Confident Steffy Leads QB Race as Camp Opens

Jordan Steffy sat in one of fours chairs in the middle of the locker room reserved for the stars of the team. To his left: Darrius Heyward-Bey, the ACC's best young receiver. Behind him: Lance Ball, who is approaching 2,000 career rushing yards, and Erin Henderson, the heir-apparent in a line of All-American linebackers under coach Ralph Friedgen.

And there sat Steffy. The Leola, Pa., native has played in seven games in his three-year career at Maryland. He has 132 passing yards on 12 completions, all as a freshman. He saw action in only one game last year--a brief stint against William and Mary.

But today, Steffy was the big attraction. A steady flow of reporters and cameramen huddled around him for the full hour Monday afternoon. It's a new position for the red-shirt junior quarterback, who enters fall practice as No. 1 on the depth target and the No. 1 focus of Maryland fans and coaches.

"A lot of peaks and valleys," Steffy said about his career at Maryland.

"I heard somebody say this whole thing is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, when I got here my freshman year did I think things may have gone different? Sure. But the most important thing is realizing God has a plan for me and being patient and waiting for my time and my time is now."

Red-shirt sophomores Josh Portis and Chris Turner are Nos. 2 and 3 on the depth chart respectively. Portis is the most highly-touted of the group, having transfered from Florida were he saw action in six games as a true freshman. Turner, the oft-forgotten participant in the quarterback competition, progressed so much in the last year that he has become a legitimate contender.

Many expect the competition to come down to Sept. 1, when Maryland opens against Villanova. Friedgen, however, said he wants to establish a top guy sooner.

"I'm not going to take a whole long time to make a decision," he said in his press conference. "At least a week [into practice], maybe a little bit more, but we've got to start focusing on who's the No. 1 guy."

For now, that guy is Steffy. He's been at Maryland the longest and has the most experience with the offense. Last year he stood next to Friedgen and relayed plays to Sam Hollenbech, which helped him immensely in learning the offense and reading defenses.

"I'm sitting on the sidelines looking, "OK, here's the coverage I see, what would I have done there? Would I have done the same or something different?" It definitely helps out. All that time on the sidelines is definitely going to help me in the long run," Steffy said.

Towards the end of the media session today, the locker room cleared out and a single reporter remained talking to Steffy. Just a few feet away, defensive lineman Dre Moore teased Steffy about his properness and confidence.

"I'm Jordan Steffy, I'm not nervous," Moore said mockingly. It might have been in jest, but for Friedgen, Steffy's poise and maturity have become his best attributes.

"He's very confident. I think he's confident in his ability not only as a football player but as a student and a person," Friedgen said. "I think he's ready for this challenge."

Portis Stepping Up

Josh Portis had his fair share of media attention as well. After all, he's the back-up quarterback, the most popular guy in town, as the old cliché goes.

Ever since announcing his intentions to transfer to Maryland, Portis has become the fan-favorite—the quarrterback of the future, the guy who will take the program to the next level. It's easy to get that impression when you watch him work. He goes 6-foot-4 with a strong arm and unmatched speed at the position. On the field, he just plain makes things happen.

"I think his ability to create a good play out of a poor play with his ability to run is something you can't coach," Friedgen said. "I'm anxious to see how that fits in our offense."

The problem, Friedgen said, is that it's difficult to evaluate him in practice because there's a no-contact rule on the quarterbacks. So if a play breaks down and Portis takes off, more times than not it's stopped before he can really make a play.

But before Portis can see time in games, there are technical aspects he needs to work on. Footwork, timing and steps on throws are vital in Friedgen's offense, and those are the biggest things Portis needs to improve.

"I feel like I'm kind of a different player live when I got a red jersey on," Portis said. "In practice I'm held back on what I can do but throwing the football—that's my job, throw the football, manage the offense."

How does Friedgen feel about Portis' chances to take the No. 1 spot?

"I think it's realistic," he said.

Turner Right There

Steffy or Portis. Who will it be? That's the million-dollar question. It's a two-man race. Or is it?

"It's not," said Chris Turner matter-of-factly. "To keep it simple, I'm here like everybody else trying to play football."

Turner has taken a back-seat in the media and among fans to Steffy and Portis. But throughout the spring and summer, Turner's name has crept further and further into the discussion. Friedgen has praised him on his leadership and knowledge of the vast playbook.

"I think that's one of my strengths," Turner said on grasping the NFL-like playbook. "I feel pretty comfortable. It's day-to-day—some days I feel 99 percent comfortable, some days maybe 85 percent comfortable depending on what the day is."

The California native has been in the program three years and is as familiar with the offense as anyone. But like the others, it will come down to execution.

Friedgen's QB Plans
br> With just 13 games of experience among the quarterbacks, Friedgen has some concern on how they will respond when thrown into the spotlight. So in an effort to make the transition easier, he's tweaking practices.

"A lot of our practices are going to be like game situations and I'm going to try to get coaches off the field," he said.

Also, he hinted at the possibility of a dual-quarterback threat this season.

"I'm not opposed to even playing two quarterbacks."

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