

August 29, 2007|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

College Park -- At Maryland's most recent scrimmage, backup quarterback Josh Portis missed a call -the same play coach Ralph Friedgen called again at a recent practice to see whether Portis had learned it.

"I said, `I bet you an ice cream at dinner tonight that you don't get it right,'" Friedgen told Portis.

"He turned to me and said, `I'm gonna get 'em all right.'"

Portis executed that play - and apparently enough others - this summer to convince Friedgen he has learned the offense, and when the time is right, Friedgen said he won't hesitate to play him.

He just didn't say when or how.

"I think [Jordan Steffy is] the clear leader, but we will play probably Josh Portis also," Friedgen said. "We'll let the game situation dictate it, but I would like to get him in because I think he has some special talents that can help us as a football team. ... I just can't tell you when that exact time is going to be. Just like with Jordan, I want him to go in there and be successful, also.

"I've already talked to Jordan about this, told him he really doesn't need to be threatened by it."

Steffy was named the Terps' starting quarterback Friday, but fans have been clamoring to see Portis, who transferred from Florida after the 2005 season and sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. Portis set the Terps' record for quarterbacks in the 40-yard dash last year with a time of 4.53 seconds, and his combination of speed and athleticism has been a rarity for recent Maryland quarterbacks.

The hype surrounding him was tempered, though, by Friedgen, who has said Portis' timing, technique and footwork were still off.

Yesterday, though, Friedgen said, "I think Josh has some real talents that really I can't even coach. He can make a lot of plays on his own, and I see him growing, I see him getting better. I'm hard on him, but he takes it pretty good."

Portis said he has made fewer mistakes in recent weeks. "I'm getting real comfortable," he said. "I feel like I can do a lot to help this team. And when Jordan was named the starter, I'm still acting the same. Nothing changed.

"I feel that when you get an opportunity, you get an opportunity. That's all that matters."

Steffy pointed out that Virginia Tech and Ohio State, among others, have successfully played two quarterbacks in one season.

"It's happened other places," Steffy said. "I worry about things that I can control. That's going out there and making the right reads and things like that. Things that I can't control I try not to focus on."

Steffy said Portis brings an element of speed that Steffy can't match.

"Josh is very fast," he said. "I think there's no question he has a lot of speed. That could add a different dimension to the game. To be honest with you, I'm worried about me going out there and executing and helping this team win. At this point, that's where my focus is at."

Notes -- Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) returned to practice yesterday, along with linebackers Dave Philistin (hamstring) and Chase Bullock (ankle), who were both out for part of last week. ... Maryland has sold 18 suites and is ahead of schedule for the target of 50 sales to help fund the expansion of Byrd Stadium, athletic director Debbie Yow said yesterday.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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