A new season is always marked by the presence of new hope and eager anticipation of a fresh start.
Rarely is such youthful optimism justly merited.
The 2009 Maryland Terrapins may be an exception. A changing of the guard at defensive coordinator coupled by a transition into a system better suited for its players has, according to coaches, brought a new life to Summer practices, which began this week.
Don Brown, the former head football coach at The University of Massachusetts' has taken charge of Ralph Friedgen's defensive unit and promptly implemented a 4-3 defense. It's a far cry from the porous zone coverage that students have groaned about for years.
To those unfamiliar with football jargon, a 4-3 defense is comprised of four down linemen (the hefty guys with high numbers) and three linebackers (still big, but more nimble) standing around them. Two cornerback's and two safeties are available to defend the pass.
The system's focal point is to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, thus giving them little opportunity to make short catches underneath the coverage. And while the 4-3 would leave slower corner backs out of position and gasping for air on deep routes, the Terps have put together a unit speedy enough to not worry about such an issue.
The zone defense that former coordinator Chris Cosh, who left after 2008 to join Kent State's staff, had implemented was not working for Maryland's players.
In a zone defense, the cornerback's and safeties are given free-range to patrol a given area (or "zone"). This is supposed to raise the probability of causing an interception. The Terps finished second-to-last in the ACC in the category. Something did not click.
The blind-eye would merely suggest that Friedgen and Cosh did not have the personnel talented enough to play well in any scheme.
Players showed flashes of brilliance in a number of games last year. A shut-out against Wake Forest followed by a masterful performance in the 17-15 victory over North Carolina proved that.
However, getting torched by Virginia (0-31) and Florida State (3-37) sent a clear message that it was indeed time for a change.
While it is clear that much of the onus for a successful 2009 campaign rests on the arm of Chris Turner and the legs of Da'rel Scott, an equally determinant factor will be the implementation of Brown's shift.
According to Brown the team has had a relatively easy time picking up the 4-3 and has shown a real excitement about its prospects this year.
With seven new defensive starters, at least there should not be much confusion with Cosh's system.
As was the case last season, the Terps enter the new season with no certainties, just potential. Potential for good. Potential for bad. Potential for ugly.
Anything is possible. Brown and his 4-3 defense just add to the seemingly endless list of questions buzzing around Byrd Stadium as the Fall approaches. Who's ready to tailgate?