Young Terps prepare for challenge

August 12, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen likes to keep his teams feeling young at heart.

During his first three seasons with the Terrapins, Friedgen did his level best to keep a lot of pressure off his team so the players would perform well and have fun.

In 2004, though, it won't be difficult for Friedgen to grasp that feeling. The Terps are not only young at heart, they are young at quarterback, young at lineman, young at defensive back ...

Face it, the Terps are young all over.

"This is going to be our greatest challenge since I've been here," Friedgen said Wednesday during Maryland's annual Media Day at the newly refurbished Gossett Field House, just off of Byrd Stadium. "My first year here, we had a lot of players who had at least some game experience. We have never had this many kids who don't have any game experience at all."


There's no truth to to the rumor that the new fieldhouse has a diaper changing station because of the decided number of young occupants.

But Maryland's roster features 36 players who still have four years of eligibility remaining.

It makes for a change in some of the terms which are being used to describe Maryland football. "Veteran," for example, has been pushed aside for "excited" and "enthusiastic."

"I'm excited about the season," Friedgen said. "It seems like we just finished the Gator Bowl and now we've got a very young team that's very enthusiastic and has a lot of talent. I would like to see how they develop in the coming weeks."

Friedgen's Football Farm will have a new crop in many of the key positions.

  • The search is on for a new quarterback. Gone is Scott McBrien, who rounded into the efficient leader Friedgen predicted. Junior Joel Statham seemed to be the heir apparent for the job - with his minimal experience - over redshirt sophomore Stan Hollenbach. But Statham struggled in the spring game, opening a competition for the position.

    "The last evaluation I had was the spring game and I would say Sam Hollenbach isn't far behind Joel Statham," Friedgen said. "Sam has progressed this summer and now we have to see where he's at. Whoever it is is going to be a young one without a lot of experience, so the sooner we can arrive at that, the better."

  • The Terps have to find replacements for seven defensive backs from last season.

  • The defensive line has some returnees, but is young overall with a number of untested backups.

  • With the shortage of experienced players at the wide receiver and defensive back positions, the Terps are stretched for depth on the special teams.

Maryland's youthful base has Friedgen holding off on any judgements. But the best thing about the young Terps is they are young, but they don't know it.

"When I first got here, we asked the team to establish its goals and they just wanted to win and win the (Atlantic Coast Conference) title. I was disappointed," Friedgen said. "These guys came in here predicting they are going to win the ACC title and the national championship. It's all a product of winning. Even though these kids had nothing to do with making Maryland a winner, they still come in here saying they are going to win."

Friedgen wouldn't have it any other way though. He has been predicting Maryland as a winner since he arrived four years ago. The Terps have responded with 31 wins in three years.

But this season, Maryland is ranked No. 20 in the preseason coaches' poll and has been chosen to finish fifth in the expanded ACC. The addition of Miami and Virginia Tech to the conference mix - along with Maryland's youth - has changed the complexion of the league, but not the Friedgen's objective.

"I have no control of where they pick us," Friedgen said. "That's (the media). ... You guys are the experts. If this team finishes with eight wins, it doesn't make it a failure. Ten-win seasons are special. They don't come around that often."

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