Five questions for Maryland


September 03, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg

Can sophomore quarterback Joel Statham get the job done? Probably, but the road could be bumpy at times. Statham has a strong arm and is mobile, but he's also a rhythm passer. If he gets off to a good start, he can look great. If he misfires, or has a few dropped passes, he tries to overcompensate sometimes and makes things worse. Statham showed guts last year in a 7-3 loss at Georgia Tech, and he's not likely to fold if things don't go well. Maryland will run the ball plenty and use lots of play-action to take pressure off Statham, but eventually he'll have to make plays on his own. If he can't, freshman Jordan Steffy will be pushing him hard by midseason.

Can Steve Suter have another dynamic year? Yes, but it will also require playing through a lot of pain. Suter has had five knee operations already, and there's virtually no cartilage left in either knee. He didn't practice much this preseason, and probably will struggle to stay healthy all year. But when he gets the ball in his hands, he'll still be fun to watch. Suter needs two more punt returns for touchdowns to tie the NCAA career record of eight.

How does Maryland replace Randy Starks on its defensive line? The Terps will try to use a rotation of players, but right now, the D-line is Ralph Friedgen's biggest concern. Conrad Bolston and Henry Scott are the starters, with Justin Duffie and Rob Armstrong getting plenty of time. The coaches were hoping Armstrong would step forward this preseason, but injuries, effort and attitude have held him back.

What's the strongest part of this year's team? Special teams. Maryland has the most complete kicking game in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and maybe the country. Nick Novak needs only 100 points to tie the NCAA's all-time leading scoring total for kickers, and he's a two-time All-ACC pick. Punter Adam Podlesh was an All-ACC pick last year as a freshman, and averaged 42.3 yards a boot. Suter is one of the country's best returners.

Would it be a disappointment if the Terps went 8-4? Not at all. Maryland is one of just five schools in the country to win 10 games each of the past three years, and expectations have soared. Friedgen said he believes this might be his toughest season yet in College Park because Maryland is young at so many positions. A brutal four-game stretch (at Clemson, Florida State, at Virginia, at Virginia Tech) will most likely determine Maryland's postseason fate. Ten wins will remain the goal for seniors like Domonique Foxworth and C.J. Brooks, who want to go out on top, but seven or eight wins in the new ACC would be nothing to be ashamed of. - - Kevin Van Valkenburg

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