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Comfortable in anonymity
The start of a new football season at Maryland carried with it many facets of recent Terrapins‘ seasons past.
All the right things were said about an undecided quarterback competition. There was talk of improving on back-to-back bowl berths and contending for a conference title.
And there was nary a superstar to be found.
As usual, the Terps are Team Anonymous, which might not be such a bad thing.
Arguably the two biggest stars to pass through College Park in coach Ralph Friedgen’s seven seasons were Shawne Merriman and Vernon Davis, a pair of first-round NFL Draft picks who left school after 5-6 seasons.
Maryland won nine games in 2006 and squeezed out an Emerald Bowl appearance last year with a group of players with less recognizable names.
These Terps could be similar. Center Edwin Williams was the only preseason All-ACC pick; he’s joined on the media guide cover by capable (though not necessarily well-known) seniors Kevin Barnes, Jeremy Navarre and Dave Philistin.
Probably the team’s biggest name is junior wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey, who admits Maryland’s low profile might actually help.
“Having an ‘it guy,’ it can hurt teams,” Heyward-Bey said. “If I am the ‘it guy,’ then it doesn’t hurt this team. I think we’re a well-rounded group.”
Obviously, there is plenty for Friedgen to sort out. He said he would like to set a lineup quickly, which could make the next two weeks vital for sorting out quarterbacks Chris Turner and Jordan Steffy.
But there’s also the matter of finding a way to avoid past problems, which have led to three losing seasons in four years. Injuries acted as a severe hindrance last fall, but Friedgen is attuned to other issues.
“One of the things I think that’s so important in winning is unselfishness - everybody knowing their role and everybody playing for a team victory,” Friedgen said. “I’ve seen that in this bunch, and I talked to them [Sunday] night about that. They get people in their ear, whether they’re agents or family members or friends. They have to trust in me that I know what I’m doing if they want to be successful.”
Friedgen is quick to remind a more balanced cast that wins can create more collective opportunities in the future. Yet a superstar-free environment could present other benefits in the near-term.
“When you have big-name guys like that, it also gives teams a person to key on - someone they’re aiming to shut down - and if they shut down that person, they’ll shut down the team,” left guard Jaimie Thomas said. “With us, there isn’t necessarily that one person.”
Of course, stars draw attention, something Maryland probably won’t attract much of in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 30 opener against Delaware.
About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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