College Park -- Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was able to pinpoint the moment he recognized a major disparity between his program and one of the nation's perennial powers.
It was his first season, and the first quarter of the Orange Bowl, where the Terps met Florida.
Season opener William and Mary@Maryland, Saturday, 6 p.m.; 105.7 FM, 1300 AM
Will the Terps get back to a bowl?
The schedule is unforgiving, so they're going to have to win one they're not supposed to - meaning steal one from Clemson, Miami, Boston College or Florida State. A 6-6 record will get it done, but Maryland hasn't won six games in its past two seasons, and that has resulted in a lack of confidence.
Who is going to be a playmaker at wide receiver?
Isaiah Williams started to look like a deep threat toward the end of summer camp, but Darrius Heyward-Bey was the one wide-out who consistently caught the long balls. Drew Weatherly is the lone senior with any experience.
Who will replace former linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, the ACC's leading tackler?
Expectations are high for Wesley Jefferson, one of the more consistent tacklers on defense. He played in all 11 games last year and started two.
Is senior quarterback Sam Hollenbach capable of leading the Terps to the postseason?
Coach Ralph Friedgen said Hollenbach knows the offense so well this season he's been bored in team meetings. If the players surrounding him know their assignments, there's no reason Hollenbach shouldn't emerge as one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
Is Maryland's kicking game reliable enough to win the close games?
The Terps enter this season with two inconsistent field-goal kickers in Dan Ennis and Obi Egekeze. The biggest difference is Egekeze gets more height on his kicks. Friedgen, though, is looking for accuracy.
[Heather A. Dinich]
Terps AT A GLANCE
Coach: Ralph Friedgen, (sixth season, 41-20)
Last year: 5-6 (tied for fourth in Atlantic Division)
Conference: Division I-A Atlantic Coast Conference
Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM
Stadium: Byrd Stadium (51,500)
Tickets: 800-IM-A-TERP or www.umterps.com
Parking: $8 per car, per game in cash lots only; Terrapin Club members who purchase season tickets are eligible for football parking benefits.
Top returning players: RB Lance Ball, QB Sam Hollenbach, LB Wesley Jefferson, CB Josh Wilson, OL Stephon Heyer, DT Conrad Bolston, FB Tim Cesa, P Adam Podlesh
Top newcomers: TE Drew Gloster, LB Alex Wujciak, CB LaQuan Williams, FB Cory Jackson
Strengths: Four experienced running backs will allow Maryland to use more two-back sets, and the sheer girth of an experienced offensive line should provide better protection this season. Senior quarterback Sam Hollenbach has a better grasp of the offense after starting all last season.
Weaknesses: The Terps are thin at defensive back, and the wide receivers remained the biggest question mark through the end of preseason camp.
Strongest opponent: West Virginia (Sept. 14 at WVU). The Mountaineers, who return quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton, could be a legitimate contender for the national championship. They return 15 starters from the roster that beat the Terps, 30-19, in College Park last year en route to a win in the Sugar Bowl.
Key game: Florida State, Oct. 28. The Terps beat the Seminoles two years ago but squandered a 24-14 halftime lead to them last year. This is a chance - at home - for Maryland to steal a win that might get them back to a bowl.
[Heather A. Dinich]
WHO'S OUT, WHO'S IN
Out: Gary Blackney, former defensive coordinator - retired last year after the season finale against North Carolina State In: Chris Cosh - former linebackers coach at Kansas State. Coached the inside linebackers and was recruiting coordinator at Maryland in 1997.
Out: Charlie Taaffe, former offensive coordinator - resigned in February to "explore other coaching opportunities." Is now an interim assistant at Pittsburgh. In: Ralph Friedgen, Phil Zacharias - Friedgen will be calling the plays as offensive coordinator. Zacharias, a defensive coach his entire career, will handle the running backs because John Donovan has moved to quarterbacks coach.
Out: D'Qwell Jackson, linebacker and leading tackler in the Atlantic Coast Conference - is now with the NFL's Cleveland Browns. In: Wesley Jefferson - accolades are high for the redshirt junior who finished with 57 tackles last year, but only now is he really getting the chance to live up to them.
Out: Vernon Davis, tight end led Terps in receiving yards - is now with the San Francisco 49ers. In: Dan Gronkowski and Joey Haynos - both tight ends are over 6 feet 5 and have improved their blocking skills.
[Heather A. Dinich]
College Football Preview Week
TOMORROW: Will ACC scoring be up with so many top-flight defenders gone? WEDNESDAY: Breaking down a relic -- Navy's triple-option offense. THURSDAY: Division I-A transfers key to rebuilding Morgan State's defense. FRIDAY: Hopkins receiver Anthony Triplin makes education his priority.