Latrez Harrison thinks of himself as an improvisational quarterback. He is comfortable running the option, being a drop-back passer or rolling out. However, creating "something out of nothing" is what he calls his greatest joy.
It also might make Maryland Coach Ron Vanderlinden call him the Terrapins' starting quarterback this season. Despite being a freshman, Harrison wants a chance to take the job from sophomore Randall Jones. If Harrison can show the talents that helped him win numerous awards during his high school career, he could push Jones for the top spot.
The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Harrison, from Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, has all of the basic tools. He was a four-year starter at quarterback in high school, he can throw the ball 75 yards and run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. Last season, he threw for 2,400 yards and 27 touchdowns and was named the Atlanta public schools player of the year.
But he loves putting all of his talents toward doing what only the best quarterbacks can do--turning bad situations into good ones.
"You have to make something out of nothing," Harrison said yesterday, after reporting to College Park with the rest of the Terrapins' first-year players. "You have to bring excitement to the game. I'm going to go out there [at practice] and be myself."
Vanderlinden said the coaching staff is eager to see Harrison when practice starts next week. Vanderlinden has made clear that the starting quarterback position is Jones's "to lose," but said he wants to see what Harrison can do.
Booker T. Washington Coach Rodney Cofield often saw what Harrison could do, and said he expects Harrison to be in the running for the No. 1 spot at Maryland.
"He's going to come up there and fight for that job," Cofield said. "He's a real playmaker. With the right system for this kid, things would be fun to watch."
Asked for an example, Cofield is particularly fond of recounting a situation from Harrison's junior year. Booker T. Washington, then unranked, was playing Dougherty High, which was ranked No. 2 in the state. It trailed by four points with less than 30 seconds remaining and had no timeouts left when it got the ball at its 20-yard line--but then Harrison went to work.
First, he coolly threw a 30-yard pass to Kennis Kennedy, his favorite target. Then, from midfield, on the game's final play, Harrison found Kennedy in the end zone for a touchdown.
Eric Dumas, another Maryland freshman from Atlanta, saw Harrison play in high school several times. A defensive lineman, Dumas predicted that Harrison's ability to improvise will ease his adjustment to Division I college football.
"He's going to have to just think of some things real quick," Dumas said. "That'll be a great asset for him."
Vanderlinden said Harrison will need time to learn Maryland's offensive system, work with it and make it as instinctive as possible.
"We'll make sure that he learns the system and gets enough reps to show what he can do and how ready he is," Vanderlinden said. "I think his potential is really unlimited. Latrez is a big-time talent."
Harrison said this situation is similar to when he became a starter as a high school freshman. He said he rolled over everyone in Pop Warner football as an eighth-grader, but had to make some quick adjustments the following year.
Now Harrison must show what he can do at Maryland. Harrison and Vanderlinden don't want a quarterback controversy, and the coach said it's nearly impossible to predict what a freshman can do early on. But Harrison is clear about one thing: "I just want a real good opportunity to show what I can do."