- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

The quarterback of the future may now be the quarterback of the present at Maryland. Chris Kelley had a glint in his eyes yesterday as he announced he plans to be the Terrapins' starter when the team opens Aug.31 at the Meadowlands against Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic.
"If I didn't think that, I wouldn't be here right now," said Kelley, who had his third major knee surgery less than three months ago and was fully cleared to practice this week. "That's the mindset I take into practice."
Kelley's status is one of many questions the Terps will soon hope to answer as they conduct their first full-squad practice this morning. All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson is fully recovered, but hasn't been hit since undergoing back surgery in the offseason. ACC Offensive Player of the Year Bruce Perry believes he is "95 percent" after missing spring practice with stomach strains and an operation.
The bigger question is whether Maryland can repeat its spectacular season of last year when it rose from obscurity to win 10 games, capture the ACC title and earn a berth in the Orange Bowl. The 2001 campaign ended a 10-year postseason drought for Maryland as Ralph Friedgen brought back a dormant program in his first season.
"Last year, we didn't want to have high expectations," said Friedgen, who won the majority of the national coach of the year awards. "It's good that our expectations are rising. If you want to have a quality program, you should have high expectations. The one thing we have now that we didn't know last year at this time is we know we can win."
But "The Fridge" is quick to cool overblown expectations, pointing out there are only 11 seniors on the team, there are some major holes particularly on defense plus the uncertain health of three of the team's key players.
However, players believe they can be as good or even better than last season when they spent the late part of the season in the top 10 before finishing 11th after losing to Florida in the Orange Bowl. These Terps are not expected to repeat as league champions by so-called experts. Florida State is forecast to regain its ACC dominance.
"I've seen a lot of publications have us in the middle or bottom of the ACC," said Henderson, a senior and returning conference player of the year. "It's a mission for us to get back on top of the ACC and stay there. We want to be a top-15 team every year. One 10-win season is not going to make a program."
The first order will be to find a quarterback to replace Shaun Hill, who is currently in camp with the Minnesota Vikings. Kelley was the heir apparent before going down in the spring game with a torn ACL in his right knee, requiring his third knee surgery in under two years. (The other two were on his left knee.) That left junior Scott McBrien, who sat out last season after transferring from West Virginia, as the front-runner with junior college transfer Orlando Evans challenging him.
"With Chris being cleared, I'm still being very, very cautious with him," said Friedgen, who sees the starting quarterback job as open. "I'm kind of in a bind there. I don't want to push him, but I have to do something."
Kelley said he has no limitations and has no pain dropping back or making lateral movements. The coach plans to determine early in preseason who the top two quarterbacks will be for the opener, so he can prepare.
Other than quarterback and center, the Terps return experience at every offensive position. Redshirt sophomore Kyle Schmitt will take over at center on a strong line, which includes All-ACC guard Todd Wike, stalwart tackle Matt Crawford and standout tight end Jeff Dugan. Jafar Williams and Scooter Monroe lead a deep group of receivers, which also has converted quarterback Latrez Harrison.
In contrast, Henderson will have a different cast around him. Only five starters are back after linebacker Mike Whaley left school due to academic problems. Shawne Merriman, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound true freshman, could start in that spot. Sophomore nose guard Randy Starks will anchor the line after the departure of Charles Hill. There will also be a new set of safeties with former cornerback Dennard Wilson and junior Madieu Williams, who has received positive reviews since transferring from Towson University and sitting out last season.
The special teams are among the ACC's best with preseason All-American punter Brooks Barnard and kicker Nick Novak.
"It's time to move on," said Friedgen. "Last year was special unto itself. But it's over and we have to go on. The next game is Notre Dame."
Notes Reserve offensive guard Reggie Kemp and backup center Jason Holman have left the team. Holman is hoping to return to school and be eligible next season. Receiver Maurice Shanks is recovering from a hernia operation and should be back in early September. Barnard was one of 13 players to bench press 400 pounds in testing. "If he takes a hit, you know he'll come right back," Henderson said. "He's one of a kind."



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