Monday, August 18, 2008

Steffy named starter

Ralph Friedgen named Jordan Steffy as the starter at quarterback today in a surprise move that almost certainly guarantees turmoil this fall. The starter from the end of last season, Chris Turner, was widely assumed to be the leader for the starting nod going into this season as neither Josh Portis or Steffy had distinguished themselves in Spring practices. Apparently the coaching staff didn't see it that way as the comments from Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin seem to indicate that Steffy won the competition by a wide margin based on his practices.

This decision reminds me of the 2004 season which saw Friedgen doggedly insisting week after week that Joel Statham was the best practice player of all the quarterbacks even though he was terrible in actual games. That season slipped away by the time Fridge realized that what he was seeing in practice wasn't indicative of what he would see on Saturdays. It was only at the end of the season that Friedgen, when faced with no alternative, turned to Sam Hollenbach who turned into a two year starter. Before that his only option was a freshman in Steffy who didn't have a clue how to run the offense. A stout defense lead by Shawne Merriman and D'Qwell Jackson was wasted by an inept offense that couldn't get out of its own way. With a slightly better offense that team could have easily won seven games and gone to a bowl game. The 2008 Terrapins do not have the luxury of an excellent defense but they do have far more offensive talent than the 2004 group. Unfortunately I don't think Steffy is the quarterback to make use of that depth.

In his brief play last season Steffy averaged only 150 yards passing per game against the likes of Villanova and Florida International, which was partially poor playcalling in addition to poor play by Steffy. He only notched two touchdowns in four games and a partial fifth game at Rutgers before losing his starting job. He came to College Park as a mobile quarterback but has become a statue in the pocket and a deer in the headlights against the blitz. He was sacked 17 times in the first five games of the season in only 100 passing attempts! Even later in the season when Friedgen benched Turner against Florida State in a fit of anger Steffy was plain awful. Inept doesn't begin to describe how hopeless the offense was in the series he played. It was bad enough that Turner was right back in the game and got the team within a score of tying the Seminoles. In short there is nothing that Steffy has accomplished in games that would make anyone think he was a better option than Chris Turner.

The rational of the coaching staff is that the practice statistics show that Steffy has clearly played better than Turner. Yes, that is correct, PRACTICE statistics. When you have to pull out practice statistics to justify yanking a stater that got you to a bowl game last season it would be charitable to call your logic flimsy. Worse still the coaches indicated that they polled the team and they overwhelmingly supported Steffy as the starter. When did this team turn into a county council meeting? Friedgen even tried to claim that he would have lost credibility with his players by not starting the clearly better player at quarterback. If that really is the case, and not just a coaching cop out by Fridge, then Steffy must have convinced all the freshmen who were not around to see him fail to beat a single credible team last year that he really is the right guy for the job. What we do know is that Portis, the current 3rd QB, will play according to Franklin. Steffy in comments to the media indicated that he was told the competition was closed and he was the starter. Given Steffy's proclivity for concussions I don't think the starting job is at all settled and Turner is probably one sack away from being the starter again. Steffy has been commendable in waiting his turn and dealing with high expectations along with great disappointment, but you shouldn't be the starter just because you are a good teammate.

This decision could end up scuttling this season before it even starts unfortunately. It is not the way you'd like to see Franklin's regime as coordinator start and it is another troubling sign that Friedgen's mishandling of the quarterback position is going to continue. My fear is that the cupcake schedule to start the season (with the exception of California) could hide the deficiency at quarterback much like it did in 2004 when the Terps beat Duke, Temple and Northern Illinois on the way to starting 3-1 before crashing to a 2-5 stretch in ACC play. For some reason the gambling and confident Ralph Friedgen of 2001-2003 is gone and a tentative and dreadfully conservative coach has replaced him.


homertuck said...

Couldn't agree more. The only stats that matter from last year are game performances - Steffy didn't win games and threw 6 picks and only 2 TDs while Turner beat two top 10 teams, threw 7 TDs and 7 INTs and won games for Maryland.

Anonymous said...

You are right on. I remember last year the team rallied around Turner. Now, some are backing away from him? I doubt it. Ralph just dosn't seem to go for Turner's laid back style. The kid had some great games. I'm a season ticket holder who is not looking forward to seeing the type of play in Steffy that we have come to know. I hope he surprises me.

Anonymous said...

This is a horrible decision. One that has the potential to really hurt Maryland football.

I fear this decision will be shown to be bad early, but since the coaches will want to prove they were correct, the season will get off to a bad start.

Since the early season is cupcakes, the real problem is if JS wins by a hair and gets us into the ACC season...where he is exposed. Again, the coaches will stick with him too long out of stubbornness.

Sorry to say after what Fridge did for Maryland football...this is the beginning of the end for him...and I do not want Franklin now it up.

sargeantmofo said...

Disaster in College Park! This was a brilliant post, and echoes much of my same thoughts and feelings.

As I've been saying to people, the stats don't always tell the story, and you can make stats what you want them to be.

Just look at each QB's composure on the field when faced with the other team coming at them. Jordan typically folds, Turner typically stands in there and makes a play whether or not he takes a hit.

Pressure and the fear of getting hit are NOT something that is replicated or realistic in practice. In practice there is a no-contact rule for the QBs.

So is it any wonder that Jordan's practice stats are better than Turner's, but Turner's game stats are better than Jordan's?

Either the coaches never considered that, or something is rotten in College Park. Either way, it's a bad sign.

I'm a season ticket holder and will continue to be because I love my Terps and love gamedays. But I'm also a member of the MGN and I'm re-considering my membership of that group...

Anonymous said...

This all that neeeds to be said (maybe someone should have Friedgen read this

From Turner's bio:

As a Sophomore (2007): Ranked third in the ACC and 36th nationally in passing efficiency (135.5 rating) ... completed 63.5 percent of his passes after taking over for an injured Jordan Steffy ... played in 11 games at QB, starting the last eight ... threw for over 200 yards seven times, including the final six games of the season ... his completion percentage of 63.5 is the fifth-best single-season mark in Maryland history, trailing only Scott Milanovich, who topped that number three times in his career (1993-95), and Frank Reich (1984) ... owns the 10th best single-season efficiency rating (135.5) in school history ...
n read this)

From Turner's bio:

Anonymous said...

some people just do not " wear well" ..they come in to a situation with an " upbeat" attitude..accomplish something and go down hill from there....Fridgen is one of these types and he is taking a program with him..perhaps a good offensive coordinator with someone else in control and in charge of recruiting....but a head

Esquire said...

I think the honeymoon period is certainly over for Friedgen and he has done some things to himself, besides the mediocre results on the field, to make his situation more uncomfortable. I think he is at least another season away from being in serious trouble but a <5 win season could change things in a hurry.

I'm hoping that if the offense struggles to put up points against the early season cupcakes that Fridge and Franklin can put their egos aside and make the switch at QB. A blow out in the Cal game with little offensive production should be all the evidence they need. Oddly I think Fridge is more interested in getting Portis on the field than Turner.

I'm still surprised that a coach with the reputation as a groomer of QBs has mishandled this situation and it isn't the first time. (Statham/Hollenbach)

jamal from brooklyn said...

Couldn't agree more. In fact, I smell a rat. From the highly suspicious "statistical data" the coaches supposedly used, to the polling of the team, I've never heard of a starting QB at any level decidied this way. What stats did the coaches look at? Because if it was yards, yrads per attempt, TD's and INT's, then it's clear Turner's the starter. No this was clearly an emotional decsion made by Ralph and Ralph alone because he has a misguided sense of loyalty to Steffy, because he recruited him, told his mother he'd make her son a star, and Ralph genuinely likes the kid feels bad for him bese of the injuries he's had to endure. Well Ralph, sorry, but that's no reason to make him the starter. And it's clear depsite his denials, that Ralph doesn't like Turner. Well Ralph, too bad. Stop acting like a teenage girl and make decison baded on facts not on emotion. Ralph's performance has gotten worse year after year, and for 2 million a year or whatever it is he makes, we should get better as alums and fans.