- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2005

Sam Hollenbach only needs one look these days, even if it’s out of the corner of an eye. As a result, perhaps a Maryland offense that often seemed lost last season will rediscover the end zone.

Since he capped last season with a 14-13 victory over Wake Forest in his only career start, the Terrapins quarterback has grown from a one-time fourth-stringer who nearly quit the team into a steely eyed passer who no longer stares down his intended targets.

“A lot of times you look right at your [intended receiver],” Hollenbach said. “It’s hard not to do that. But you need to see the whole defense and see the read out of the corner of your eye, and then at the last couple steps of the drop make the turn and throw.

“Looking back at some of the film, I was looking right at my read, and the defense went right to the ball.”

If quarterbacking last year sank the Terps, who open against Navy on Sept. 3, it must lift them this season because of the inexperience rampant on the offensive line and at running back. Hollenbach not only must avoid losing games with the turnovers that plagued predecessor Joel Statham, but he must win them with touchdowns.

Ideally, the Terps want to return to a power offense bent on running past opponents. Coach Ralph Friedgen redesigned the once-unstoppable offense, which traces its roots to a 1930s scheme used by Sammy Baugh on the Texas plains, because of the many mistakes made by the young passers last season.

However, Hollenbach may be forced to throw more than planned because of a battered offensive line, which already lost left tackle Stephon Heyer to a season-ending knee injury.

Which means the job requirements have gone from don’t blow it to go win it.

“It’s been a 180-degree turnaround,” Hollenbach said of the past nine months.

Amid a flurry of injuries that have left Friedgen somewhat dejected, Hollenbach’s improvement has been one sign the Terps still can post a winning season. One of his recent workouts was rated the best by a Terps passer in two years.

“I told Sam I think that’s the most accurate we’ve had someone throw the ball since Scott McBrien’s last game [in 2003],” Friedgen said. “He threw some ropes, some long throws, a hot in the seam to JoJo [Walker] that went 70 yards for a touchdown.

“The thing I’m excited about is our quarterbacks are starting to see [the defensive coverage]. Things we tried to do last year we couldn’t do [that] we’re doing this year. They’re grasping it. The ball is going to the right guy and going at the right time. That’s pretty gratifying.”

Now Hollenbach is playing mind games with defensive linemen, trying to bait them into jumping offside with varied snap counts.

“It was something neither Joel nor I would do [last year],” said Hollenbach, an engineering student who wants to design cars. “We can play a little game with the defense at the line. It takes a little discipline for us. Guys want to get into the rhythm of the snap count, but once we stay disciplined with it, it will give us an advantage.”

Said Friedgen: “He’s doing a lot of things that are intangibles that help us win. Snap count, holds the line back with his count, mixes the count, uses different kinds of cadence, looking off people. Things that you wouldn’t try to clutter a new quarterback with he seems to be grasping. I’m encouraged there. He’s running better than he ever has. He’s faster than when he came here.”

Practice films no longer prompt profanity from coaches. Hollenbach is finally seeing what coverage the free safety is in — the key to reading a defense.

“There comes a time where we ask him to read the free safety when the ball’s snapped,” Friedgen said. “He has all these routes in his mind and people flying around, and [the free safety is] the last one they look at. I try to tell him, ‘If I was going to give you the answer to the test, that’s the answer.’ They refuse to look at the answer.

“Until you get them to do that, they have so many other things in their mind they forget the basic things.”

Hollenbach hasn’t forgotten those afternoons of confusion. They just seem long ago.

“I feel confidence,” he said. “I feel the offense can move the ball when we need to. The mistakes we’ve made are very fixable.”

Notes — Friedgen may cancel the two coming scrimmages because of extensive injuries. Guard Garrick Clig sprained his left knee during practice yesterday to deplete the offensive line further.

“It’s almost freaky the way things are happening,” Friedgen said. “[Scrimmages] are right on the border. We don’t have enough guys.” …

The Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia home games and the game against Navy at M&T; Bank Stadium in Baltimore are sold out. Tickets remain for Boston College and Clemson.

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