- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2002

The way Maryland prepared for the Orange Bowl last season clearly didn't work, so the Terrapins plan on trying something different this time around.

The 20th-ranked Terps returned to practice this week to begin getting ready for the Peach Bowl. They took last week off and will work though tomorrow before taking eight days off for final exams. Last season, Maryland took nearly a month off before returning and practiced straight though finals.

"I don't know if it will work," said Terps coach Ralph Friedgen, who felt his team was sluggish because of late-night studying and other academic concerns last season. "Last year, we practiced through exams. The practices weren't very good, and I don't think I helped our kids in their exams. I don't think there is anything to be gained."

Maryland will resume practice next Saturday and Sunday before taking a two-day break for the holidays and flying to Atlanta on Christmas Day. The Terps (10-3) face Tennessee (8-4) on New Year's Eve in the Georgia Dome. Maryland lost to Florida 56-23 in the Orange Bowl last season after a 10-year bowl hiatus and will shoot for its first postseason victory since Bobby Ross was the coach and Friedgen the team's offensive coordinator in the 1985 Cherry Bowl, where it beat Syracuse 35-18.

"We didn't know how to handle last year," All-ACC punter Brooks Barnard said. "We can take the experience we had last year, and it will really help us this year."

The Terps' new practice strategy should keep them fresher for the bowl game. The players said last season's condensed practice sessions took a toll, especially the two-a-day practices designed to help younger players get a jump on this season.

"[Friedgen] is letting us have a lot of say on what we are doing," receiver Scooter Monroe said.

The practice schedule probably is more conducive because the grueling 13-game schedule ended Nov. 30. Last year's 11-game season ended nearly two weeks earlier, and there were more than six weeks between the final regular-season game and the Orange Bowl. This season, the gap is a little more than four weeks.

Maryland is putting its game plan in this week and will refine it with six practices at the Georgia Dome starting Christmas night. The Terps are practicing this week without All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson, who is traveling to four award ceremonies.

The Terps have spent time watching film on the Volunteers, who began the season ranked fourth before plummeting amidst a series of injuries. Unranked Tennessee is a typical top SEC team, with speed surrounding quarterback Casey Clausen. The Vols' defense is ranked seventh nationally, allowing 285.8 yards a game. The pass defense is even more stringent, led by All-SEC defensive backs Rashad Baker (five interceptions) and Julian Battle.

"I put them with Notre Dame and Florida State," said Friedgen, comparing the Vols to two teams that beat Maryland handily early this season. "They are very, very quick. They play a lot of man coverage, a lot of press coverage all the things that have given us problems."

The Terps' lack of team speed was exposed by Steve Spurrier's Florida team in last season's Orange Bowl. Maryland is still not as fast as the elite SEC teams, but it feels its experience and improved speed will equal the Vols' fleet feet.

"I'm not sure how far we are behind them [speed-wise] now," Maryland center Todd Wike said. "It is definitely different than a lot of teams we play. They are a lot faster than a lot of teams we play. You just have to be more exact on everything you do."

Notes Maryland has sold 7,000 of its 20,000 allotted tickets to the Peach Bowl. The remainder go on sale to the public this morning Friedgen will miss tomorrow's practice because of a news conference in Atlanta for the bowl game, then he will go to Orlando, Fla., to be with Henderson for the Butkus Award announcement Friday.

Spring practice will begin early this year because the school will be reconfiguring the practice fields. Friedgen expects the session to start around Feb. 22, with the spring game around March 22.

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