Previews and Predictions for the Week 1 ACC Games, Part 2.
TSR's Take: This is Steffy's Time to Shine
Each time it came up, Friedgen offered a subtly telling answer: Jordan Steffy, No. 1 at the beginning of camp, was still in the lead. But the decision to name him as starter dragged on. It dragged on so long there almost had to be a heated, back-and-forth competition.
Not the case. Friedgen put all the speculation to a rest Friday night, naming Steffy his starting quarterback for the Sept. 1 opener.
And he knew all along.
The success of the quarterback in Friedgen's tenure at Maryland has determined the success of the team. If he gets it, the team wins, and it wins a lot. Shaun Hill and Scott McBrien got it, and Maryland won 31 games in three years. Nobody got it the next two years and Maryland won just ten games. When Sam Hollenbach played just well enough last season, Maryland won nine.
So much rides on the position, and Friedgen had his pick of three quarterbacks this fall, two of which haven't taken a snap at Maryland. The other, Steffy, has 12 career completions, all as a freshman.
But Friedgen never once wavered, not in whom he had leading, but in his confidence for Steffy. "I think he's been ahead since the spring," Friedgen said. "I think if anything he's probably widened the gap."
Steffy was viewed as a potential savior, the "quarterback of the future" who would take the reigns from the maligned Joel Statham in 2004. Three years later, it's the guy he beat out who's taken on the same mystique. Josh Portis, the ultra-athletic Florida transfer, is Mr. Popular now. He's seen by fans as the perfect quarterback for the system—someone who possesses the same traits as past successes under Friedgen.
Yet it's Steffy, the shorter, slower, less-flashy product who has Friedgen seemingly more worried about his kickoff guy. Why? Steffy gets the job done, plain and simple. He's managed the offense in the three fall scrimmages as well as any quarterback Friedgen has had. He might take a check-down to be safe, but he won't be sacked waiting for the deep guy to get open. Delay of game penalties? Not with Steffy under center—there hasn't been one yet during camp.
All he needs to be is a capable game manager that won't make mistakes. The talent around him is plentiful—one of the ACC's top rushing tandems, an elite deep threat at receiver, another receiver who won't drop a pass and two tight ends as good as any in the division. Add in an offensive line Friedgen has tabbed as potentially one of his best and Steffy's job becomes a lot easier.
"We have a lot of playmakers on offense and that's what I'm blessed with," Steffy said. "I don't have to go out and win the game for us… All I have to do is pretty much conduct the orchestra."
Leonard Slatkin—maybe he's not—but Steffy's leadership can direct a fine tune. It's his overarching trait, none the more evident than when he pulled a struggling Quintin McCree aside in Thursday's scrimmage to go over routes and adjustments. "With all the responsibilities he has, he's still capable of doing that," Friedgen said.
Steffy exudes confidence in practice, but the confidence in a game situation isn't there yet. Friedgen said he was "jittery" in the spring game, but Steffy attributes that to perhaps being too relaxed. Either way, he'll need to gain the knowledge that he's capable of performing in a game like he does in practice. The question is, how soon will that come? Friedgen hopes it comes a week from now, but there's no telling—he said McBrien almost gave up before knowing he was capable.
"Right now he has to just go out and relax and let it happen," Friedgen said. "Let the game come to him, don't try to force anything."
Friedgen is still a little worried; Steffy hasn't played any meaningful time in a game recently. But more so he remains confident. Steffy knows the offense better than anyone without an office in Gossett. He's paid his dues through three testing years, some spent rehabbing injuries and some spent as Friedgen's right-hand man relaying plays on the sidelines.
"There's no substitute for time," Steffy said, a relieved look on his face Friday night. "Now it's my time and I'm ready for it."
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