Are you in or are you out? Those words were repeated over and over by first-year coach Ralph Friedgen during the Terrapins' 2001 season, which culminated in their first ACC title in 16 years. Last February, as word got out that Friedgen was up for an NFL job, the Terps turned the tables. When Friedgen arrived for a 5:45 a.m. workout, he found players waiting for him. Junior cornerback Dennard Wilson asked, "Are you in or are you out?"
Friedgen's decision was clear. "I'm in," he said. "Let's get to work" He and his players then turned to the task of proving that Maryland's third winning season in 14 years was no fluke. "Last year the kids made a commitment to me," says Friedgen, "and I realized it was my turn. We've got plenty left to do. This program has not yet arrived."
One Terrapin who arrived was junior tailback Bruce Perry, the ACC's top rusher (1,242 yards) and offensive player of the year. The 5' 9" 196-pounder has 4-46 speed (he often quotes Jay-Z as he dances past defenders, telling them, "Come and get me if you want me") and sure hands (his 359 receiving yards were third most on the team). Maryland will rely heavily on him while it breaks in a new quarterback. Sophomore Chris Kelley, who tore his right ACL in April, may be ready midway through the season, but until then transfers Scott McBrien, who had one career start for West Virginia, and Orlando Evans, who threw for 2,391 yards and 28 touchdowns at City College of San Francisco, will vie for the job.
The defense showcases Butkus Award finalist E.J. Henderson (103 solo tackles) at linebacker, but with only five returning starters, it's inexperienced. Says coordinator Gary Blackney, "Some of these guys are going to have to learn quickly." They won't have much time: Maryland opens against Notre Dame on Aug. 31 and two weeks later plays Florida State at home. "Last year everything was new to us," says Perry. "Now we know what it takes to show that this program is here to stay."