NCAA Football Preview - Maryland Terrapins
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From The Sports Network By Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor 2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: Year three under Ralph Friedgen was much like the other two, as Maryland once again posted a 10-win season in 2003. The Terps are now a power in not only the ACC, but also on a national scale, as proved by two straight postseason routs of solid competition. It certainly didn't look that way early on in 2003, as the team dropped its first two contests, at Northern Illinois (20-13 in OT) and at Florida State (35-10). However, rallying the troops is something Friedgen has mastered, as the team went on a five-game win streak, including impressive wins over West Virginia (34-7) and Clemson (21-7). An ugly 7-3 loss at Georgia Tech would be Maryland's last taste of defeat in 2003, as the Terps strung together a four-game win streak to close out the regular season, including a huge 26-24 triumph at NC State, while picking up a second-place finish in the ACC. That hot streak rolled right over to the postseason, where Maryland abused West Virginia once again in the Gator Bowl (41-7). 2004 ANALYSIS: OFFENSE: Offensively, the Terrapins return just five starters, so to expect an offensive juggernaut, may be too much to ask for in 2004. Not only are key players like WR Latrez Harrison, RB Bruce Perry and TE Jeff Dugan all gone, but the team must also break in a new quarterback. Friedgen still isn't sure who will stand up and take over the reins for steady signal-caller Scott McBrien. Sophomore Joel Statham may be the starter to begin the season, but sophomore Sam Hollenbach has prototypic size (6-5, 225) and could end up the starter if things go wrong with Statham. There is some talent left over on this side of the football, highlighted by junior tailback Josh Allen. A talented runner, Allen assumed the starter's role last year and certainly didn't disappoint, rushing for 922 yards and eight TDs, while averaging five yards per carry. Senior Sammy Maldonado will spell Allen and is an effective option that runs with power at 6-1, 233. He missed time last year both due to suspension and injury, but averaged six yards per carry when he did get on the field. The receiving corps will be anchored by multi-purpose threat Steve Suter, who is a two-time First-Team All-ACC selection as a return specialist. Last year, Suter caught 29 balls, for 471 yards and one score. The offensive line returns three of the five starters from last year, including First-Team All-ACC guard C.J. Brooks. The 6-6, 320-pounder will anchor the line, but the success up front will all depend on the development of youngsters like freshmen Andrew Crummey (6-4, 275) and Brandon Nixon (6-5, 337). DEFENSE: Although an offensive genius, Friedgen's team's have had great success defensively under him. Last season, the Terps allowed just 15.8 ppg, while holding foes to a mere 308.4 yards of total offense. The unit was particularly tough against the pass, limiting opponents to just 179.0 yards per game through the air. However, much like the offense, there isn't much returning talent back, with just four starters coming back from 2003. Gone are stalwarts like DT Randy Starks up front, LB Leon Joe in the middle and CB Curome Cox and safeties Dennard Wilson and Madieu Williams in the secondary. The only piece returning to the secondary is a good one however, in senior cover corner Domonique Foxworth, who earned all-conference honors the last two seasons. There is key personnel in other areas of the defense, led by tackling machine D'Qwell Jackson, who led the team in tackles last year in the middle of the defense. The senior linebacker finished the year with 132 stops, with 2.5 sacks and two INTs. The defensive line will feature some new faces, but veterans Shawne Merriman (5.5 tackles, 8.5 sacks in 2003) and Kevin Eli (55 tackles, 5.5 sacks) will be counted on to provide much of the pressure. SPECIAL TEAMS: A two-time First-Team All-ACC selection, placekicker Nick Novak finished last year just three points away from becoming the ACC's all-time leading scorer (second with 324 career points). He will take over the top spot early on this season and perhaps put some distance between him and everyone else with another solid campaign. He went 24-of-32 last year in field-goal attempts, with a long of 54 yards. The punting duties will once again fall in the lap of sophomore Adam Podlesh, who averaged 42.3 yards per punt last year (53 total punts) as a freshman. OUTLOOK: The Terrapins have enjoyed great success in Friedgen's tenure, with a trio of 10-win seasons. However, that streak may come to a close this year, as a young team will struggle for consistency, especially early on. Two straight seasons featured slow starts, but this team lacks the veteran leadership to rebound for a third time. The non-conference slate lacks midwest powerhouses, but Northern Illinois is an improved squad, while West Virginia has one of its best teams in recent years. Temple is an easy win on the slate, but there aren't many others. The conference schedule is daunting. While the team does avoid Miami this year, road games at Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech will prove hazardous. It doesn't get much better at home, with tough games against Georgia Tech, NC State, Florida State and Wake Forest. A 10-win season may be too much to ask for this time around in College Park, but Friedgen will probably find a way to sneak out enough quality wins to earn a fourth straight bowl appearance.