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'The New Breed' has more confidence than experience

September 08, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Usually, they say if you are going to talk the talk, you had better walk the walk.

It's a little different at the University of Maryland this season, especially for the passing attack.

For now, before the Terrapins can talk the talk, they have to run the route.

The Maryland passing game is an unknown. All the experience and household names have graduated and have turned the game over to a pack of kids.

They are "The New Breed." And they have the potential to be pretty good.

How does anyone know? They will tell you.

"We feel pretty confident," said Maryland sophomore receiver Danny Oquendo. "We have a lot of speed. Our talent surpasses all the talent they have had here before."

Some big words coming from Oquendo, considering the glowing memories guys such as Vernon Davis, Steve Suter and Rich Parsons, to name a few, have left at Byrd Stadium.

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And especially since every one of Maryland's receivers - with the exception of senior Drew Weatherly, who is injured - have little experience.

So, what does "The New Breed" need to do to prove Oquendo's claims?

"We just need time," he said.

That is one of those Catch-22 situations for the Terps this year. Coach Ralph Friedgen knows he has the opportunity to have a good receiving corps in time, but Maryland doesn't have much time if it wants to return to the national spotlight.

"I think they are going to be very good," Fridgen assured Tuesday during his weekly media conference. "It's not going to happen overnight."

The ongoing process continues Saturday when Maryland hosts Middle Tennessee in the second game of the season.

Maryland's new passing attack had a quiet night in last Saturday's 27-14 win over William & Mary. The Terps didn't throw the ball much because they didn't have to.

The Terps' running game was effective, and they only used the pass to set up things. It made for an easy night for returning starting quarterback Sam Hollenbach, who is out to improve on the adventurous season of 2005.

And it left some questions unanswered when it came to the new receivers.

"It was about what I expected," Friedgen said. "We made mistakes. We have to get better. Isaiah (Williams) made a play. Danny (Oquendo) made some plays, but made some mistakes, too"

The game faltered a little when backup quarterback Jordan Steffy entered the game. Steffy struggled, going 0-for-5 passing, but it wasn't all his fault.

Friedgen said part of the problem was the inexperience of the receivers, who had problems completing their routes. Some were run short, throwing off the timing of the play and forcing Steffy to improvise.

That put Maryland's receivers on the clock, so to speak.

"Overall, I felt like I did well for the first time," said Oquendo, who caught three passes for 55 yards, but also fumbled. "I didn't get too tired and I ran crisp routes. I fumbled ... which means I have to take care of the ball better."

Maryland threw for 153 yards against William & Mary, but there will be a need for bigger numbers, especially if the Terps plan to keep a strong running game.

Middle Tennessee becomes a good test for Oquendo and the rest of "The New Breed." The Blue Raiders play the "press" style of defense, which contests receivers coming off the line of scrimmage. The pass catchers need to win the hand-to-hand combat battle quickly to get open to catch the ball.

"I got to get off the press quicker," Oquendo said. "Middle Tennessee plays it, so it will give me a good test. I have to get upfield quicker."

And that is only the dress rehearsal before Oquendo faces football's version of the fullcourt press. On Thursday, the Terps will travel to face West Virginia, which will have defensive backs who are quicker and more athletic than he will have faced.

"I have to see what it takes to get to the next level," Oquendo said. "I haven't been there to get a look at it yet, so I don't know what it is."

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