- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said choosing a quarterback is the “first thing” he needs to do for the Terrapins during practice. But his decision could take longer than any other to reach.

“We have a lot of candidates,” Friedgen said yesterday, “but we don’t have ‘a guy.’”

The Terps opened camp yesterday after a thunderstorm delayed practice 45 minutes. Quarterback Joel Statham’s accuracy appeared sharp and Sam Hollenbach looked comfortable. Freshman Jordan Steffy flashed the strongest arm among Terps passers in years.

Friedgen probably won’t decide on his starter for the Northern Illinois opener Sept.4 until the third squad scrimmage Aug.26. Even then, it might take a few games before the decision is confirmed. The front-runners are two sophomores and a freshman, so Friedgen expects a long learning curve.

“They’ll develop,” he said. “Think I wave a magic wand and make this stuff happen? It takes time.”

Statham is the early front-runner over Hollenbach after playing sparingly behind Scott McBrien last season. Friedgen was ready to anoint Statham as the starter until his erratic performance in the spring game re-opened the competition.

At times, Statham’s accuracy and confidence showed progress during the spring. However, his inexperience also caused bad passes that irked the coach. Friedgen will watch closely to see whether Statham has matured.

“I have been pleased with Joel for the most part, other than the first half of the spring game,” Friedgen said. “His decision-making has been excellent. What we have to do better is finish the play. We’ve got to throw the ball more accurately. That’s the biggest part that [predecessors] Shaun [King] and Scott [McBrien] had trouble with. I think Joel is ahead of both of them at this point going into the fall. I’ll expect him to be much improved from where he was in the spring.”

Statham spent the summer in the weight room as well as extending his deep routes. He appeared more comfortable as a leader, too.

“I should be ready for what’s to come,” Statham said. “My timing’s better. The deep ball’s better. I’m a little stronger.”

But Statham could be a better player in practice than in games, and that worries Friedgen. Statham blamed nerves for his poor start in the spring game before he returned in the second half to throw two touchdowns.

“I wasn’t as focused as much as I needed to be,” he said. “I was worried about other things and tried to make the play myself.”

If Statham falters, Friedgen might opt for a longer-term approach with Steffy. The highly touted newcomer from Lancaster, Pa., started as a freshman in high school while leading his team to a district championship. He’s not intimidated by the move to college football.

“I’m very confident,” Steffy said. “Going in with the mindset that I’m going to be the starter is not the right thing to do, but I am going into every meeting and learn as much as I can. If I’m the starter, I’m the starter. If I’m the backup, I’m the backup. … I could envision myself playing.”

Steffy has studied the Terps’ playbook since committing in February, and Friedgen has been impressed by his classroom knowledge. However, rival Statham knows just how long it takes to understand the system.

“I don’t think you can ever truly learn it,” he said, “but the part I’ve learned now has taken two years.”

Notes — Nose tackle Justin Duffie’s return is uncertain although he was cleared by doctors. Duffie recently underwent surgery for problems related to Crohn’s disease that forced him to miss last season. … The team’s youth has prompted Friedgen to increase his scrimmages from one to three. The team will work on goal line plays Sunday, situational plays Aug.21 and stage a full scrimmage Aug.26. … Maryland will practice 18 straight days with twice-daily workouts beginning Monday. Fan Day is Aug.22.

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