Friedgen looks to set depth chart earlier

The start of fall camp today begins the quest, at least to most, for the bolded name on Maryland's depth chart—the coveted starting spot. In years past, position battles lingered through most of training camp, and whose name ended up in bold wasn't determined until just days before the first game.

It might not take as long this fall. Citing recent slow starts to the season, coach Ralph Friedgen said he'd like to square away the depth chart sooner and concentrate on early opponents.

"I want to make a decision on that fairly early," Friedgen said. "One of the things I plan to do differently from what I've done in the past is make our decisions on first and second team earlier—maybe a week earlier—and really try to prepare for the season."

It wasn't until eight days before Maryland's first game last season that Friedgen declared Jordan Steffy the starting quarterback. Other position battles were decided on the last day of fall camp.

Such late depth chart juggling before the season is common, but certain circumstances this year give Friedgen good reason to nail down the first and second team early.

Maryland's first two opponents—Delaware and Middle Tennessee State—run spread offenses, so the earlier position battles are decided, the more time the Terps' defense can face a spread look from the scout team.

"We're not seeing a lot of that and that was one of the offenses that hurt us last year," Friedgen said. "So I think we got to really focus on that."

Maryland's offense, meantime, won't be seeing many 3-3-5 defenses like the Terps will play.

"I don't want our guys to see nothing after two weeks. We need to start seeing defenses that we're going to see for the rest of the year," Friedgen said.

Said running back Da'Rel Scott, "I think that's really huge because we do a lot less banging with each other and we get prepared for the game."

The coaching staff's early decisions might put a greater emphasis on performance in the first couple weeks of camp.

"Most of the time in the past we used to go three weeks and then figure out the depth chart and then we start studying for other teams," cornerback Nolan Carroll said. "But now he wants us to have a competitive edge the first two games."

As for players' mindsets? "You got to start off fast this year," cornerback Kevin Barnes said. "You got be hot early and stay hot."

Those competing for starting jobs will surely be under the microscope, but Friedgen said he also wants to spend the early part of camp evaluating the younger players. With last year's recruiting haul—especially at the skill positions—Friedgen believes there are some freshmen and sophomores who can step in immediately.

"You never know what young kids can come on and help you. I'm really going to do a lot of work with the young kids this week in the acclimation period and really give them a lot of reps," Friedgen said.

Above all, though, the quarterback competition will garner the most attention until Friedgen picks a starter. "I think the big question is at quarterback and who will be that quarterback. We may play multiple QBs, I don't know," he said.

Chris Turner starts camp as the starter, but it's very much an open competition in Friedgen's eyes. "I don't even know if you can say [Turner has a grasp]," he said. "I think it's pretty tight all the way around. It's 1A, 1B, whatever you want to call it."

However, Turner and Jordan Steffy said the uncertainty doesn't affect them, and the benefit of determining who's No. 1 earlier is mostly for the onlookers.

"The biggest advantage is you guys will stop asking questions," Turner said.

For Steffy, who enters his fourth year as the No. 1 or No. 2 quarterback in August, the final decision's timing doesn't make much of a difference.

"To me you got to prepare as if you're going to be the starter and obviously work very hard and do all the things necessary in order to make that happen. You really can't worry about the things you can't control," he said.

Running back Morgan Green, who will battle Scott for No. 1 in the backfield, doesn't see the early setting of the depth chart as the final say.

"It can change at any time," he said. "I don't think it's set until the first game, to be honest."


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