Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Terps Hoping Chris Turner is "California Dreamin"

The start of the Maryland football season is just four days away, as the Terps head to the Golden State for a battle with the Cal Bears in a rematch from last year where the Terps defeated them 35-27 in College Park. Cal comes into the season ranked #12 in both major preseason polls, and as Ralph Friedgen has said about this game, "I'm sure they'll be waiting for us after last year." (credit to Tracking the Terps blog on the Baltimore Sun)

Cal coach Jeff Tedford said of the game "Revenge is a pretty strong word, but I think redemption may be a little bit better, just because we didn't play very well last year. It's the revenge from what they did to us, it's the redemption of what we did to ourselves." No matter what, it is clear that last year's contest will be in the mind of many players on both sides.

One interesting aspect into this game is Chris Turner, Maryland's quarterback. He is from Simi Valley, California. Granted, Simi Valley is about a six-hour drive from Berkeley, but Turner will be playing in his home state for the first time in two years, when the Terps lost to Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl in 2007.

For the first time in a few years, Maryland has no quarterback controversy. 2005 had Sam Hollenbach vs. Joel Statham, 2006 had Hollenbach vs. Jordan Steffy, then 2007 and 2008 had Steffy, Turner, and Josh Portis competing for the position. Turner won out the job, and with Steffy and Portis moving on, he has no competition and will not be under pressure in practice to win the job, as his backup is Jamarr Robinson. No one else other than Turner or Robinson practiced in the QB position in the fall. This could affect Turner in one of two ways: either he is better without the competition, or he struggles without anyone behind him.

Turner tends to be a fan favorite, but the reality is he has been an extremely inconsistent player. He has games where he is a tremendous quarterback, leading the Terps to many victories over ranked teams in the past two years, notably top-10 Boston College in 2007 and a shutout of #21 Wake Forest in 2008. But others he is just terrible, notably bring shutout by Virginia and upset by Middle Tennessee State in 2008. It is very rare he has an average day, almost always it is great or terrible. But for Maryland, Turner will be the guy; no one can replace him from the sidelines.

The bad news for Turner is that Darrius Heyward-Bey is no longer with the team after getting drafted #7 overall by the Oakland Raiders. He was the best threat Maryland had, but Turner had times where Heyward-Bey was not a factor, and found ways to adapt. Among his wide receivers, sophomore Torrey Smith and junior Adrian Cannon have stood out as the primary threats, and sophomore Ronnie Tyler will also see a lot of playing time. With a lot of young receivers plus a number of potentially strong rushers, Turner could have all the weapons he needs to make a solid offense.

California is a huge test for the new Maryland team. But this is Chris Turner's team now, and let's hope he is ready for the challenge.

(Photo credit: Maryland athletics)

1 comment:

Windsor said...

I'll be honest, I have not been a fan of Turner's in the past. I think he's been highly overrated by Maryland's fan base, and his perception of being 'california cool' has been shattered in my mind by his big-game collapses. Last year when things started to go bad, he let his emotions show and he snowballed downhill.

But with another year, it's another opportunity to hopefully be proven wrong.