Turner to Start, but Steffy May Play for Terps
Friday, November 2, 2007
Late in last Saturday's one-sided loss to Clemson, Maryland quarterback Chris Turner noticed teammate Jordan Steffy throwing warmup passes on the sideline, a sight that stayed near the front of Turner's mind even a few days later, as he pondered what, if any, changes this week would bring.
Turner has been the Terrapins' lone quarterback since Sept. 29, when Steffy, the former starter, suffered a concussion after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit against Rutgers. Turner said he has grown comfortable with the role, starting all three games during Steffy's month-long absence. But after seeing Steffy warming up, Turner couldn't keep his mind from drifting.
"It kind of makes you wonder what you're doing wrong," Turner said earlier this week.
Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen announced yesterday that Turner will start when the Terrapins face North Carolina tomorrow in Chapel Hill, N.C., but he left open the possibility of also playing Steffy.
"Right now I just think that Chris has been playing okay," Friedgen said. "And if he continues to play okay, he'll be the quarterback. If not, then I'll see what Jordan will do."
While the Terrapins have other pressing issues -- injuries have decimated the offensive line and the defense has failed to tackle with much consistency -- the decision at quarterback could have wide-reaching implications because Friedgen typically charges his signal-callers with so many responsibilities.
Both Steffy and Turner played down the team's quarterback quandary. Yet a change could alter the complexion of the offense. During his five starts, Steffy established himself as a ball-control quarterback, often preferring to dump the ball off to running backs or wide receivers in the flats. Turner, meanwhile, has showed more willingness to throw downfield.
"I've got to make the decision I feel is right," Friedgen said. "Right now, this is what I feel. That could change after the first series. Who knows?"
Turner, who Friedgen said has earned more leeway because of his poise and composure, said he is trying to look past the possibility of being pulled from his position.
"I'm not going to worry about it," Turner said. "At this point, I'm playing well enough to be the starter. As far as I can tell, that's the way it is right now. . . . But I'm not against the coaches making a chance to maybe get something else going."
Doctors medically cleared Steffy to play against the Tigers last week, but he hadn't practiced for the full week leading up to the game. This week he has, making his appearance a more likely scenario.
"This week, everything's full go," said Steffy, who beat out Josh Portis and Turner for the starting job early in camp. "I'm interested to see what happens on Saturday, to be honest with you."
Although the team initially termed Steffy's injury as a "slight concussion," Steffy revealed earlier this week that the injury was the worst of multiple concussions he has suffered during his career. But unlike previous concussions, Steffy said the aftereffects -- including sound sensitivity, headaches and memory loss -- lingered two weeks afterward.
But Steffy's desire to play again has only increased as his symptoms have subsided. And outside of a little rust from inactivity, Steffy said he is physically capable. Doctors have told Steffy and Friedgen that the risk of playing again will not change with time.
"Nothing's going to change now or in the future," said Friedgen, who did not consider shutting down Steffy for the rest of the season. "It's going to be the same situation, and I think Jordan understands that."
Steffy, meantime, played down the notion that Turner has taken Steffy's job during his absence.
"I'm not concerned about losing a job or anything like that," Steffy said. "The way I look at it is that we still have four games to play, and am I just going to sit on the bench the rest of the season? No. I'm not concerned about that at all."