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Many questions, few answers for Terps

With the Atlantic Coast Conference football media gathering in Greensboro, N.C., on Sunday, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen will likely field many questions regarding his 10th — and what could be his final — season in College Park.

Before leaving for North Carolina State last month, athletic director Debbie Yow said Friedgen's team would need to have a winning record and go to a bowl game for him to likely fulfill the final year of his contract in 2011.

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Here are five key questions Friedgen and the Terps will face as they prepare for the Sept. 6 season opener against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium.1. Is Jamarr Robinson ready to be a full-time starter?

The redshirt junior finally got his chance late last season when Chris Turner was sidelined with a knee injury.

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Robinson showed enough flashes in the last four games — rushing for 129 yards against Virginia Tech, completing 20 of 27 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown at Florida State — to give Maryland fans a glimmer of hope for this season.

Because of Robinson's mobility, Friedgen said he will put more of an option package back in the playbook this season, something the Terps haven't used much since the first few years of Fridge's tenure. Keeping Robinson upright, and healthy, will be key, but Friedgen seems confident in his backup, redshirt freshman Danny O'Brien.

X-factors: The offensive line, which had to learn on the job last season, and O'Brien, who could push Robinson for playing time if he does well in preseason practice.

2. Has the defense adapted to Don Brown's system?

Though the defense showed some improvement over the course of last season under the first-year coordinator and former Massachusetts head coach, the bottom line is that Maryland had its worst defensive performance in Friedgen's nine years.

Only Florida State ranked lower defensively in the ACC than the Terps, who were 100th in points allowed among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Solid at linebacker with Alex Wujciak, Adrian Moten and Demetrius Hartsfield, Maryland has to become more aggressive up front and less mistake-prone in the secondary.

X-factor: The secondary, particularly safety Kenny Tate, who was hampered by injuries and inconsistencies as a sophomore and hasn't yet lived up to the hype.

3. How important is the opening game against Navy?

Losing big at California in last year's opener set the tone for Maryland's 2-10 season, the worst in school history. Given Friedgen's job security, this year's opener is even more crucial.

Based off last season's results, and the fact that the Midshipmen have senior Ricky Dobbs returning at quarterback, this one looks like a pick-your-score blowout for Navy. A win or even a close defeat for Maryland would keep the critics at bay for a while, but a blowout similar to the 52-13 Bears romp will have the new athletic director answering questions about Friedgen's future right from the start.

X-factor: Navy's big-play slotback, Marcus Curry, was kicked out of the academy in the spring, leveling the playing field a bit for the opener.

4. Who will be the breakout star in 2010?

A year ago, it was Torrey Smith, who, as a sophomore, finished tied for third in the ACC in receptions (61 for 824 yards and five touchdowns) and second only to Clemson's C.J. Spiller in all-purpose yardage (2,192).

With Smith getting a lot of attention from opposing defenses, senior Adrian Cannon could build on last season (44 catches, 468 yards and four touchdowns).

The same could be true on the defensive side, with Nagurski Award candidate Wujciak and Moten seeing offenses trying to avoid them, and Hartsfield, a sophomore, being put in position to make plays. Hartsfield was fifth on the team in tackles (66) despite missing two games with a broken wrist.

X-factor: Sophomore Nick Ferrara, who, after a rough start, made 18 of 25 field-goal attempts and took over the punting duties when All-ACC performer Travis Baltz was twice hurt during the year. Then again, the Terps will need more close games to have Ferrara play a big role kicking field goals.

5. What are the chances of Maryland getting to a bowl game?

The Terps will have to pull off at least one — if not more — early-season upset to put themselves in position for a winning season. That means Maryland will have to beat Navy at M&T Bank Stadium or West Virginia in Morgantown to set up the possibility of a 4-1 start after playing Duke at home.

Considering how the Terps struggled with non-BCS foes last year, narrowly beating Football Championship Subdivision member James Madison and losing at home to Middle Tennessee State, there are no sure things on a schedule that also includes early-season home games against Morgan State and Florida International.

X-factor: Maryland avoids playing the ACC's top two teams, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and has Florida State as its only huge obstacle at home.

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