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Today marks the start of fall camp for the Maryland Terrapins, and if it weren't for the sweltering heat in the DC area, practice would've already started by now (it's been pushed back to 7 p.m.).
Today's scheduling adjustment is just a minor reflection of the amount of changes the program has undergone since the Terps concluded a wildly inconsistent 8-5 season with a victory over Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl last December.
The most noticeable change would be that of head coach Ralph Friedgen.
The Fridge, now in his ninth year with the program, has shed over 100 pounds and plans to lose 50 more thanks in part to a strict diet he started late last year. If he keeps going at this rate, do fans start dubbing him as the “Mini-Fridge?"
As for the actual game, the Terrapins hired former UMass head coach Don Brown to take over as defensive coordinator after Chris Cosh left to take the same job at Kansas State. Brown employs a more aggressive scheme and his system will be a huge contrast from the passive, prevent defense Maryland used during Cosh's tenure.
Another major adjustment would be the fact that Maryland lost 30 seniors last season, the largest class Fridge has ever graduated. Not only did the Terps lose star wide receiver Darruis Heyward-Bey to the Raiders as a top 10 draft pick, but the once veteran-laden offensive line now boasts only two returning starters. This unit is the biggest question marking going into the season by far.
Senior quarterback Chris Turner returns to the fold with no less than nine young receivers to throw the ball to.
Turner, however, will have to fight the stigma of being the top 25 killer and provide consistency throughout the entire season since his performances against ranked opponents last season were excellent while he turned the ball over to teams like Middle Tennessee State.
Maryland's first test will be a difficult one as they head to the west coast to face California on Sept. 5 in a rematch from last season. The Terps upset the Bears in College Park last year, which if you recall, included an instant YouTube hit
courtesy of Kevin Barnes.
The difference this time around is that the Bears will not only be at home with a comfy 7 p.m. kickoff time, but will also boost a No. 12 ranking. I'd imagine that Cal is looking for revenge, and more specifically, Jahvid Best.
The Terps youth will show this season, and with a new defense installed, there will definitely be growing pains.
Most media outlets have picked Maryland to finish at the bottom of the conference, and while that may not ultimately be the case, the Terps were maddeningly frustrating to watch last year. Here's hoping they're able to find some consistency in 2009.