Sunday, April 30, 2006

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen grumbled the last two seasons about his quarterbacks’ tendency to throw interceptions and scuttle the Terrapins’ struggling offense.

His grousing only continued during yesterday’s spring game at Byrd Stadium.

With the Terps’ quarterback situation still up in the air, Sam Hollenbach threw three picks and Jordan Steffy struggled mightily as their Red team dropped a 16-12 decision to the White team before 9,327 fans.

Friedgen anticipates Hollenbach will remain ahead on the depth chart entering camp in August but still fired a warning at the senior, who threw 15 interceptions a season ago as the starter.

“I am getting frustrated. I’m tired of it, to be honest with you,” Friedgen said. “I’m going to look at the tape. They’ve got to stop, or I’m going to make a change.”

The rhetoric is nothing new for Friedgen, who declared less than an hour after last fall’s season finale the quarterback job would be up for grabs and issued scant public praise for both Hollenbach and Steffy for much of the spring.

Hollenbach was 7-for-18 for 50 yards, and the first of his three picks was the product of a poor read. The other two, though, had as much to do with sophomore cornerback Kevin Barnes as it did Hollenbach.

Barnes judged a route based on what he saw from wideout Terrell Skinner, then stepped in front of the pass and returned it 28 yards for the game’s first touchdown with 2:24 left in the third quarter. With just more than four minutes left in the game, Barnes popped Skinner on a sideline route, and the ball caromed into Chima Amadi’s hands.

“I feel pretty confident about my own ability to get the job done,” Hollenbach said. “Whether coach thinks that or not is a different story, but I feel like I’ve made some improvements in some areas that need to get better, and I really feel like there can be a lot more improvement that can be made this summer.”

Steffy, meanwhile, was 3-for-10 in the first three quarters and looked shaky in the first half. However, he completed four of his next five attempts and found Skinner on a 6-yard fade in the end zone before throwing an interception on his final throw. He finished with 54 yards passing.

The game might not be the best evaluating tool for either quarterback. Three of the Terps’ five projected starting linemen — left tackle Stephon Heyer, left guard Donnie Woods and center Edwin Williams — missed the game with injuries, and players swapped teams throughout the game. Still, Friedgen was relatively happy with Hollenbach’s performance.

“I think his decisions for the most part were pretty good,” Friedgen said. “I think they were better than Jordan’s on a whole.”

Both quarterbacks were plagued by shaky play by the young wideouts, a cause of concern throughout the spring. The group collectively dropped several passes and has plenty to work on heading into August.

Judging from yesterday, the youthful unit’s progress could determine just how balanced Maryland’s offense can be in the post-Vernon Davis era — and, in turn, whether the Terps can return to a bowl game after back-to-back 5-6 seasons.

“We have a lot of work to do if we’re going to be the team we want to be,” Friedgen said. “I still think we can be that, but I think this summer is critical for our wide receivers and quarterbacks.”

Note — Friedgen said defensive tackle Robert Armstrong was suspended from yesterday’s game for conduct detrimental to the team. The senior missed all of last season after back surgery but had enjoyed a strong spring. When asked whether Armstrong would return to the team in the fall, Friedgen said, “Maybe. We’ll have to see.”

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