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It's not what it looks like

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK - He's from Southern California, has curly blond hair and can appear as placid as a sunset over the beach.

Maryland junior quarterback Chris Turner, named the starter for today's game at Middle Tennessee State, might occasionally amble to the practice field while his teammates urgently race past.

But Turner's teammates and coaches have a message about the laid-back surfer-dude signal caller, whose father was a drummer in a hard-rock band. Don't be fooled, they caution. Beneath the slow-burning exterior, they say, lies a deep competitive streak and a penchant for rising to the occasion.

"Looks can be deceiving," said Ben McEnroe, Turner's coach his last two years in high school and now the coach at Cal Lutheran University. "It's kind of been his dream to be a Division I quarterback. He takes that pretty seriously in spite of the vibe and persona he gives off."

McEnroe said he never doubted Turner's toughness. One moment proved it.

It came after Turner took a wicked hit in a high school game. "I said something like, 'That looks like it hurt,' " McEnroe said. " He gave me a look I'll never forget, kind of a half-cocked smile. He just laughed it off. He doesn't get flustered."

Still, Turner doesn't always move as quickly as Maryland coaches would like.

A classic Turner moment:

It's nearing time for a spring practice and Turner, wearing his gold practice jersey, saunters to the field. "Why are you jogging, man?" he says to a teammate. "Why are you in such a hurry? We've got three minutes."

Said center Edwin Williams: "That's his personality, that's how he is. Everybody is a character on this team, everybody has their personalities. But once he gets on that field, he's a leader, he's the captain. He's a hard-nosed player, a tough guy."

Offensive coordinator James Franklin is sometimes the yin to Turner's yang. Animated and intense at practices, Franklin literally gets into players' faces. Turner is more reserved.

"I think on the East Coast we have some stereotypes about the West Coast guy - the surfer guy or the football player or whatever - as laid-back, easygoing. And, really, he fits a lot of those stereotypes," Franklin said on Terrapins Rising, the team's in-house reality TV show. It was the show's cameras that captured Turner ambling to practice.

Turner, who turns 21 on Monday, was recruited out of Chaminade College Prep by Louisville and Texas Tech, among others. Among the things he liked about Maryland was its proximity to the nation's capital. A government and politics major, he has been exploring political internships in the area.

Turner has become known for having big games in, well, big games.

He came off the bench last season when starter Jordan Steffy suffered a concussion and helped beat No. 10 Rutgers. Then, with the Terps having lost three straight, he completed 21 of 27 passes for 337 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 42-35 victory over Boston College in November.

In those games, Turner's coolness - which can be mistaken for apathy - served him well. He seems to have the ability to, in the words of coach Ralph Friedgen, "make the game slow down."

Turner says he's a "rhythm" quarterback, citing last season's victory over North Carolina State as an example of getting better as the game progressed. Maryland scored three first-quarter points before Turner got rolling, finishing 19 of 24 for 206 yards.

Turner started last season's final eight games, going 3-5. He was so frustrated at losing the starting job to Steffy to begin this season that he considered transferring.

Coaches said Steffy won the job based on effort and consistency at practices.

"We traded a couple brief text messages then," McEnroe said of the period when Turner was the backup. "And I talked to him a couple weeks ago and I said, 'Hang in there, this thing is far from over.' "

Turner had overcome difficulties in high school, too. Before McEnroe became coach, Turner "had one game where he had like four or five picks, but they were doing some things with the protection scheme where he didn't have a chance," the coach said. But Turner passed for nearly 3,400 yards as a junior and more than 2,000 his senior year.

Turner was named the starter after Steffy injured his thumb in the season-opening 14-7 win over Delaware. Even if Steffy were healthy, Friedgen said it wasn't guaranteed that Steffy would have remained first-string.

Turner said he was pleased to regain the job but felt sad for Steffy, his roommate during training camp. Of Terrapins fans who booed Steffy's performance against Delaware (10-for-18, 115 yards, two interceptions), Turner said, "It's not cool."

"It's been a roller coaster for sure," Turner said of the past few weeks. "I'm just focused on right now. I'm not focused on the past. Happy with my choice to stay, obviously."

Turner's father, John, was the original drummer in Ratt, a hard-rock band whose motto was "Ratt 'n' Roll."

One of the band's better-known songs is "Round and Round," which could describe Maryland's quarterback situation.

terps today

Matchup: Maryland (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) at Middle Tennessee State (0-1, 0-1 Sun Belt Conference)

Time: 7 p.m.

Site: Floyd Stadium (30,788), Murfreesboro, Tenn.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: 1300 AM

Series: Maryland leads 2-0

Last meeting: Maryland won, 24-10, in 2006 at Byrd Stadium.

Maryland offense vs. Middle Tennessee defense: Quarterback Chris Turner makes his first start of the season in place of injured Jordan Steffy, and running back Da'Rel Scott goes against a Blue Raiders defense that surrendered 148 rushing yards last weekend to Troy's DuJuan Harris. Look for Maryland to run behind its solid line featuring Phil Costa, singled out last week for coaches' praise.

Maryland defense vs. Middle Tennessee offense: Middle Tennessee, with its young offensive line, got just 84 rushing yards against Troy, but quarterback Joe Craddock threw for 200 yards and converted quarterback Sancho McDonald had six catches. Terps, thin on the defensive front, hope to get injured Travis Ivey back in three weeks.

Jeff Barker

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