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Let's not pretend: At this time last year, Wake Forest was not talking about playing in the ACC championship game as one of its goals. Senior defensive end Jeremy Thompson admitted it. However, he said, last year's unprecedented success was not a fluke. Neither was the win against Maryland.

"In years past, they've always been the ones to squash our dreams," he said of the Terps. "Every year it seemed like they had our number. It was good to go up to Maryland and play well enough to win."

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Maryland opens its league schedule on Sept. 22 on the road against the Deacs, and it's not likely the Terps have forgotten about that game last year. It kept Maryland out of the ACC championship game.

Speaking of missed opportunities down the stretch last year ...

Remember Jolonn Dunbar at Boston College? The guy who has made a habit out of running fumble recoveries for touchdowns against the Terps (three in the past two seasons)? Dunbar said the defense needs to play BETTER than it did last year in scoring defense, which finished 14th in the nation (15.7 ppg). Dunbar wants them in the top 10.

"If Matt (Ryan) and them can only put up 21 points, we need to make sure the next team has less than 21 points. That's my philosophy."

The Terps averaged 21 ppg last year. Dunbar thinks the Eagles can win the ACC title under first-year coach Jeff Jagodzinski.

"I think we can go to the ACC championship and win the ACC championship," he said. "That's my personal opinion. I think we have enough talent to do it and we have the right guys in the right places to do it."

I sat down with him for a bit to talk about the coaching change. Apparently the loss of O'Brien came as a shock. Dunbar hadn't seen O'Brien until today, when they ran into each other at the Resort. He and Matt Ryan saw the coach and his wife and they talked for about 20 minutes. Dunbar said it was "weird." It will also be weird when O'Brien brings N.C. State to Chestnut Hill on Sept. 8.

Speaking of Matt Ryan ... he's the only quarterback here. What does that say about the state of the signal caller in the ACC this year? Maryland isn't the only team with a big fat question mark there.

Nobody seems to be crying at Georgia Tech, though, about the absence of Reggie Ball, who completed 44 percent of his passes and threw 14 interceptions.

Running back Tashard Choice predicted Taylor Bennett will be "one of the best ones to come out of the conference."

Choice said they got rid of the quarterback run option. They're gonna line up and run it. Or throw it.

"We love Taylor Bennett," Choice said. "He's going to surprise a lot of people this year in the ACC."

Speaking of quarterbacks ... check out tomorrow's paper for Christian Varner and Andrew Crummey's takes on the Terps' situation.

Crummey also voiced confidence in his own unit. Despite the departure of former Maryland tackle Jared Gaither to the Ravens -– along with several other impact players on the offensive line who left for various reasons -- Crummey said he remains confident in the top seven linemen.

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"Beyond that, you never know what's going to happen," he said, "but as of right now, I feel very confident in the first seven."

Gaither was declared academically ineligible for this season and entered the supplemental draft, and Stephon Heyer graduated, leaving the Terps to replace both tackles. They also had to replace left guard Donnie Woods, who decided to forgo his senior season of eligibility. Jaimie Thomas and Dane Randolph both started multiple times last season, and enter the preseason atop the depth chart, along with left tackle Scott Burley.

"Losing (Gaither) is going to be tough, but it's going to be who replaces him and how they play that determines the level or degree of loss," Crummey said. "It could be mitigated by having someone step up and play well."

On the defensive side, Varner wants you to hold your fire on defensive coordinator Chris Cosh. Varner said last year's criticism was unwarranted. He said he expects the defense to be better, now that it has had a season to get to know Cosh and his philosophy.

"Cosh is a great coach," he said. "He knows what he's doing and I believe in him. We believe in him."

What do other members of the media think about the Terps? Everyone seems to be trying to figure this team out. One person actually called the team "boring." There are no superstars (yet), no troublemakers (yet), and no sure sense of which direction they're headed.

Check back tomorrow for what Ralph has to say about it.

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