Thirty-one victories in three years have generated considerable progress in College Park.
Maryland has sharp new uniforms, an expanded Gossett Team House, a motivational Under Armour commercial and a school-record 30,000-plus season ticket holders. The Terps' coach, Ralph Friedgen, can no longer leave his home without being recognized.
But just as Maryland has firmly established itself on the national radar -- being one of five teams to win at least 10 games each of the past three seasons -- Friedgen says he faces as many questions to open any season since his first at his alma mater. The challenge is two-fold: navigate a bolstered ACC and do it with a considerably younger team.
"Any time you've had a 10-win season, you've had a great season," said Friedgen, who opens his fourth season today with training camp. "I don't care what league you're in. I think I've had six or seven of them in my career. I've been coaching for 35 years. To think that we're going to do this every year, I think it gets even tougher now in the conference. That doesn't mean I'm not shooting for that. Realistically, you've got to look at it and say, 'Is that possible?' "
Many contend it isn't possible in a conference that has added Virginia Tech and Miami and has belonged to Florida State 11 of the past 12 years. The media picked Maryland to finish fifth in the 11-team ACC, behind Virginia, which, like Maryland, also must replace a quarterback, and Clemson, which has not beaten the Terps in Friedgen's three seasons.
Thirteen starters are gone from the Maryland team that won 10 of its last 11 games in 2003 and dominated West Virginia in the Gator Bowl. Friedgen likes the physicality of the 2004 Terps and says they might be his most athletic Maryland squad, but he wouldn't mind if they were a year older.
Spring practice did not solidify the Terps' quarterback situation. Sophomore Joel Statham performed well but regressed in the spring game. August practice will be intriguing if freshman Jordan Steffy poses a threat to Statham as the team's starter.
"We still have a good chance to be at the top of the conference," senior left guard C.J. Brooks said. "Even though we have a young team and we have a young quarterback, that happens to every team almost every year."
Because of Maryland's youth, practices will focus more than usual on the basics. The coaching staff will emphasize reducing penalties and turnovers in hope of peaking for the latter portion of the schedule, which includes road games against Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech and a home date with ACC favorite Florida State.
Senior cornerback Domonique Foxworth, one of the team's leaders, believes youth can be as much a blessing as a curse.
"Last year, we had some kids who had accomplished some things," Foxworth said. "When you do that, complacency sets in. We have guys [this year] who are hungry."
Concerns other than quarterback include the secondary, which will feature three new starters; defensive tackle, where two sophomores will try to compensate for the loss of NFL draftee Randy Starks; and the right side of the offensive line.
Coaches and players say depth separates the elite, namely Miami and Florida State, from other ACC members. And Foxworth knows three seasons of at least 10 wins do not put the Terps in their class yet. "We have to keep winning," he said.
Despite the Terps' youth, that remains the expectation.
"In my mind, we should be as good as Miami and Florida State," Friedgen said. "That's what I'm working to build."