- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Sam Hollenbach’s Maryland teammates already knew the quarterback no longer was tipping off the defense. What left them no doubt the Terrapins’ young passer had matured was his icy stare in the huddle during Saturday’s late game-winning drive against Navy.

“I just saw confidence,” center Ryan McDonald said. “I felt like we were all confident. We knew we were going to get a touchdown. I didn’t see any doubt.”

No one is saying Hollenbach is ready to surpass Boomer Esiason or Jack Scarbath as the Terps’ greatest passer when Clemson (1-0) visits Maryland (1-0) on Saturday. However, he’s no longer the bewildered fourth-stringer of a year ago who glared at intended receivers and was wide-eyed at the pass rush.

Leadership in the huddle starts with a swagger in practice and means becoming a central figure in the locker room, meetings and practically anywhere on the College Park campus. But it’s never more important than late in a game, running a huddle with four first-time starters. When the Terps began their winning drive, they were 82 yards away, but Hollenbach focused his crew and ended by finding receiver Drew Weatherly for an 11-yard touchdown in the 23-20 victory.

“Not one time did I look into his eyes and see doubt,” running back Mario Merrills said. “Sam was loose in the huddle. I think he set into a leadership role.”

It would have been easy for Hollenbach to lose confidence after throwing two interceptions in the first half. Instead, he showed a penchant for forgetting the last snap.

“It’s becoming easier with more reps,” Hollenbach said. “If you have a couple good plays in a row, it’s just as important to forget them and to focus just as hard on the next play as if we just had a bad play.”

Freshmen on track

Coach Ralph Friedgen heaped plenty of praise on a strong freshman corps of receivers during preseason practice, but none caught a pass against Navy as the Terps stayed with experience. Still, Maryland may use speed burners Darrius Heyward-Bey and Isaiah Williams against Clemson.

“When a freshman comes in, very rarely does an upperclassman come to me and say, ‘Where did you get this guy?’ ” Friedgen said. “But whether they’re wide receivers or defensive backs, [the upperclassmen] have come in and told me, ‘This guy’s pretty good.’ ”

Heyward-Bey finished sixth in the nation last year in the 60-meter dash indoors. He backed that up with a 4.38-second 40 over the summer, but he needs to run better routes.

“It’s a tough offense,” Heyward-Bey said. “I knew that coming in, but if I don’t learn the playbook, my speed is nothing. Everybody’s fast. I came here knowing there would be guys as fast as me. You try to give that extra burst.”

Williams, who runs the 40 in 4.46, also has learned technique is more important than sheer speed. His sister, Lia Williams, ran the 100 and 200 at Texas, and two other siblings and his father were college athletes.

“It’s really humbling to know you can’t run by people like you used to and jump up and make a play,” Williams said. “When I saw a guy fly by me, it was like, ‘Wow — these guys are fast as me now.’ ”

Offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe spent the past few weeks teaching receivers that defensive backs like fellow freshman Anthony Wiseman, a track star at nearby DeMatha High School, are just as fast. Now they have to know the playbook.

“These defensive backs break on the ball faster than they do in high school,” Taaffe said. “In high school, [the receivers’] speed may have let them get away with things. This level, everyone is fast. Strength figures into it as well as timing in the routes. It’s very precise, detailed. Most of the kids don’t get that at the high school level. They get by on talent.”

Death Valley North

Clemson has a graveyard close to its stadium where former coach Frank Howard is buried. Now Maryland has eight tombstones outside Byrd Stadium near the practice field entrance denoting the Terps’ eight home victories over top-10 teams since 1950.

The stones, costing nearly $400 each, were purchased privately by the Maryland Gridiron Network, the school’s official booster club. Each includes R.I.P. with the score.

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