COLLEGE PARK -- Mark Duffner isn't ready to name a quarterback for Saturday's game at North Carolina, but the starter the Maryland coach selects won't be looking over his shoulder.
In their past three games, the Terps have had an unsettled situation at quarterback. Scott Milanovich had a horrid start at West Virginia and was replaced by Kevin Foley. Foley started against Wake Forest and Clemson, but Milanovich got considerable playing time.
Both fared well against Wake Forest, struggled at Clemson, and complained that it's been hard to get into a favorable rhythm, knowing that the "script" includes the backup playing several series in each half. Both also were pleased with Duffner's statement that he is "leaning toward a quarterback who will play most of the game."
"He [Duffner] told us that yesterday [Monday], and I think that's the way to go," Milanovich said. "It's hard to play two quarterbacks in this league [Atlantic Coast Conference] and have any kind of consistency."
"I definitely agree," Foley said. "A quarterback relies on getting in a rhythm, getting a feel for what's going on."
Whoever has the keys to the Terps' offense will try to get in gear a unit that has been held below 280 yards in three of five games. Maryland (2-3, 1-3), which had a week off to correct some of its problems, was limited to 229 yards at Clemson on Oct. 1, its worst production since its 191 yards in a 70-7 loss to Penn State in the fifth game last year.
North Carolina (4-1, 1-1), ranked No. 15, is a 17-point favorite to beat Maryland for the fifth straight year.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference team statistics, the Terps' highest rank is in net punting. Maryland's second-place standing is a reflection of Milanovich's 42.1-yard average, his strategic dumping of balls near the opponents' goal line and some nifty cover work, especially from Walt Williams.
Williams, a redshirt sophomore from Miami who is no relation to the former Maryland basketball star of the same name, helped the Terps win the battle for field position in their victories. He downed a punt on the 3-yard line at West Virginia, and kept one from going into the end zone against Wake Forest. A teammate downed it on the 4.
An outside wide receiver with 11 catches for 115 yards, Williams will get his second start Saturday if Jermaine Lewis has not recovered from the shoulder dislocation he sustained against Wake Forest on Sept. 23. Williams had never been on punt coverage before this year, but said that he's been preparing for the role since he joined the Terps in 1992.
"Covering punts is like a receiver handling bump and run coverage," he said. "If you can beat the man who's supposed to stop you, you can stop the play 98 percent of the time."
The Terps will pass the midway point of the season at North Carolina, and scholarship players who haven't appeared by now are most likely going to be redshirted.
Maryland will probably redshirt 11 freshmen, including Latroy Fowlkes, a defensive lineman from North County whose progress has been slowed by what Duffner said is "an asthma-like condition."
The Terps have used eight true freshmen: defensive linemen Richard Abrams (Arundel), Eric Hicks and Cornelius White; running backs Buddy Rodgers and Kendall Ogle; tight end Eric Ogbogu; wide receiver Kendrick Walton; and Henry Baker, who has played on special teams.
Sophomore center Erik Greenstein, who left the Clemson game with a sprained elbow, will start at center. Defensive tackle Jamie Bragg, last year's center and the replacement at Clemson, continues to snap in practice, along with left guard Jade Dubis. . . . Third-string quarterback Brian Cummings has recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered at West Virginia, and he's available to run the short-yardage offense.