- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2004

Maryland’s quarterback choice might simply be a matter of preference.

Joel Statham showed impressive accuracy as the Terrapins began spring practice yesterday, Ryan Mitch flashed athleticism and Sam Hollenbach was steady. The expected three-way competition could come down to coach Ralph Friedgen’s instincts rather than the emergence of one player.

Yesterday’s persistent rain didn’t seem to bother the trio as few passes floated freely. Nor did Friedgen’s presence prove intimidating as the coach seldom wandered far from the quarterbacks. Maryland must replace 13 starters, but the spring drills are focused on finding a starting quarterback.

Statham is the front-runner after ending last year as Scott McBrien’s backup. He showed increased poise after the three-month break since Maryland won the Gator Bowl on Jan.1.

“Confidence was maybe something I didn’t have a lot of last year,” Statham said. “My accuracy has improved. I found myself working a lot harder in the offseason.”

Mitch showed zip and versatility with his passes. Last year’s scout team quarterback has impressed Friedgen with his confidence. Friedgen noted that Mitch “jumped out” in practice. Friedgen wants a leader, and the son of former Syracuse quarterback Robert Mitch (1973 to 1975) seems to ooze leadership.

“You can’t be scared,” Mitch said. “What’s the worse thing that can happen — not playing? If I pick up the offense, I think I have the ability to compete for the starting job.”

Hollenbach won’t let the competition become a two-way battle, though. He has the size and arm strength although the least mobility among the threesome. Hollenbach will enter the April24 spring game as the sleeper. The Terps also used three other quarterbacks for the first workout and will add two recruits when fall practice begins Aug.10, but none is expected to play this season.

It was an upbeat practice despite gloomy conditions. That rising seniors moved to midfield to lead opening stretching exercises demonstrated the heavy turnover Maryland must overcome in Friedgen’s fourth season. The right side of the offensive line and the defensive line’s interior are vacant, while two more linebackers and safeties are needed. About the only settled area settled is special teams.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Friedgen said. “I liked their enthusiasm, their knowledge, but there are so many young kids. … This is the youngest team I’ve ever coached.”

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