Terrapins Notebook

Portis Showing Improvement

Quarterback Josh Portis was academically ineligible last season but is now fighting Chris Turner and Jordan Steffy for the starting job.
Quarterback Josh Portis was academically ineligible last season but is now fighting Chris Turner and Jordan Steffy for the starting job. (Nick Wass - AP)
By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 6, 2008; 8:54 PM

Coach Ralph Friedgen made a request during Wednesday afternoon's practice to his new offensive coordinator, James Franklin. He wanted to see Josh Portis -- the sometimes forgotten figure in the battle for the starting quarterback position -- perform against the first team defense. You have to earn the right to play against the top defensive unit, the coach said, and Portis had made strides in recent days.

Though Portis made one bad pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, Friedgen was encouraged by the junior signal caller's performance. "The defense was getting the better of the offense in the beginning until Portis turned it around," Friedgen said. "He had the best day of the quarterbacks."

Friedgen noted that Portis's count and cadence had improved, as well as his knowledge of the playbook. However, Portis still tends to take an extra step when he drops back to throw out patterns, a miscue that results in the toss arriving late and drifting from its intended target. Friedgen said that occurred yesterday on the play in which Portis threw the interception.

Portis, listed as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart behind Chris Turner and Jordan Steffy, missed all of last season after being declared academically ineligible.

A Different Kind of Test

After participating in the team's morning walk-through and weight-lifting session Thursday morning, strong-side linebacker Moise Fokou will travel to Baltimore, where he will take his United States citizenship test. Fokou, who was born in the African nation of Cameroon before moving to the U.S. in 1990, has been on a waiting list to take the test for the past three years.

"It's exciting, but we're trying to get it out of the way so I can focus on the season," said Fokou, who noted he should be able to return to College Park in time to take part in Thursday afternoon's practice session. "I think I'll do OK."

A 6-foot-2, 225-lb. senior out of Rockville, Fokou walked onto the team before the start of the 2005 season and now is listed No. 1 on the depth chart at strong-side linebacker. He started all 13 games last season, finishing third on the team in tackles with 84 and tied for first with three forced fumbles. He also recorded a team-high 17 takedowns on special teams. Fokou underwent offseason shoulder surgery, which forced him to miss spring practice, but he has been a full participant the first three days of camp.

Freshmen Turn Heads

Repeatedly this week, Coach Ralph Friedgen has made special mention of the play of two freshmen -- wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back Davin Meggett -- and said both players are positioning themselves well to earn increased playing time this season. Friedgen noted that Smith may even push incumbent split end Isaiah Williams out of the starting lineup.

Smith, who redshirted the 2007 season, drew praise from the coaching staff during spring practices and was named to the team's 11-man leadership committee for the upcoming season. He is currently No. 2 on the depth chart at the split end position behind Williams, who started 17 games over the past two seasons and recorded 25 receptions for 395 yards and a touchdown last season. Williams missed part of spring practice with a broken hand but has participated fully in each training camp session so far.

Meggett has made his mark on special teams. He blocked a punt during Tuesday's practice and has impressed coaches with his quickness. Meggett likely will see most of his playing time this season on special teams, as sophomores Morgan Green and Da'Rel Scott are expected to carry a majority of the load at running back.

Swapping Sides

In addition to freshman Kenny Tate, who moved from wide receiver to strong safety just before the start of training camp, Friedgen also made note of two other former wideouts who have made similar position shifts during their time at Maryland. Junior cornerback Nolan Carroll and junior free safety Terrell Skinner both drew praise from their coach for their play so far in training camp. Carroll made the change prior to the start of last season, while Skinner moved to the secondary in 2006. "You don't usually see a lot of wide receivers convert to (defensive backs), but I think Skinner is playing right now the best he's played and so is Carroll," said Friedgen, who noted both players approached him about their respective position shifts ¿

Yesterday marked the team's first workout in shoulder pads. Friedgen said he prefers the players get in a few days of hitting each other before the squad's first intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. Friedgen said veteran players will participate in between 15-25 plays during the scrimmage, while the younger players will get in roughly 50 plays of work. The scrimmage is closed to the public.

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