Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Maryland quarterback Chris Turner said he would like to continue to have full use of his legs and limbs for the rest of the season, but much like his coach, Turner would also like to win more football games.
It’s a not-so-delicate balance for the Terps’ lone option at quarterback these days.
Turner, who has been sacked an astounding 21 times halfway through the season, has assumed more running responsibilities in designed run plays and become an even more integral part of the offense despite his limited protection and lack of experience at backup quarterback. Turner has been playing behind an inexperienced, injury-laden, patchwork offensive line all fall, and it’s showed, as only three teams in the country – Tulsa, Miami (Ohio) and Washington State – have allowed more sacks this year.
“I think I know my body pretty well,” Turner said. “If it ever gets to the point where I become an obstacle to winning, where I bring the team down, then I would speak up and take myself out. But at this point, I’m a little beat up, but not so much so that I’m not effective.”
Quite the opposite, actually. Without the sacks factored in, Turner has been the most effective runner Maryland has right now, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. That’s more than Gary Douglas (3.2) and Davin Meggett (3.1), Maryland’s two remaining healthy tailbacks. With leading rusher Da’Rel Scott sidelined until next month with a broken left wrist, the quarterback draw has become much more appealing to offensive coordinator James Franklin.
“The way it’s going right now,” Turner said, “I can’t see an imminent reason for me to stop running the ball as much as I am.”
Franklin said Turner has made more plays than he thought he would by scrambling and keeping plays alive with his feet. He’s show the ability to turn a six yard loss from a sack into a positive five yard run, and by running the quarterback, it evens the game to 11-on-11.
“Obviously we’re not going to do anything to put our players at risk,” said Franklin. “But on the same hand, we’re going to do whatever we have to do to give us a chance to win. We’d never to that at an expense of anybody on our team or anybody’s health … but if we think something is going to give us a chance to be successful, we’re going to use it.
“Chris has been great,” Franklin said. “He’s proven he’s a tough guy, but like anything else, there’s a fine line to it. You have to be careful how much you do.”
The Terps head into Saturday’s home game against Virginia ranked 105th in the nation in rushing offense with an average of 96.5 yards per game. Virginia has held each of its past two opponents to under 90 yards rushing. Turner led the Terps in rushing with 27 yards in last week’s 42-32 loss at Wake Forest.
“Honestly I’m still getting used to it,” he said. “I still feel kind of goofy running the ball because I’m 6-4, I’m 220 pounds, I don’t make the quickest cuts and all that, but the quarterback runs are good because it’s a hat on a hat. Everyone is blocking. … They don’t ask a lot out of me, just four, five or six yards when I can. And I think I’m good for that.”
“I’m mindful of the fact I’m pretty miniature compared to some of those guys,” Turner said. “But what I’ve gotten pretty good at doing is getting down and not taking the hit. You’re not going to see me put my shoulder down on a defensive end or a linebacker. I’m going to do my best to avoid that.”
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he’s concerned about the health of all his players, but considering Maryland is 2-4, he’s also got his priorities.
“Yeah, I’m concerned about it, especially with the injuries we have already,” Friedgen said. “But I’m more worried about winning football games. And I’ll do what I’ve gotta do to be able to do that.”
Fortunately for Friedgen, he’s got a quarterback willing to help.