- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

GREENSBORO, N.C. | Ralph Friedgen has helped many players in the Maryland football program secure internships in the past decade.

This summer, the coach helped quarterback Chris Turner land a gig in House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office. And oddly enough, it turned out there was a connection between the halls of Congress and Saturdays at Byrd Stadium.

“He answers phones, and all he does is get complaints,” Friedgen said Monday at the ACC’s preseason media event. “I said, ‘It’s a lot like what I get when you don’t play good.’ ”

Friedgen, though, is optimistic his senior quarterback won’t lead him to many off-the-hook days around the office.

Turner is, after all, a third-year starter for a youthful offense. More revealingly, it is the first time he will enter the season as a sure thing under center.

The Californian was an unknown commodity in 2007 when Jordan Steffy suffered a concussion in the season’s fifth game. Turner helped hold things together, playing well against Rutgers and Boston College to lead the injury-riddled Terps to the Emerald Bowl.

Steffy wrested the job back last year as a fifth-year senior, besting Turner and Josh Portis during a camp battle. Steffy suffered a fractured thumb in the opener, and Turner eventually emerged as the full-fledged starter as Maryland capped an 8-5 season with a Humanitarian Bowl victory.

Steffy since graduated, and Portis transferred to Division II California (Pa.). That leaves Turner, sophomore Jamarr Robinson and true freshmen C.J. Brown and Danny O’Brien.

“It felt different at first,” Turner said. “OK, maybe I’m not competing with Jordan and Josh or this guy or that guy. At the same time, it’s still a competition and I’m still competing with Jamarr and C.J. and Danny.”

Still, camp won’t be quite the same without at least a nominal battle for the starting gig. There is little question Turner, barring injury, will be under center for the season opener Sept. 5 at California.

It doesn’t just affect the offense but rather the entire roster. The Terps have only 12 scholarship seniors, so an offensive line featuring three new starters and a receiving corps that lost its top three targets from a year ago aren’t the only units helped if Turner provides a steady presence.

“I think it’s big because there’s no uncertainty,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “We know Chris is the guy. He can get the job done, and we can go as far as he goes.”

Turner demonstrated substantial improvement last season, cutting down on errors while continuing to flash the ability to play his best against ranked teams.

Turner’s performance is clearly crucial to the Terps, who were picked to finish fifth in the six-team Atlantic Division in a media vote released Monday. Yet only once in the past five years has Friedgen employed a wire-to-wire starter (Sam Hollenbach in 2006), one of the vagaries at quarterback that could disrupt Friedgen’s prescribed role for Turner as a “stabilizer.”

“I think there is a certain comfort level because we know how Chris has performed in big games,” Friedgen said. “I think there’s a confidence factor with our team, but I’ve also been impressed with the improvement of Jamarr Robinson and I’m anxious to see what he does in the game. Regardless of how Chris does, I think we need to find that out also.”

Still, Turner remains entrenched as the starter. After the past couple of seasons, Turner is probably not a likely candidate to take his position for granted. Indeed, he said he viewed it as his responsibility to compete hard during camp, even though the job would seem to be his.

“There’s that comfortable feeling, but there’s a fine line between too comfortable and being kind of complacent,” Turner said. “I don’t want to be too comfortable. I don’t want to fall into that.”

Notes - Sophomore nose tackle Dion Armstrong’s academic eligibility is still uncertain. Armstrong, who sat out spring to focus on his schoolwork, still has a class to pass in the school’s second summer session. Friedgen is hopeful but unsure whether Armstrong’s status will be known before camp starts. …

Friedgen said Lorne Goree and David Mackall, who both signed in February, will attend prep school. Safety Dominique Herald transferred to Delaware State, and offensive lineman Bearthur Johnson flunked out, leaving the Terps at 82 scholarships. Friedgen said he would not award scholarships to walk-ons until the end of camp. …

A sign of the budget crunch facing all schools, including Maryland: The Terps will bus to Duke for their Oct. 24 game. Typically, the Terps take a charter flight for a game in North Carolina.

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