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Maryland Terrapins

The Lowdown
Coach: Ralph Friedgen
(4th season, 31-8)
2003 record: 10-3
(Beat West Virginia in Gator Bowl)
ACC finish: 6-2 (2nd)
'03 I-A Offensive Rankings:
Rush: 24th (191.3 ypg)
Pass: 44th (230.4 ypg)
'03 I-A Defensive Rankings:
Rush: 31st (129.4 ypg)
Pass: 12th (179.0 ypg)
2004 Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 4 Northern Illinois
Sept. 11 Temple
Sept. 18 at West Virginia
Sept. 25 at Duke
Oct. 9 Georgia Tech
Oct. 16 N.C. State
Oct. 23 at Clemson
Oct. 30 Florida State
Nov. 6 at Virginia
Nov. 18 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 27 Wake Forest
Depth Chart: Offense
5 returning starters in bold
% - starter in 3-wide sets
Ps. No. Player Yr. No. Player Yr.
WR 83 Derrick Fenner Jr. 89 Drew Weatherly So.
WR 34 Steve Suter Sr. 85 Dan Melendez Jr.
%SL 22 Rich Parson Sr. 9 Jo Jo Walker Jr.
LT 70 Stephon Heyer Jr. 78 Ryan Flynn Sr.
LG 74 C.J. Brooks Sr. 77 Russell Bonham Jr.
C 72 Kyle Schmitt Sr. 68 Ryan McDonald Jr.
RG 63 Andrew Crummey Fr. 69 Donnie Woods Fr.
RT 79 Lou Lombardo Sr. 58 Brandon Nixon Fr.
TE 84 Derek Miller Jr. 87 Vernon Davis So.
QB 16 Joel Statham So. 14 Sam Hollenbach So.
FB 5 Ricardo Dickerson Jr. 40 Maurice Smith Sr.
TB 33 Josh Allen Jr. 29 Sammy Maldonado Sr.
Depth Chart: Defense
4 returning starters in bold
Ps. No. Player Yr. No. Player Yr.
DE 41 Kevin Eli Sr. 98 Omarr Savage Fr.
NT 91 Rob Armstrong So. 64 Justin Duffie Jr.
DT 95 Conrad Bolston So. 92 Dre Moore Fr.
LEO 45 Shawne Merriman Jr. 47 Jon Condo Sr.
SLB 59 David Holloway So. 51 Eric Lenz Fr.
MLB 52 D'Qwell Jackson Jr. 27 Tim Cesa Fr.
WLB 48 William Kershaw Jr. 35 Wesley Jefferson Fr.
CB 17 Rueben Haigler Sr. 38 Gerrick McPhearson Jr.
CB 6 Domonique Foxworth Sr. 24 Chris Varner Fr.
SS 2 Chris Kelley Sr. 12 Marcus Wimbush So.
FS 26 Raymond Curtis Sr.   Richard Taylor Fr.
Special Teams
Ps. No. Player Yr. Ps. No. Player Yr.
K 46 Nick Novak Sr. P 36 Adam Podlesh So.
KR 34 Steve Suter Sr. PR 34 Steve Suter Sr.

Ralph Friedgen was unusually relaxed in the weeks leading up to spring practice. Following a third consecutive season with at least 10 victories, Friedgen treated his staff to a week of vacation at a Dominican Republic resort. Then, on the way home, Friedgen took a detour, stopping in Atlanta and retreating to his Georgia lake house for a few days. "Getting soft, I guess," Friedgen joked.

Hardly. A more likely scenario is that entering a fourth season with largely the same group of assistants, Friedgen and his staff have things going so well that a major offseason overhaul is unnecessary.

"I don't know if it's good or bad," Friedgen said. "Normally I go through the playbook every year and go through all our tapes. We did it faster this year than any other year. [We didn't have to] spend that much time on what we're doing and how we're doing it."

Maybe not, but Friedgen knows there are several questions facing his team in 2004. Can the Terrapins find a capable quarterback? What about the secondary, which loses three key starters, most notably All-ACC safety Madieu Williams? Can the defensive line overcome the loss of tackle Randy Starks, who chose the NFL over his senior season? Will Maryland be able to replace the right side of its offensive line?

Making things a little more difficult than in past seasons, the Terrapins will have to answer these questions while trying to meet lofty expectations. It is another reminder of Maryland's progress since turning to Friedgen.

"Remember, I was disappointed because we had such low expectations," Friedgen said, alluding to the days when a six-win season would have been enough to earn the team a parade down Route 1 through College Park. "If you want to have a good program, then that comes with it."

Offense
The team's biggest issue is quarterback, where third-year sophomore Joel Statham is the leading contender to take the season's first snap. An athletic player with running ability, Statham threw just 25 passes last season, and his three interceptions in the spring game didn't instill confidence in the coaching staff. Don't be surprised if true freshman Jordan Steffy gets a look.

Junior tailback Josh Allen appears set to move into the full-time role at tailback. He rushed for 922 yards while sharing time with Bruce Perry last year. Sammy Maldonado, a transfer from Ohio State, averaged 6.0 yards per carry in a reserve role last season. He can be counted on to carry the load if Allen goes down.

There will be some new faces at wide receiver, but senior Steve Suter (a two-time All-ACC return specialist) gives the team a top playmaker. He caught 29 passes for 471 yards last season. Derrick Fenner could be primed for a breakout season. He turned 12 receptions into 334 yards for an ACC-best 27.8 yards per catch last season.

Center Kyle Schmitt and All-ACC guard C.J. Brooks will lead a unit that has been a pleasant surprise in each of Ralph Friedgen's seasons. Brooks, who has started all 37 games in his career, should vie for All-America honors. Schmitt, an honorable mention All-ACC pick, was the Terps' highest-graded lineman in 2003.

Defense
Senior defensive end Kevin Eli, whose career had mostly been an afterthought until he was pressed into service midway through last season, earned second-team All-ACC honors with 5.5 sacks.

"He wasn't even going to come back and use [his final season of eligibility]," Friedgen said. "He's already graduated. Now he's back and being a leader."

The linebackers will be the unit's strength, led by Shawne Merriman, who has big-play ability on every down. D'Qwell Jackson returns at middle linebacker. Tall and hard-hitting William Kershaw is penciled in at the weak-side linebacker.

Cornerback Domonique Foxworth, a two-time All-ACC pick, excels in coverage. Unfortunately, he's the only returning starter in the secondary. Senior Rueben Haigler could start at the other corner, but of more concern are the safety spots, where seniors Chris Kelley and Ray Custis are untested and sure to be challenged.

Specialists
Maryland's special teams, with every key player returning, should be a strength. Kicker Nick Novak, a two-time first-team All-ACC selection, has excellent range and consistency and is strong on kickoffs. Punter Adam Podlesh was second-team All-ACC as a redshirt freshman.

Suter has six punt returns for TDs, one shy of the NCAA career record.

Final Analysis
In a short amount of time, Friedgen led the Terrapins from the conference basement to its upper echelon, a notch behind Florida State. Staying there might be difficult, however, with the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech in the ACC's football-driven expansion.

But Friedgen believes his alma mater can continue to compete at the highest of levels. And with 31 wins in three years, it's hard to doubt him.

"I try to look at each year's team, what their potential will allow; that's all you can expect," Friedgen said. "I think the precedent [of 10 victories] has been set. Our kids look at that as a benchmark."

Click here for a complete list of 2004 Team Previews from Athlon

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