Backup QBs Drawing Attention

With returning starter Sam Hollenbach and junior Jordan Steffy sturdily positioned on Maryland's depth chart as the Nos. 1 and 2 quarterbacks, respectively, the grappling for starting jobs will take place at other spots. There is, however, a pair of blue-chip quarterback recruits who are planting seeds for fierce competition in the coming years.

Though Friedgen’s first priorities, quite obviously, are the signal callers who could play this season, he’s also been paying close attention to true freshman Jeremy Ricker and sophomore University of Florida transfer Josh Portis in their first week of fall camp.

So far, he said, so good.

Friedgen on Ricker, the Harrisburg, Pa., product who 13 months ago committed to Maryland over offers from Cal and Oklahoma, among others: “I’m very impressed with Ricker – he’s got a gun. He’s lost, but that’s par for the course. He can throw the ball pretty good. Now, we’ll see how he does when the pressure’s on, but just throwing one on one routes, I’ve been pretty impressed.”

Friedgen on Portis, the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country two years ago out of Woodland Hills, Calif.: “Portis is a tremendous athlete. He can run. And I was telling him today … if you can perfect your technique now, when spring comes you’ll be ready to go.

“I’m not concerned with Portis’s arm; I’m concerned with his footwork and timing, and that’s where he’s got to get better,” Friedgen said.

Although it may be too early to speculate about their respective futures at Maryland, it’s safe to say both players are aware they’ll be fighting for the same job in the coming years.

“I mean, that’s great. It’s gonna push me and I’m sure it’s gonna push him, trying to compete for the spot. And it’s going to help both of us learn. We’re both competitors. It’s gonna be a great competition,” said Ricker.

Portis, the fastest quarterback ever at UF and the Gators’ fourth-leading rusher in limited playing time as a freshman, said of Ricker: “We talk, you know what I’m saying. That’s my little man. I’m taking him under [my] wing. He hasn’t played in the game before so he doesn’t have experience. But I’m teaching him my experience because I’ve got experience under my belt with ninety-thousand people [in the stands]. So I think he’s just learning on the fly, but I think he’ll be all right.”

Before either player begins to eyeball the other, he must first dive headlong into a far more daunting challenge – the Friedgen offense. Calling his offensive schemes ‘diverse’ is akin to labeling Michael Jackson ‘quirky.’

“The players complain because, they say, we never run the same play the same way,” Friedgen said.

Still, neither player confesses to being afraid to enter Friedgen’s diabolical world of convoluted ‘X’s and misshapen ‘O’s.

“I hear a lot of things like that,” Ricker said. “[But] right now, in the quarterback meetings, we’ve just been going over basics.

“I stay after a little bit and [Friedgen] helps me out, tells me what to study and catch up on, and that really helps me out.”

“It’s not intimidating at all,” said Portis, whose cousin is Redskins star Clinton Portis. “At Florida we did a lot of formations, just not as many plays. I think with [Friedgen] he’s just more complex with it.

“I’m learning a lot. I’m picking it up faster than I thought I would be. There’s a lot of things we do here that we didn’t do at Florida and I think this is more of an NFL type offense.”

Friedgen is enamored with Portis not only because he’s strong-armed, stands 6-foot-3 and can run like a wide receiver, but also because of his focus.

“He’s very attentive in the meetings. He takes good notes. He’s a kid who knows he’s not playing this year, so he knows he could be sleeping in the meetings, but he’s anything but that. He asks questions and he’s very into things,” Friedgen said.

Portis, meantime, said the only mistake he made in picking a college was not committing to Maryland the first time around.

“I decided to go to Florida because it’s Florida. Florida wasn’t really a bad thing because I got to play there, but obviously it didn’t work out,” he said.

“This place was my first choice.”


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