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Comfortable in anonymity

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

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.

While Clemson, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest remain the consensus favorites in the ACC, Team Anonymous plans to make itself known when the season commences.

"I think we're definitely a team that's overlooked this year," tight end Dan Gronkowski said. "We have a lot of guys returning from injury, a lot of returning starters and a lot of guys with playing experience that are going to be playing this year. I don't think the media or the critics have looked at that."

Notes - Sophomore Dominique Herald has been suspended for the Aug. 30 season opener against Delaware for a violation of team rules. Friedgen said Herald is expected to move back to safety from linebacker when he returns. ...

Freshman Kenny Tate was moved from wide receiver to safety. ...

Offensive lineman Evan Eastburn transferred out of the program, Friedgen said. ...

Earlier in the summer, defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi was placed on scholarship. ...

Offensive lineman Tyler Bowen (foot), defensive lineman Joe Vellano (shoulder) and wide receiver Kevin Dorsey (foot) are not in camp but will report when school begins, with Dorsey likely to undergo an operation soon.