Maryland at a glance

August 30, 2002|By Christian Ewell

Coach: Ralph Friedgen (second season, 10-2)

Last year: 10-2, 7-1 (ACC champion)

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

Stadium: Byrd (48,055)

Offense: Multiple

Defense: Multiple

Top returning players: WR Jafar Williams, C/LG Todd Wike, LB E.J. Henderson, LB Leon Joe, P Brooks Barnard, K Nick Novak

Top newcomers: RB Mario Merrills, OL Stephon Heyer, LB Shawne Merriman, DB Madieu Williams

Strengths: Maryland is decent enough to contend with most teams at the skill positions. The receivers are as fast as they have been in recent years. Even without Bruce Perry (out four to eight weeks with a groin injury), the tailback spot is deeper than it was last season, and though Chris Kelley and Scott McBrien are inexperienced at quarterback, the coaches seem happy with them. A healthy Henderson combines with Joe for a decent linebacking corps, and the defensive line starters -- Durrand Roundtree, C.J. Feldheim and Randy Starks -- are solid. The kicking game is in good shape with Novak and Barnard.

Weaknesses: Even with sound first-string replacements at the skill positions, Maryland is thin on both lines. Heyer -- barely onto campus in College Park -- will likely start at left tackle. C.J. Brooks moves to left guard, replacing first-team All-ACC player Todd Wike, now at center. As for the secondary, the good news is that it doesn't face many top-shelf passing attacks. The bad news is that after giving up 363 and 456 yards through the air against Florida State and Florida, respectively, the team's defensive backs have yet to prove they can go toe-to-toe with the elite.

Strongest opponent: Florida State (Sept. 14). You can mark this one down every season. The Seminoles had their worst season in the past 15 years and still beat the Terps last year, 52-31, in Tallahassee.

Key game: Georgia Tech (Oct. 17). This game begins the ACC-only portion of the schedule. The Yellow Jackets were caught napping by the Terrapins last year. This is a chance for Maryland to prove that its 2001 success was no fluke.

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