As the media horde descended in waves upon Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach's locker yesterday afternoon, Joel Statham looked on from his perch two lockers away.
"I remember that spot," the former starting quarterback said, "about a year ago."
Much has changed since Statham was the focus of the television cameras and bright lights last August. Hollenbach, fourth string for much of last season, is now the front-runner to start Maryland's Sept. 3 opener against Navy, leading to repeated questions during yesterday's media day about whether he was ready, whether he'd be able to handle the pressure and whether he ever saw this day coming.
"Like a 180-degree turnaround," admitted Hollenbach, who said he was considering transferring last season before his unlikely race to the top of the depth chart. The newfound attention will hover in the back of his mind, he said, but "it's not something I want to think about. Added pressure doesn't help at the quarterback position."
Two lockers down, Statham could attest to that. Despite losing his starting job, the junior said he's looked forward to this season more than any in his Maryland career and will be "fine with it" if Hollenbach remains the starter. Hollenbach, Statham added, seems to be built for a starring role.
"With everything that's happened to him within the past six or eight months, he's kept his poise," Statham said. "Whichever one of these guys starts it's like I'm starting anyway -- that's how great our relationship is."
Down several more lockers there was another quarterback -- sophomore Jordan Steffy -- also attempting to play down the competition that would soon begin. Steffy, who missed spring practice because of injury, said he had complete confidence in his right arm after offseason surgery and was waiting to see how his arthritic knee would respond to the stress of practice. Being second or third on the depth chart by the Navy game would be great news, he said, because "that means my knee held up."
The quarterback race is hardly the only important riddle to be solved over the next three weeks. Coach Ralph Friedgen was asked to name three or four questions that would need to be answered this month; he stopped somewhere around the ninth area of concern.
Many of the issues raised dealt with Maryland's youth. Well over half the Terrapins have either three or four years of remaining eligibility, and many of the newcomers will be asked to contribute immediately, especially on the offensive and defensive lines and at wide receiver.
Of course, another of Friedgen's concerns was the quarterback position, and after a muggy first practice cut short by lightning, the coach pronounced himself pleased. Steffy's arm looked stronger and his knee didn't bother him, Statham showed poise and Hollenbach was making all the right decisions, Friedgen said.
"I hope you're not teasing me," the coach said he told Hollenbach.
Maryland Notes: Athletic Director Debbie Yow said she doubted this year's game with Navy would lead to an annual series, although she said the Terrapins were holding on to an open date in 2010 and would talk with Navy officials about future meetings after this year's game. The two schools have not met since 1965; this year's game, which will be held at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, carries approximate guarantees of $1.2 million for each institution, Yow said. Maryland has no open dates through the 2009 season, meaning only a buyout of an already scheduled opponent would allow for a Navy game before 2010. . . .
Senior linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was excused from practice to visit his ill grandmother in Florida, but is expected back today. . . .
Hunter Reddick, a 6-foot-1 cornerback from Navy, and Rick Costa, a linebacker from Temple and the older brother of Terps freshman offensive lineman Phil Costa, will transfer to Maryland. The Terps play both Navy and Temple this season.