- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

Maryland kicker Nick Novak is taking a victory lap.

Novak is already the Terrapins’ career leading scorer (324 points). He has kicked three game-winning field goals. The Terps have two bowl victories and one ACC championship in his three seasons.

Been there — kicked that.

But Novak still has goals. He’s nominated for the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker after earning All-ACC honors last year. A field goal would make him the conference’s career leading scorer and another 100 points — a total he surpassed in each of the past two seasons — would top former Houston kicker Roman Anderson’s NCAA career record of 423.

Then there’s the NFL scouts. With another standout season, Novak could get drafted next spring. He just has to remain consistent to get a look.

“A lot of seniors tend to get tight wanting to do well,” Novak said. “I don’t want to fall into that trap.”

Novak spent the offseason at kicking camps. After missing three extra points late last season while raising his kicking toe too much, he went back to the basics.

“I never stray away from mechanics,” he said. “I go to camps and compete against other guys. I never want to stay stagnant. I have more distance in my leg.”

Said coach Ralph Friedgen: “He’s such a perfectionist. I love him for that whether it’s academically or kicking. He’s very, very serious. He has a huge amount of pride in whatever he does.”

Novak will also spend the season mentoring successors Dan Ennis and Obi Egekeze.

“Dan’s ready mentally,” Novak said. “He just needs to gain more confidence kicking in front of all those people.”

Fab freshmen?

ACC commissioner John Swofford said teams should play freshmen this season in anticipation of the NCAA increasing player eligibility from four to five years next spring and eliminating the redshirt rule. Friedgen wishes it was that simple.

If a freshman is redshirted this season and the rule passes, he missed the chance to gain experience even late in blowouts. However, if freshmen play and the proposal is defeated, they’ll lose a valuable year that would have been better saved. The problem is Friedgen won’t know the proposal’s outcome until after the season so he’s gambling by playing freshmen.

Freshman quarterback Jordan Steffy might benefit most by the change. Playing even as a backup would help his development. However, Friedgen will hedge on playing newcomers this season.

“If they’re good enough to play as a freshman then play them,” he said, “because they may not be around as seniors.”

Team house expansion

Friedgen used to sneak prospects in the back door of Gossett Team House so they wouldn’t notice the decrepit facade. Now the $14million makeover has turned the front entrance into a mini-Soldier Field.

“It doesn’t feel like the same place,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. “It has a new aura. It was one door and now it’s a big thing with pillars and columns. Our facilities were well overdue for improvements and they’ve shown they’re committed to the program. They put up financially. They weren’t for years, but now we’re putting up wins and they’re putting up money.”

The Terrapin Football Hall of Fame, open to the public on weekdays, includes jerseys of former standouts Randy White, Bob Ward, E.J. Henderson and Jack Scarbath. There are features on the program’s bowl history, players in the pros and All-America lists along with interactive televisions designed to impress recruits. Indeed, five prep players recently gave oral commitments after visiting Gossett.

Extra points

Defensive end Shawne Merriman is planning a canned food and coat drive for this season. Last season, Merriman gathered 3,200 coats for local shelters. “A lot of people had something to wear,” he said, “and it was a nice feeling to give back.” …

Defensive end Kevin Eli (hamstring), receiver Drew Weatherly (sprained ankle), safety Ramond Custis (hamstring) and linebacker Chase Bullock (hamstring) missed practice yesterday.

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