Maryland at a glance


Coach: Ron Vanderlinden (fourth season)

Last year: 5-6

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTEM (980 AM)

Stadium: Byrd (48,055)

Offense: Multiple

Defense: Multiple

Top returning players: TB LaMont Jordan, OLB Aaron Thompson, FB Matt Kalapinski, C Melvin Fowler, QB Calvin McCall, WR Guilian Gary, ILB Marlon Moore, K Brian Kopka, P Brooks Barnard, SS Tony Jackson, FS Shawn Forte, ILB Kevin Bishop, CB Tony Okanlawon, ILB E. J. Henderson.

Top newcomers: QB Shaun Hill (JuCo transfer), DT Chris Earhart (JuCo transfer), FB James Lynch, CB Rovel Hamilton, CB Dennard Wilson, WR Rob Abiamiri, QB Chris Kelley (medical redshirt), LT Lou Lombardo, RT C. J. Brooks, DE C. J. Feldheim, LT Reggie Kemp.

Strengths: Jordan, Jordan and more Jordan, along with an improved deep passing game featuring wide receivers Gary, Scooter Monroe and Jafar Williams and quarterbacks McCall and Hill. The blocking of Kalapinski and Fowler are other offensive features while the defense will be led by Thompson, Moore, Henderson, Bishop and Jackson. Kopka and Barnard could be unsung heroes.

Weaknesses: Talk is cheap, and the Maryland players have spent a lot of time in the preseason building up their defensive line and secondary. Those words will ring hollow if senior DT Kris "Big Dog" Jenkins doesn't produce in his final chance to prove he can play. Earhart will be waiting in the wings for a chance if Jenkins doesn't succeed. Certainly, Jenkins will need some help from NT Charles Hill and DE co-starters Durrand Roundtree and William Shime. The secondary has the potential to be improved if Jackson, Forte and Okanlawon all have breakthrough seasons. But replacing CB Lewis Sanders, who left a year early for the NFL draft, won't be easy.

Strongest opponent: It's the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles, who come to Byrd on Sept. 28 for the ESPN Thursday night game. Maryland has to be hoping Florida State will have regained its No. 1 ranking by the time it comes to town, meaning the now No. 2 Seminoles won't be in a foul mood and might get caught napping a little as they did two years ago here. That was Oct. 3, 1998, when the Terps trailed only 16-10 at halftime and eventually lost, 24-10.

Key game: Clemson in Death Valley Oct. 14. At best, the Terps will likely take a 1-1 ACC record into that game and a victory over the Tigers could be a springboard to a second-place league finish. Most of the experts are conceding that Florida State and Clemson will finish 1-2, with Maryland, N.C. State and Virginia battling it out for the next three spots.

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