- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

Josh Portis’ spring semester has been one of adjustments.

Sure, there’s the matter of the former Florida quarterback learning a new offense in his first few months at Maryland and preparing for tomorrow’s spring game at Byrd Stadium. And the sophomore also knows he will sit out next season because of NCAA transfer rules rather than compete for playing time.

The off-field changes, though, are just as noticeable, and it doesn’t stop at the change in climate. Classes are harder, and coach Ralph Friedgen wryly noted yesterday Portis has “run a few times” for going afoul of team rules he was oblivious to upon his arrival at Maryland.

“There’s a lot of things that are very different, but I find in my mind that I have to accept it,” said Portis, a cousin of Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis. “I’m not used to it. When I first got here, I was missing study hall because no one was telling me anything. I had to learn on my own. There would be days where I would miss breakfast and I’d say ‘We had to go to breakfast?”

Friedgen will be more than happy if making sure Portis eats three squares a day is biggest concern about his new quarterback. For now, he’ll take steady progress from a pupil who is already wowing teammates with his athleticism and ability to turn likely losses into big plays.

Portis, though, is not yet in command of the Terrapins’ offense. After spending nearly all his life in the shotgun, Portis is learning the nuances of throwing on time and taking the proper steps back after the snap. There’s also more for him to analyze in Maryland’s full-field progressions, a difference from the half-field looks to which he is accustomed.

With a full year to soak in the Terps’ schemes, there is plenty of time for Portis to adapt.

“I just approach this as a year to learn the offense and get better,” Portis said. “I think it’s a year for me to be ready for next year. Most people think of that as a negative — [not] just coming in and playing. I think of it as a positive, because next year when you get a chance to play you’ll have learned more.”

Added senior quarterback Sam Hollenbach: “Right now his head is spinning with our offense. He goes in there and if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he still tries to make a play. He runs the ball, finds a seam. I think he’s going to be a great player.”

So does Maryland’s coaching staff, which recruited Portis hard out of high school. The Terps didn’t win that battle, but quickly emerged as a likely destination when the California native grew disenchanted with Florida after backing up Chris Leak last fall.

Portis is hardly a finished product, though he will probably dazzle fans tomorrow while with moves few players are capable of producing when he splits second-team snaps with Bobby Sheahin and Chris Turner.

“He does some things the good Lord gave him,” Friedgen said. “He can make guys miss and I think we can work on that other stuff. We can get that corrected. It may take a lot of time, but I’ll take a lot of guys like that.”

And that’s a scary possibility for a player already capable of taking off out of the pocket and capitalizing on his impressive speed. Portis is a defensive back’s nightmare with his strong arm and ability to make players miss in the open field, and a mastery of Friedgen’s offense will only make him more dangerous when he competes for the starting job in 2007.

“When we’re covering for seven seconds and he’s back there running around with the ball, that’s hard,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “That’s what he brings to the table. He can run — he runs a 4.4 — so when he gets out there, you might have some trouble catching him. He’s going to be an incredible player and he’s a heck of an athlete. Hopefully, he turns out to be our Vince Young.”

Notes — Friedgen said he might shift running backs coach John Donovan to quarterbacks if he cannot find a quarterbacks coach to his liking. The position has been open since offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe resigned in February. … Friedgen said he intends to play both Wilson (sprained knee) and tailback Josh Allen (rehabbing from reconstructive knee surgery), but still plans to limit Allen’s carries. … Friedgen bemoaned the inconsistency of kickers Obi Egekeze and Dan Ennis. “I’m getting a little concerned about that position,” Friedgen said. “It’s so erratic. No one’s taking charge, and the door is wide open.”

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