- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

Maryland’s next chance to contend in the ACC might not come until 2006.

The Terrapins, who wrapped up a 5-6 season with a 13-7 victory against Wake Forest on Saturday, face a rebuilding season after losing several key players.

The Terps might need a new offensive backfield, their offensive and defensive lines both lose three starters, the secondary has only one holdover, and the special teams must replace stars at kicker and punt returner plus its deep snapper.

Maryland will be strong at linebacker and punter. The rest must be sorted out.

“This is still a young team and I have to be patient,” coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday. “I think we have a chance with [young players] developing to be good in the future. I think we’ll still be young next year, but if we have another good recruiting class we’ll be fine.”

The Terps came within a controversial call of making their fourth straight bowl game, but the offense was miserable. After scoring 55 points against Duke on Sept.25, Maryland managed just 56 points in its final seven games. The Terps scored 211 fewer points than in 2003 while enduring significant decreases in rushing (1,100) and passing (1,000) yardage.

If not for a defense that was only thrashed once, Maryland might have finished 2-9. The Terps permitted just 220 points overall — 14 more than last year — while their starters didn’t permit more than 16 points in any game.

Spring drills begin April2 and quarterback will be a priority. Jordan Steffy might wrestle the job from incumbent Joel Statham by August. Steffy wasn’t ready to start as a true freshman, but his arm strength, mobility and savvy during fall practices was obvious. While Steffy is far from polished, the Terps recognize his potential, though there are questions whether offseason knee and arm surgeries will limit him in the spring.

“He’s gotta go through spring practice,” Friedgen said.

Friedgen won’t dismiss Statham, but the sophomore improved little during the season. Statham’s three interceptions against Virginia Tech on Nov.18 indicated he might not be able to handle top ACC defenses. Statham finished with just eight touchdowns and 15 interceptions, including just one touchdown and eight picks in the final six games.

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach could be a late comer. After losing the job to Statham in the spring game, Hollenbach barely played before posting a respectable 16 of 27 for 164 yards against Wake Forest, which possessed the ACC’s worst secondary. Hollenbach said he’ll consider transferring after meeting with coaches. While the staff certainly will urge Hollenbach to remain, his chances of starting seem questionable.

“I don’t think we can go on [at quarterback] like this year but I haven’t given up on Joel yet,” Friedgen said. “I’m very encouraged with Sam Hollenbach. I was very pleased with some of the things he did [against Wake Forest]. The big thing he didn’t do was beat us. He played well enough for us not to lose the game. I think Jordan Steffy is going to be a very good player.”

Maryland might need a new running back as well. Sam Maldonado graduates and Josh Allen suffered a devastating knee injury against Wake Forest. With two torn ligaments, Allen might have to redshirt next season. The Terps have prospects in Mario Merrills, Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball, but little experience.

The Terps are so thin at receiver that Friedgen will consider starting true freshmen next year. The unit made few standout plays this season. While a dominant receiver never has been a big part of Friedgen’s offense, the Terps need playmakers.

Defensively, D’Qwell Jackson will lead a linebacking unit that likely will rate among the ACC’s best. However, the line and secondary return one starter each. Replacing lockdown cornerback Domonique Foxworth and safety Chris Kelley will be difficult, and junior defensive end Shawne Merriman probably will depart early for the NFL after accumulating 17 sacks over the last two seasons.

Punter Adam Podlesh might become the best punter in the nation, but the Terps must find successors to kicker Nick Novak and returner Steve Suter. Novak is fifth on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list, while Suter is the ACC’s career leader in punt return yards.

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