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Terps born to (defend) run

October 04, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It is becoming the ultimate fill-in-the-blank session at Ralph Friedgen's weekly media conference.

"(School) has a great running game."

"(Player's name) is one of the toughest runners we've faced."

Those have been the mainstays in virtually every one of the University of Maryland football coach's briefings this season.

They sound like smoke signals of courtesy being puffed into the media to prevent bulletin-board fodder for opposing teams. But, in these cases, they aren't.

The Terps have been chasing after some of the top running backs in the country and will continue to get a steady dose of ground games in the foreseeable future.

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"(Georgia Tech) probably has the best back that we've faced, and we've faced some pretty good backs," Friedgen said Tuesday.

Tashard Choice is the threat du jour as he averages 100 yards per game for the Yellow Jackets and has five touchdowns, good for third best in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He is on the radar screen a week after Maryland faced Rutgers' Ray Rice, the Big East's top runner.

"They are both good backs. Rice is a strong runner and Choice is quicker," Friedgen said. "Both have good vision. I've seen Choice make some plays where there's nothing there, but he ends up getting 20 yards."

Choice is the latest in a long line of runners who have tested the Terps' defense, starting with the third week of the season:

· Sept. 13: Steve Slaton, West Virginia - Is third in Big East and 20th in the nation in rushing, averaging 111.2 yards per game. Rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-14 win over the Terps. Was supplemented by freshman Noel Divine, who had 136 yards in five carries.

· Sept. 22: Josh Adams, Wake Forest - Adams, a freshman, is ninth in the ACC, averaging 62.0 yards per game. He rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Terps in a 31-24 victory in overtime.

· Sept. 29: Rice, Rutgers - Rice is first in the Big East and seventh in the nation in rushing with 132.0 yards per game. He had 100 yards and a touchdown in Maryland's 34-24 victory.

· Saturday: Choice, Georgia Tech

· Oct. 20: Cedric Peerman, Virginia: No. 1 in the ACC and No. 16 in nation with his 113.2 yards per game.

· Oct. 27: James Davis, Clemson - No. 5 in the ACC and 44th in the nation at 90.8 yards per game. He had 90 yards in last season's 13-12 loss to the Terps.

· Nov. 10: Andre Callender, Boston College - Fourth in the ACC and 43rd in the nation at 92.6 yards per game. Rushed for 27 yards last season in a 38-16 win over Maryland in a backup role.

· Nov. 24: Andre Brown, North Carolina State - No. 6 in the ACC and 55th in the nation, averaging 85.4 yards per game. He rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown last season in a 26-20 loss to Maryland.

So Maryland's defense approaches each week as just another day in the life of being a Terp.

"(Choice) is a great running back," said safety Christian Varner. "We watched film on him (Monday) and he's physical on every run. He's fast and he reads the hole. He's a good back.

"It's another great back we have to face. It seems like every week we have to stop another great back. It's a great opportunity for us."

But Maryland's defense has had one thing on its side. They practice against Keon Lattimore, the ACC's second-leading rusher and top scorer. He is 28th in the nation at 106.6 yards per game and has eight touchdowns.

"We don't worry about who we face on the defensive line," said lineman Carlos Feliciano. "The first thing we usually hit is the offensive lineman in front of us. But we get a lot of practice facing good runners because we go against Keon every day."

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