Terps' offense offers Steffy multiple options

Jordan Steffy hasn't completed a pass in more than two seasons and has career numbers of zero touchdown passes and two interceptions.

But when Maryland opens the 2007 season on Sept. 1 against Villanova, Steffy will likely take the first snap following a strong showing in spring practice that has all but locked up the starting job. Josh Portis, a redshirt sophomore who transferred from Florida last year, will be Steffy's backup.

"He's played very well this spring and probably has played the best football since he's been here," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of Steffy. "I still think Josh Portis is competing for the starting role.

"We won't make a decision on that until next fall. But I've been very pleased with Jordan."


As long as Steffy doesn't leave school to run for president, he will replace two-year starter Sam Hollenbach when the Terrapins kick off their season in September.

When spring practice began on March 27, Friedgen named Steffy the starter, but only by the narrowest of margins. Steffy has since widened his advantage with a series of good performances. His final test comes Saturday, when the Terrapins play their spring game.

"I'm never going to be a perfect quarterback," said Steffy, a native of Leola, Pa. "I'm never going to complete all the passes. But the thing [I've] done better this spring is that when it's bad, it doesn't completely go in the tank. If you throw two, three, four incompletions in a row, you've got to come back and hit the next one. That's what I think I've improved on this spring."

Steffy has had somewhat of a strange career at Maryland. He saw action in six games as a true freshman in 2004, completing 12 of 32 passes for 132 yards and an interception. Steffy redshirted in 2005 then played 14 snaps last season in the opener against William & Mary, going 0-for-5 with an interception and a lost fumble.

Serving as Hollenbach's backup, Steffy did not play again the rest of the season, as the Terrapins encountered one close game after another.

Steffy never complained. Instead, he served as Hollenbach's biggest supporter as the Terrapins returned to the postseason after a two-year absence, capping a 9-4 campaign with a 24-7 victory against Purdue in the Champs Sports Bowl.

"Obviously, I didn't get as many on-the-field reps as I would have liked to, but the most important thing was that we were winning football games," said Steffy, a 6-foot-1, 214-pound junior. "It was important for me to be there for Sam and my teammates."

And while he barely played, Steffy said the experience of being one play away from getting into games was invaluable.

"It was important for me to get that frame of mind that you have to have as a quarterback by preparing every week like I was going to be the guy," Steffy said. "That really helped me. This year, it's almost like I've been the starter before, even though I haven't. I feel confident right now."

One thing Steffy has going for him is a full stable of weapons on Maryland's offense.

The senior tailback combination of Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore is one of the best in the ACC and accounted for 1,558 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

Steffy will also have plenty of talent to throw to, including sophomore Darrius Heyward-Bey. A star in the making, the 6-2, 206-pound Heyward-Bey combines great size with blazing speed and was a second-team All-ACC selection last season after leading the Terps with 45 receptions and setting a school freshman record with 694 receiving yards.

Also back is 6-8, 260-pound tight end Joey Haynos, who was Maryland's second-leading receiver with 37 catches for 369 yards.

"Not for one second do I think I'm going to have to win games on my own or anything like that," Steffy said. "My job is to come in and execute the offense and put us in the right place. I have so much talent around me. The other guys will make plays for me and I plan on making plays, too. But as long as I play smart, everything else will take care of itself."

There's no questioning Steffy's smarts; he's as cerebral as he is athletic. But intellect alone doesn't make a quarterback. Experience plays a big role, and that's one area where Steffy, through no fault of his own, is lacking.

"That's the biggest thing," Friedgen said. "Going into the season without a quarterback that's played a lot is always a concern. You just don't know how he's going to do in game situations."

Jorge Milian covers the ACC for The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post.