Ryan Mitch, a backup Maryland quarterback, missed both Terrapins practices yesterday and is expected to decide today whether he will transfer from the program.
Mitch, who had been making strides in recent weeks vying for the backup quarterback position, met with Coach Ralph Friedgen yesterday afternoon in a meeting Friedgen described as "very good." Last night, Friedgen met with Mitch's mother, Janet, for 90 minutes in a meeting the coach called "candid . . . with good give and take, back and forth."
"I told them whatever they want to do, I will help them," said Friedgen, who added that he would like Mitch to remain on the team.
Mitch, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman, had become confused as to why he was moved to fourth string during Sunday's practice after earlier receiving positive reviews from the coaching staff, according to a source close to the player. Mitch then missed a team meeting Sunday night, Friedgen said.
Mitch met with Charlie Taaffe, the team's offensive coordinator, yesterday morning but did not attend either practice. Those closest to the player did not know if he would return to the team but said he "loves" the University of Maryland.
Mitch, reached by telephone yesterday afternoon, told a reporter he was "okay" and hung up.
Mitch's absence comes at a time when Friedgen has yet to name a starting quarterback, although all signs point to sophomore Joel Statham. In addition, the coach has continued to publicly praise Mitch's performance in practice.
"I tried to tell him [during yesterday's meeting] that he was right in the hunt," Friedgen said, "and that he had played pretty well in the fall. . . . I have not been disappointed with him in any manner."
Friedgen said he is hoping to know Mitch's decision before afternoon practice because "we kind of got to know where we are at quarterback-wise."
Friedgen is expected to confirm Statham as the starter and name a backup after Thursday's scrimmage. The Terps will open the season Sept. 4 at home against Northern Illinois.
Before summer camp began Aug. 11, Mitch was considered the fourth man in what appeared a three-player race for the starting quarterback job. By last week, though, Friedgen said Mitch's improvement was one of the surprises of camp.
Friedgen said Mitch, freshman Jordan Steffy and sophomore Sam Hollenbach were "2a, 2b and 2c," essentially on equal footing, behind Statham. Mitch said he used as motivation the fact that outsiders counted him out before summer camp.
Friedgen has said Mitch needs to improve on recognizing blitzes, but the coach praised Mitch after Saturday's scrimmage, saying "he made a couple plays at the end." In the scrimmage, Mitch completed 2 of 4 passes for 36 yards and threw one touchdown pass.
Mitch struggled throughout spring practice, repeatedly throwing into double coverage. At the time, Friedgen said he was "lost."
But Mitch said he watched portions of the spring game as many as 15 times during the offseason and had a long talk with his mother about focusing on his goals. Friedgen has said Mitch's performance this summer is in such contrast to that of the spring that he "wondered if [Mitch] had something on his mind in the spring."
A 2003 DeMatha High graduate, Mitch went 29-4 in three seasons as the Stags' starting quarterback. He has tried to pattern himself after another DeMatha alum, former Terps quarterback Scott McBrien, by being a quiet leader. McBrien, of course, transferred to Maryland after becoming disenchanted at West Virginia.
Earlier in summer camp, two quarterbacks switched positions in hope of getting more playing time. Dan Gronkowski moved to tight end and Erin Henderson changed to linebacker.