- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The biggest and most obvious question facing the Maryland football program when it opened spring practice yesterday was who would emerge as the replacement for departed starting quarterback Sam Hollenbach.

Like everyone else, junior cornerback Richard Taylor is eager to find out whether it will be Jordan Steffy or Florida transfer Josh Portis.

“It’s going to be a heated battle,” Taylor said. “I know you guys are hyping it up, and you should be because I think those guys could both start anywhere in the ACC. I would take those guys over anybody.”

The next five weeks could help separate the two players, who are among the six quarterbacks who will work through spring drills. They’re vying to take over for Hollenbach, who threw for 2,371 yards and 15 touchdowns as Maryland went 9-4 last season and won the Champs Sports Bowl.

And while Chris Turner is listed ahead of Portis on the depth chart, the former uber-recruit probably has the best chance to unseat Steffy, the only quarterback on Maryland’s roster who played last year.

“We’ll start off with Jordan because he’s been the backup quarterback and has taken the most reps in our offense, so I would assume he would be ahead at this point in time,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “By no means is that a lock on the situation. The quarterback position is open, and the best guy is going to be the one who plays.”

While Steffy has some experience, it was in a reserve role. He played in six games as a true freshman in 2004, then redshirted the next year. Last season, he played for 14 snaps — all in the season opener — and went 0-for-5 with an interception and a lost fumble.

Yesterday he appeared more collected as he entered his first set of practices as the No. 1 quarterback.

“What I realize is that it’s nothing out of this world that I have to do,” Steffy said. “That was the key realization. Last year, I thought ‘If I get in there, I have to do this and that.’ If I go out and I put us in the right plays, everything else will take care of itself.”

Portis, meanwhile, was a heralded recruit when he arrived at Florida two years ago, but opted to transfer in December 2005, at the end of his first semester. He is probably the most athletic quarterback to arrive at Maryland during Friedgen’s tenure, but that didn’t prevent a case of nerves before yesterday’s first practice.

“I had the butterflies. I was ready to go,” said Portis, a cousin of Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis. “I was looking at myself in the mirror this morning. It’s time, I guess. I’m going to enjoy a great competition.”

It could last a while. Friedgen said he would like to name a starter as soon as possible, but admitted there probably wouldn’t be a definitive No. 1 entrenched when the spring ends.

“If someone’s head and shoulders over everybody else, I’m naturally going to go in that direction,” Friedgen said. “We’ll have to see. I kind of want our guys to focus on getting better. What I don’t want to do is just have a situation unto itself. The main thing is how our team is progressing, and that’s one part of our team.”

Notes — Friedgen said linebacker Barrod Heggs and offensive tackle Jared Gaither were excused from spring practice to focus on academics. Both players missed time last year for violating team rules. …

Linebacker Rick Costa, cornerback Isaiah Gardner and wide receiver Isaiah Williams will all miss the spring after having shoulder surgery. Linebacker Jermaine Lemons, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, is also unavailable at the start of practice. …

Several players have switched positions, with cornerback Nolan Carroll (from wideout) and fullback Steve Pfister (from linebacker) making the most pronounced changes. Christian Varner, last year’s starter at free safety, slides over to strong safety.

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