Maryland Football Preview
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College Football Preview
THE BIG GAME
At Virginia, Oct. 14

Maryland eases into the season with home games against Division I-AA William & Mary and Middle Tennessee. A road date with powerful West Virginia follows before the Terrapins host Florida International, which should give Maryland at least three wins.

   Ralph Friedgen  
  Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen beat Virginia last year and will likely need to do so again this season. (John McDonnell -- The Washington Post)

 

After a trip to Georgia Tech, the Terrapins travel for a crucial matchup against longtime rival Virginia.

With a victory against the Cavaliers, Maryland could have at least four victories with winnable games remaining against Wake Forest and North Carolina State.

With a second-half schedule that includes Florida State, Clemson, Miami and Boston College, the Terrapins need a win here to preserve some sort of margin for error as they try to end a two-year bowl drought. The Cavaliers also are in the midst of transition with the departure of quarterback Marques Hagans and likely will be viewing this game in the same manner.

Maryland's offense clicked against the Cavaliers last season, racking up season highs in rushing yards (250), total offense (570) and first downs (35) on the way to a 45-33 victory.

SCHEDULE


Saturday, William & Mary, 6

Believe it or not, the Tribe leads the series 2-1, though the last meeting was in 1946. Ralph Friedgen served as the Tribe's offensive coordinator in 1980.

Sept. 9 Middle Tennessee, 6

Blue Raiders finished 4-7 while going 3-4 in the Sun Belt Conference last season. Their only meeting with the Terps came in 2000, a 45-27 loss.

Sept. 14 at West Virginia, 7:45

It seems that these two programs have gone opposite directions since their meeting in the 2004 Gator Bowl, a big Maryland win.

Sept. 23 Florida International, 6

Longtime Miami Dolphins quarterback and Virginia Tech grad Don Strock coaches the team, which started up in 2002. Aside from the Terps, this year's schedule includes Miami and Alabama.

Oct. 7 at Georgia Tech, TBA

Maryland hasn't won at Georgia Tech since 2001, when the Terps needed overtime to prevail in Ralph Friedgen's return to the school where he served as offensive coordinator.

Oct. 14 at Virginia, TBA

The big game.

Oct. 21 North Carolina State, TBA

A bitter 20-14 loss last year sealed Maryland's second-straight sub-.500 season. Place kicker Dan Ennis missed two field goal attempts and the Terrapins turned over the ball four times.

Oct. 28 Florida State, TBA

After posting 21 points in the second quarter, Maryland looked headed for the upset last season. Instead, Florida State outscored the Terps 21-6 in the second half.

Nov. 4 at Clemson, TBA

The Tigers seem prone to the ACC upset (Wake Forest in 2005 and Duke in 2004). Maryland nearly joined the group last year, forcing Clemson to rally from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Nov. 11 Miami, TBA

The Hurricanes come to Byrd Stadium for the first time since 1982. This is the teams' first meeting since Miami joined the ACC.

Nov. 18 at Boston College, TBA

Maryland turned over the ball four times with a lost fumble leading to a 94-yard touchdown return that keyed the Eagles' 31-16 victory.

Nov. 25 Wake Forest, TBA

Maryland owns a seven-game winning streak against the Demon Deacons and might need to make it eight to qualify for a bowl.

BIGGEST SHOES TO FILL
A Group of Four Replaces Vernon Davis

   Vernon Davis  
  Vernon Davis

 
At 6 feet 3, 253 pounds, Vernon Davis flattened linebackers as a blocker and taunted them as a tough receiver. The junior logged a slew of acrobatic grabs while leading the Terrapins in catches (51), receiving yards (871), yards per catch (17.1) and touchdowns (six).

"He's a special player," Coach Ralph Friedgen said of Davis, who was drafted sixth overall in this year's NFL draft, making him the highest Terrapin taken since 1975 and equaling the earliest a tight end had been selected since 1972.

With specialization increasingly taking hold even in the college game, Davis brought extraordinary versatility. It's only appropriate that the Terrapins will need at least four players to provide the services Davis delivered on his own.

Sophomore Dan Gronkowski (6-6, 266 pounds) and junior Joey Haynos (6-7, 267) will use their size as blockers. Meanwhile, junior Jason Goode is a stronger pass catcher.

Drew Gloster, a highly touted freshman who has the body of a junior, could emerge as a Davis-type multiple threat.

OTHERS TO WATCH
QB Sam Hollenbach, Sr.: Experience should make a difference after throwing 15 interceptions last year. Has looked more comfortable during camp.

T Jared Gaither, Soph.: Played in all 11 games last year while starting the last eight at tackle as a freshman. He'll be a star at 6 feet 9, 350 pounds.

TB Lance Ball, Jr.: Powerful rusher who established himself as the Terps' most consistent ground threat while Josh Allen nursed a season-ending knee injury.

DT Conrad Bolston, Sr.: Proved to be a steady contributor last year, starting all 11 games. This season, he's the stalwart on the defensive line.

CB Josh Wilson, Sr.: He's not afraid to get physical. His 73 tackles ranked fourth on the team last season and is tops among all returning players.

KEY LOSSES
LB D'Qwell Jackson: Terps will miss his speed, power and smarts in the middle of the defense. The ACC defensive player of the year led the team with 137 tackles.

LB William Kershaw: Teamed with Jackson to form a quick inside-outside tandem. Kershaw ranked third on the team with 76 tackles.

WR Danny Melendez: Top wideout ranked behind only Vernon Davis in catches (51), yards (584) and yards per catch (14.6).

WR-KR-PR Jo Jo Walker: Terps will miss Walker's 35 catches for 480 yards, especially with the amount of inexperience in this year's receiving corps.

SS Milton Harris: Despite playing in the secondary, the gritty former walk-on recorded 82 tackles and six tackles for a loss, ranking second on the team in each category.


- Bottom Line: New defensive coordinator Chris Cosh takes over a unit that gave up 25 points per game last season, the most in Coach Ralph Friedgen's five seasons.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

© The Washington Post Company