Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien can see the difference every time he goes to the huddle. Instead of sensing that his teammates are wondering whether he is the right player to lead the offense, McBrien said he perceives a quiet confidence in his ability to get the job done.
After a rocky start to the season during which McBrien was benched twice before having to win a practice competition to keep his starting position, McBrien has shined over the past 11/2 months. During the six-game winning streak the Terrapins take into Saturday's game against 14th-ranked North Carolina State, McBrien has completed 66 of 107 passes for 1,242 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception. He has the nation's 10th-highest quarterback rating at 148.6; his rating during the winning streak is 182.0, which would easily be the highest in the nation.
"We made him captain last week, and I think he really responded to that," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "That meant something to him. The guys are really getting behind him right now."
The change might be as simple as secondary receivers running their patterns to completion, knowing that there is a chance McBrien will throw the ball in their direction. Or it might be a knowing glance that says they trust McBrien.
"They just have that look in the huddle," McBrien said. "You're the captain, and they know you are in charge. Early in the season, they were playing for themselves, doing their own thing. Now, everyone seems to listen to me. . . . We were still in a quarterback battle, and they didn't know who to look to. They weren't real sure who the quarterback was going to be."
Now that he has established himself as the starter, teammates notice a difference in the way McBrien carries himself. McBrien still might not say much, but his new attitude speaks plenty.
"Scott has got a swagger when he's throwing the ball," said wide receiver Scooter Monroe, who also is McBrien's roommate. "He's so much more confident. He's the cocky Scott we need to throw that pill in there."
Crawford Set to Return
The Terrapins likely will get a boost on the offensive line with the return of right tackle Matt Crawford to the starting lineup. Crawford, who did not play this past week against North Carolina because of a sprained knee, has practiced the past two days with the first string and is expected to play Saturday. Center Kyle Schmitt, the team's top reserve lineman, will miss his third consecutive game because of a lingering shoulder injury.
Running back Bruce Perry, who has been in for just one play this season because of injuries, has been practicing this week, and Friedgen said he expects Perry to be available Saturday.
More Time for Suter
Steve Suter's success on punt returns has prompted Friedgen to start looking for more ways to get the wide receiver involved in the offense. Suter is the third -- or "slot" -- receiver when Maryland uses three-receiver formations, but he doesn't get much playing time because the Terrapins usually play only two receivers. Against North Carolina, Suter was in for just 12 offensive plays and didn't touch the ball for the second consecutive game.
"I told the coaches, 'We've got to find another position for him to play,' " Friedgen said. "We're going to look at him at split end. I'm smart enough to know . . . we've got to find a way to get him in the game."