The Washington Times - July 15, 2008, 10:02AM

Not surprisingly, Maryland’s quarterback situation was endlessly dissected since the second James Franklin was hired as offensive coordinator in December.

It would have been anyway, but a new voice (and one that had a hand in recruiting Chris Turner, Jordan Steffy and Josh Portis back in 2003-04) does throw the position into flux.

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Franklin is going to have a say in how the quarterback situation plays out. He is the offensive coordinator. And he is the quarterbacks coach.

But as he was quick to remind in an interview late last month, Ralph Friedgen is still the Terrapins‘ coach, so he sort of gets a vote, too.

Franklin’s scheme – a variation of the West Coast offense, though he insists the real priority is just to put his personnel in position to succeed – certainly plays to Steffy’s strengths and hides his weaknesses.

After all, what did Steffy do well last year? He threw short, accurate passes that worked just fine so long as Maryland was “on schedule” in terms of down and distance. If it was 2nd-and-12 or 3rd-and-9, let’s just say that was Travis Baltz’s cue to put on his helmet.

What didn’t Steffy do well last year? Make good decisions when he was stuck in the pocket. His sack total increased faster than the cost of a gallon of gas, and he certainly didn’t look comfortable as the pressure increased. Not that anyone would be in good spirits with a defensive lineman frothing at the mouth speeding toward them, but it is sort of comes with the territory.

So theoretically, if Steffy does play, he’ll be in better position to succeed. And for both Maryland and him, that’s a good thing.

Moving on to Turner, who probably should possess a slight edge entering camp. The most tiresome question asked of Friedgen in the second half of last season – besides “How are the freshmen looking?” – concerned Turner’s practice habits. It was overdone, and really became sort of irrelevant as soon as he engineered victories over Rutgers and Georgia Tech.

The real issue was – and always is – how the guy plays in games. And he did that reasonably well for a guy who spent the second half of the season working without a credible rushing game. With the offensive line stitched back together (with an assist from team doctor Craig Bennett), Turner should be even better this fall.

Then there’s Portis, who remains something of a wild card. It’s an interesting journey from program savior to being viewed with a bit of wariness. Perhaps Portis and Steffy discuss the similar arcs of their careers. Or maybe not.

Either way, Portis’ athleticism was not diminished by his extra year of scout team work. He remains a potentially useful piece, especially if Maryland creates a red zone package for him – or, in a less likely scenario, sticks him in the backfield with either Turner or Steffy.

Portis remains tough to figure. He hasn’t taken a snap in a game since 2005 when he was at Florida, and that’s probably as significant a statistic as anything else. He’ll be in the discussion, but he would probably need to produce a flawless camp to be the starter on Aug. 30.

Jamarr Robinson will again be the fourth quarterback, and he’s the only scholarship quarterback in the program that has a chance to be around for the start of the 2010 season. It might not be long before a lot of folks realize just how significant Robinson could be for the future of the program.

As for a prediction, it’s time to take a page out of former Washington Post beat writer Marc Carig’s playbook. He anticipated Turner, Steffy and Portis would all receive legitimate (i.e. not at the end of blowouts) playing time throughout last season, even when it seemed like Turner was an afterthought. If not for Portis’ suspension, Carig probably would have been right.

It makes even more sense for this year to make such a call. But here’s an addendum to the fearless forecast: Somehow, someway, both Steffy and Turner will start at least two games each this season. It could be because of injury, ineffectiveness or coaching indecision.

If they indeed both get turns, and at the very least it means this: The 2008 Turner-vs.-Steffy question will ultimately be decided on a late-summer or autumn Saturday rather than a sweltering late afternoon on a weekday in the middle of August.

But it’s no guarantee, which means a lot of people will be busy parsing Friedgen’s words on the quarterbacks. Again.

Coming tomorrow: The wide receivers

Patrick Stevens