Dueling QBs

ACC coaches try to minimize hurt when players fight for job

August 29, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

A good quarterback controversy is like a good divorce.

Which is to say, there usually is little good about it at all. But sometimes it's unavoidable.

When the controversy is over, the coaches can only hope the damage to egos and team morale is minimal.

The Atlantic Coast Conference knows all about casualties that can be inflicted when teammates duel at quarterback. Maryland and three of its ACC opponents this season - Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State - went though a prolonged period without naming a starter, and each adopted a unique approach for managing the uncertainty.

"You just try to keep it from becoming a sideshow," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "We've tried to maintain an air of calm and sanity around the process. This has not been as dramatic for us as choosing a vice president."

The toughest part, according to many coaches, is consoling the losers in a way that keeps them energized about the team. There are always plenty of psychic wounds to be healed.

Consider the case of Maryland's Chris Turner, who started eight games last season. When Jordan Steffy was named the starter this year, Turner briefly retreated from public view and contemplated his future. Turner, whose California surfer demeanor belies a competitive streak, ultimately decided to stay in College Park.

Steffy didn't celebrate regaining his old job over Turner, his training camp roommate. It's not that Steffy wasn't pleased, "but in the end, it's a very small victory compared to the victories I hope and plan to have throughout the year," he said.

North Carolina State's situation parallels Maryland's in that the Wolfpack has a quarterback - Daniel Evans - who, like Turner, was the incumbent starter but didn't get this season's job.

Evans ended last season throwing for 1,572 yards and nine touchdowns in his final six games but lost the job in preseason to Russell Wilson, a 5-foot-11 redshirt freshman.

"Certainly, Daniel Evans is very disappointed with the decision," N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said. "As we've said to Daniel, he's still a very important part of this football team."

Also unhappy was Wolfpack quarterback Justin Burke, who announced recently that he's transferring to Louisville. "We're going to miss Justin," O'Brien said. "He's a great kid."

Another quarterback, freshman Mike Glennon, is being redshirted.

O'Brien said Evans will likely get game action, beginning as soon as last night's game at South Carolina. Evans was back on the field after the Wolfpack started slowly and returned when Wilson was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Maryland has not given Turner the same sort of assurance, though Turner hopes and expects to play.

"He was disappointed, and he should have been disappointed," offensive coordinator James Franklin said of Turner's reaction to being second string. "We couldn't guarantee anything for his future. We said, 'Look, you're going to have to come out and play; you're going to have to come out and compete.' And he was fine with it."

At Virginia, Groh began focusing in the offseason on making sure the team would not be fragmented at the prospect of a quarterback race. Senior Scott Deke, redshirt sophomore Marc Verica and sophomore Peter Lalich were competing for the spot.

Last year's starter, Jameel Sewell, has been sidelined by academic issues.

"The quarterbacks have to build their credentials with the players, and that's done really long before practice starts during the offseason program," Groh said. "They build credibility with their work effort and their commitment and how they interact with their teammates so the players can root for all three of them. And as a coach, you can root for any one of the three to win the job."

Virginia hadn't yet named a starter for tomorrow's game against Southern California, one of the biggest games ever at sold-out Scott Stadium.

At Virginia Tech, coach Frank Beamer said the key is to have a plan and stick with it so that none of the quarterback competitors is confused about the selection process.

Beamer recently named redshirt senior Sean Glennon as the starter. Glennon threw for more than 2,000 yards in 2006 but had as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes. He shared the job last season with Tyrod Taylor, who is being redshirted, and threw 12 touchdown passes and five interceptions.

Senior Cory Holt, who has thrown just 19 career passes, will be the backup.

"I do think when you settle on a quarterback, I like to have things going in a direction. You know exactly where you're going and not 'you may do this' and 'you may do that,' " Beamer said.

qb battles

Maryland: Graduate student Jordan Steffy is in, while juniors Chris Turner and Josh Portis are on the sideline for now.

North Carolina State: Russell Wilson, who won the starting job over incumbent Daniel Evans, was knocked out of last night's season opener against South Carolina with a concussion. Meanwhile, Justin Burke transferred to Louisville.

Virginia: Coach Al Groh is keeping everyone waiting on whether senior Scott Deke, redshirt sophomore Marc Verica or sophomore Peter Lalich wins the privilege of facing Southern California tomorrow.

Virginia Tech: Senior Sean Glennon is back as the starter, while dual threat Tyrod Taylor will watch as a redshirt.

Jeff Barker

make or break

Key nonconference games for the ACC:

Tomorrow: Alabama vs. Clemson at the

Georgia Dome; Southern California at Virginia

Sept. 6: Miami at Florida

Sept. 13: California at Maryland;

North Carolina at Rutgers

Sept. 27: Virginia Tech at Nebraska

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