When the Terrapins Have the Ball . . .
Maryland has no shortage of options on offense, particularly at tight end, but it remains to be seen if the Terps can consistently get those players the ball. Truth be told, Coach Ralph Friedgen has yet to have a star quarterback in his previous three years in College Park. Friedgen boasted in the spring that sophomore Joel Statham was ahead of previous starter Scott McBrien's pace in learning the offense at the same stage of his career. But Statham regressed in the spring game, closing the gap between himself and backup Sam Hollenbach.
Expect Friedgen to lean heavily on a trio of tight ends. Starter Derek Miller is a prototypical tight end, at 6 feet 8, who can block effectively. Two others, 6-3 Vernon Davis and 6-2 Rob Abiamiri, are more versatile. They could play in a four-receiver spread package. They could even line up at fullback on occasion. The coaching staff feels it will have an advantage when linebackers or cornerbacks attempt to cover Davis and Abiamiri.
A deep receiving corps, which includes seven players who ran a 4.5 or better in the 40-yard dash in the spring, also will benefit an inexperienced quarterback. Friedgen likes the possibility of shuffling receivers around in different formations. Steve Suter, Derrick Fenner and Rich Parson -- three players shorter than 6 feet -- are expected to have the most impact.
If quarterback remains an issue, Maryland could rely on Josh Allen even more. The junior started eight games last season, scored eight rushing touchdowns and keyed the Terps' late-season win streak. Maryland will replace the right side of its offensive line with redshirt freshman Andrew Crummey at guard and senior Lou Lombardo at tackle. The left side, featuring C.J. Brooks and Stephon Heyer, and center, featuring Kyle Schmitt, shouldn't be a problem.
When Opponents Have the Ball . . .
Although much of the credit for Maryland's recent success goes to Ralph Friedgen's intricate offense, the defense carried the Terps for much of last season. Maryland led the ACC in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense. Its secondary was the finest in the league -- all four backs received all-conference recognition. Now, three members of the secondary are gone, as well as tackle Randy Starks, who left early for the NFL, and fellow tackle C.J. Feldheim.
Friedgen likes the athleticism and depth he has on defense, but clearly there is going to be a learning curve with some new starters.
The ends should excel. At "Leo," an end-linebacker position, junior Shawne Merriman is a future NFL player and could have a breakthrough season. Kevin Eli, equally formidable on the other side of the line, solidified his starting position when he took over for an injured Scott Smith early in 2003. The Terps will rely on two sophomores at the tackle spots. Rob Armstrong, a nose tackle who played more than any other defensive freshman, and Conrad Bolston will be expected to carry the bulk of the responsibility.
Maryland will be tested at linebacker, although middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson could make up for any drop-off by the unit. But perhaps the biggest question mark is in the secondary. Domonique Foxworth is a stalwart at one corner, and at least in the spring Friedgen was pleased with the development of his safeties. Chris Kelley looked comfortable and was able to blitz effectively. Ray Custis showed improved speed and leadership abilities, Friedgen said. The defense needs to come close to duplicating last season's dominance because the quarterback situation will remain a work in progress for much of the first half of the season.
-- Eric Prisbell