Two QBs better than one?

Different strengths lead Friedgen to ponder multi-headed system

Football

August 14, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen has shown in recent months that he isn't as intractable as some believe. Friedgen brought in a new offensive coordinator, James Franklin, named him assistant head coach and let him overhaul the offense.

Now, entering his eighth season at Maryland, Friedgen seems willing to alter his philosophy when it comes to his quarterbacks.

With incumbent Chris Turner unable to separate himself from either Jordan Steffy or Josh Portis, Friedgen said earlier this week that he might consider using a two- - or even three- - quarterback system this season.

"I hope they're all capable of winning," Friedgen said after practice Monday. "I think they all have strengths, I think there's things that we can try to play to each of their strengths. I don't normally like to do that, but I can see us doing that."

That Turner and Portis are so different - Turner is the prototype pocket passer and Portis is more a hybrid, with the big-play potential coming as much with his legs as with his arm - could make the Terps more difficult to defend.

"Switching up quarterbacks isn't bad. It gives a different dimension," said Portis, who was used mostly to run the ball during his freshman year at Florida by Urban Meyer while playing behind Chris Leak. "It kind of puts a lot of pressure on defenses."

Some clarity could come tonight, when the Terps hold a mock scrimmage and each quarterback is given a chance to work with the first-team offense. According to Friedgen, a final decision could be reached by tomorrow or after Saturday's second full scrimmage at Byrd Stadium.

It might come down to a simple fact.

"Obviously, I'm looking for consistency and guys who can make plays on a consistent basis," Friedgen said yesterday. "If I can get one guy to stand out with that, I think that would make my decision."

Part of Friedgen's dilemma is Turner's inconsistency, as well as the way Portis has steadily improved during preseason camp. After coming in when Steffy sustained a concussion against Rutgers in the fifth game last season, Turner started the last eight games with mixed results.

"Everyone has on-days and off-days," said Turner, who threw seven touchdowns and had seven interceptions while completing 63.5 percent of his passes. "I guess putting together a number of on-days in a row, no one has done that at this point."

Friedgen is not going to get giddy about a few good practices and some highlight reel plays Portis made in last Saturday's scrimmage.

"It's a work in progress," Friedgen said of Portis, who sat out last season because of an honor code violation after sitting out the previous year in accordance with NCAA rules regarding transfers. "I still see him improving. He's a lot more improved than what he was in the spring. I think he's coming on."

Two plays Portis made in last week's scrimmage showed why Friedgen is both excited about the possibilities and nervous about the pitfalls.

Though Portis was impressive on several throws - including a 41-yard touchdown to Quinton McCree - he also showed indecision on a play that led to his roommate, cornerback Nolan Carroll, stepping in front of a receiver and picking off a pass for a touchdown.

"Knowing your assignments is what Coach Friedgen [counts] even more than talent," Portis said.

With a little more than two weeks before the Terps open the season against Delaware, Friedgen is keeping an open mind for the possibility of any one of his quarterbacks to step forward and claim the starting job.

And if no one really does that?

"Then I've got troubles," Friedgen said.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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