- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Maryland receiver Latrez Harrison saw quarterback Scott McBrien nod toward him during a goal-line drill. The pass soon followed even though the safeties were cheating after seeing the pattern repeatedly during spring practices. The third season under coach Ralph Friedgen promises to be offense-driven.

It was an easy touchdown on a play sure to be repeated often this fall. As Maryland ends spring workouts today before the Terrapins' annual Red-White scrimmage Saturday at Byrd Stadium, McBrien epitomizes the increasingly confident offense that has further expanded the playbook.

McBrien is running some option plays for the first time. The left-hander is throwing deep on first downs, looking for his second and third options and even appearing sturdier after gaining seven pounds since Maryland's 30-3 Peach Bowl victory over Tennessee. If Maryland is to vie for its first undefeated season since 1953, McBrien must deliver a breakout season.

"It starts with Scott McBrien," Harrison said. "Last year he would struggle in his first season [as a starter], but now he knows so much that it's just throwing and catching the ball. We're so far ahead of last year. Now we're going to crank it up from game one."

McBrien led the No. 13 Terps to an 11-3 record last season after edging Chris Kelley as the starter. Maryland overcame a 1-2 start with seven straight victories, and McBrien finished 12th in the NCAA in passing proficiency with a 141.3 rating. He completed 57 percent with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while passing for 2,497 yards, fifth most in school history. McBrien's reward is returning as the undisputed starter, with Kelley having moved to safety.

"It does mean a lot knowing I'm No. 1 and the guys here respect me," McBrien said. "It's a weird feeling because I've never gone into a situation knowing I'm No. 1. I've always been in competition and I'd almost rather have that, but the guys know who to look to when something's going on."

McBrien was the Peach Bowl's Offensive Player of the Game after completing 11 of 19 for 120 yards, plus two rushing touchdowns. The West Virginia transfer beat his former team on the road and scored seven touchdowns while rushing for 284 yards for the season.

And that was just a prelude. McBrien felt his way through last season, sometimes uncertain over plays that are now so clear. The offense has been further adapted to suit him. There are even backroom talks with coaches over strategy that McBrien wasn't comfortable discussing last year.

"I had no clue last spring," he said. "Now I'm really reacting to what I think will happen instead of jumping back and guessing. It really slows the game down and makes it easier. I still pick up on things I didn't even know last year. Just simple plays, basic reads. Last year I didn't know who to read, but now I get little tips."

Friedgen spotted the increased maturity during spring drills and is expanding the playbook this season after two years of having first-year starting passers. The two are now able to better discuss execution problems after a season together. When the former DeMatha High School star struggled with some new plays last week, the two met before practice Monday to discuss fundamentals.

"Scott's much more confident, much more relaxed," Friedgen said. "I had a long talk with him, and in the past he would have been a little more uptight. He would actually give me his thoughts on why he would do things and why he didn't understand it. I don't think last year he felt he could have that kind of relationship. He feels more comfortable with me."

McBrien sometimes hesitated during spring drills against a defense he knew could anticipate an oft-used play. Friedgen told McBrien to trust him and still run the play.

"If there's something you don't understand or like, we'll adjust," Friedgen told McBrien. "You have to throw it. Let me adjust. Don't get away from throwing the route. I told him I have high expectations for him. I'm pushing him a little bit right now. He has so much going on, he's forgetting some of the basics like knowing where the free safety's at."

Notes Returner Steve Suter (knee), running back Josh Allen (groin), defensive tackle Justin Duffie (ankle), cornerback Gerrick McPhearson (shoulder) and offensive tackle Mike Steele (knee) are doubtful for the scrimmage. Receiver Rich Parson is possible. … Friedgen said the first- and second-team offenses will meet the first- and second-team defenses, respectively, with no set possession time. Gates open at 3 p.m. with admission free.



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