- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The receivers are banged up, the quarterbacks are inexperienced and the offensive line is still unsettled. Fortunately, Maryland has plenty of good running backs.

As a result, coach Ralph Friedgen might downscale the offense for the opener against Northern Illinois on Sept. 4.

“We’re not executing well right now, which is not unusual,” he said. “I’m thinking about cutting back on installation to concentrate on what we’ve got.”

Friedgen doesn’t want to abandon his passing-oriented offense, because defenses will play eight-man fronts against the run, but the Terps’ passing game hasn’t been sharp since workouts began Aug. 11. How well sophomore Joel Statham, the front-runner to start, fares in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage could impact the gameplan.

Friedgen likes to rotate running backs every series, and Josh Allen again tops a deep unit. Allen is a brilliant speedster who can rip off long gains on the outside. Sam Maldonado is a barreling inside runner who converts short-yardage plays. Lance Ball, J.P. Humber and Keon Lattimore also may play regularly.

“If Sammy and I have to carry the load, we’ll be ready,” Allen said. “But we don’t feel that will be the case. Joel will be ready. Joel is further along at this stage than [predecessor] Scotty [McBrien] may have been.”

Allen led the Terps with 922 yards last season, including 257 against Virginia, the 11th-highest total in ACC history. Allen scored on an 80-yard run against Virginia after opening The Citadel game with a 72-yard touchdown. Friedgen admitted Allen plays better as a primary back, pointing to his 38 carries against Virginia, when howling winds checked the Terps to a season-low 21 passes.

“I’m trying to get to the point where I’m not just good in the third and fourth quarters but be an impact player at the beginning of the game,” Allen said. “Once you start breaking off a chunk here and there, you’re in a zone and can’t do anything wrong. That comes in the third and fourth quarter with a swagger that nobody can stop me.”

Maldonado lost 10 pounds in the offseason after missing the last four games with knee surgery. The 6-foot, 233-pound senior simply overpowers defenders for extra yards.

“I’m still ‘Sammy the Bull,’ but now I’m a little quicker,” he said. “I feel like I’m always delivering [the blow], not accepting.”

The contrasting styles bedeviled defenses last season. When they adapted to Allen’s outside speed, the Terps gave Maldonado the ball inside.

“I could see where it could be frustrating when you feel like you’re getting used to one runner and slowing him down and somebody else comes in with a different style and wears you down,” Allen said. “It’s one of our strengths.”

Lattimore might move from the crowded Terps backfield to receiver because of injuries. Lattimore, who resembles his half-brother Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, has to improve his ball control.

“He has a very quick move laterally,” Friedgen said. “He carries the ball loosely and is going to get stripped, but he did make some plays and has a chance to be a pretty exciting running back once he learns [to hold on to the ball.]”

Said Lattimore: “The game is three times faster than high school. They’re bigger, stronger and smarter.”

Notes — Freshmen quarterbacks Dan Gronkowski and Erin Henderson switched to tight end and linebacker, respectively. Both wouldn’t have played quarterback this season and requested the moves.

“We’d always be fighting at the quarterback position for my career,” Gronkowski said. “I like quarterback better, but it’s a lot of work, and if you don’t play it’s not good. I’m just trying to get on the field.” …

Safety Chris Kelley (concussion), offensive tackle Brock Choate (strained quad), fullback Ricardo Dickerson (hamstring) and center Robert Jenkins (hamstring) didn’t practice. Receiver Rich Parson worked after dislocating his right thumb Sunday. … Referees will officiate practice today to concentrate on penalties.

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