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Clemson at Maryland
October 4th, 2003
College Park, Maryland
Those ominous looking dark clouds you see on the horizon are not summer changing to fall. No, these clouds are the looming storm that is Clemson's trek through a brutal stretch of football games in October. That stretch gets its start on October 4 as the Tigers travel to College Park Maryland to face Ralph Friedgen and his Terrapins.
Maryland is coming off an 11-3 season in 2002 that included a Peach Bowl blowout of Tennessee 30-3. The only Maryland losses in 2002 were in Week 1 to Notre Dame (22-0), Week 3 against Florida State (37-10), and Week 12 against Virginia (48-13)
Maryland defeated Clemson last year 30-12 in Death Valley in a game that was actually a little closer than the score might suggest. Clemson had the ball and trailed 13-6 midway through the 3rd quarter when the wheels came off and Maryland pulled away.
The Terps will have the services of former Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who joined Friedgen's staff in the off-season.
This will be the 6th overall game and the 2nd ACC contest for Maryland in the 2003 season. Maryland opens the season at Northern Illinois before traveling to Florida State in Week 2. Maryland comes home in Week 3 to play The Citadel and West Virginia in Week 4. The week before the Clemson game, Maryland travels to Eastern Michigan.
|The former ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Bruce Perry returns as the starting running back for the Terps in 2003.|
On offense, Maryland technically returns 7 starters. Bruce Perry returns from his injury to take over the running back position from Chris Downs. Perry was one of the nations premier running backs in 2001, so he will not be new to the football field when he laces up his cleats. Underrated senior Scott McBrien returns at quarterback for the Terrapins after having thrown for almost 2,500 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. The only returning wide receiver is former quarterback Latrez Harrison, who has impressed Maryland coaches with his transition from quarterback to wide receiver. On the offensive line, the Terps return both guards in junior C.J. Brooks and senior Lamar Bryant. Senior right tackle Eric Dumas also returns, along with senior tight end Jeff Dugan.
On defense, Maryland returns 9 starters, headed by Nagurski finalist Madieu Williams at free safety. The rest of the secondary returns as well with senior strong safety Dennard Wilson, Domonique Foxworth at one cornerback, and Curome Cox at the other. E.J Henderson is gone from the linebacker position, but Maryland returns Jamahl Cochran, Leroy Ambush, and Leon Joe. In addition, sophomore Shawne Merriman pushed for the starting position at outside linebacker. The defensive line returns 2 of its 3 starters in senior C.J. Feldheim at nose tackle and junior Randy Starks at tackle.
Nick Novak returns at the place kicker position, where he was named All-ACC last year after making 24-28 kicks.
There are plenty of strengths on this 2003 Maryland team, and they all answer to the #1 strength that is head coach Ralph Friedgen. The Fridge earned massive respect as the offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, and his golden touch has translated verbatim further north in College Park.
Friedgen's system has allowed McBrien to flourish, and with a healthy Perry back in 2003, there is little doubt that Maryland will be very good at the skill positions. Latrez Harrison's 6 foot 3 frame has all the Maryland coaches oozing with enthusiasm as he steps in as the go-to receiver for McBrien.
The linebackers, even minus Henderson, are as good as any in the league. This is probably the deepest part of the team, and when you run a 3-4 scheme like Maryland does you cannot have enough good linebackers. The Terps have plenty.
And the secondary is the most experienced in the ACC with one junior and 3 seniors, all with game experience under their belts.
On the surface, there are few chinks in the armor of the 2003 Maryland Terrapins. Other than Harrison, nobody has distinguished themselves at wide receiver. Normally under Friedgen's offensive system, there are at least 2 solid receivers to help spread the ball around. There may not be a 2nd this year, and the jury is still officially out on Harrison.
The coaches at Maryland will also admit that there is concern with depth at both the offensive and defensive lines. Tackle Stephon Heyer and center Kyle Schmitt will be making their first starts on the offensive line. Other than Starks at defensive tackle, nobody has distinguished themselves in the defensive trenches. Injuries in the pre-season and/or the early part of the season on the offensive and defensive lines could knock Maryland out of contention for the ACC title.
Clemson has not had a ton of success against Friedgen at Georgia Tech or Maryland. Until proven otherwise, you would have to say the coaching advantage sits squarely with Maryland.
The Clemson game for Maryland is squeezed between Eastern Michigan and Duke, so there will be little to distract the Terps from focusing on the Clemson game.
The Tigers will have the advantage of having an off week before playing Maryland to rest up and produce a game plan. This is significant in that Maryland is probably the most difficult offense to prepare a game plan for defensively.
Maryland will be favored in the 7-10 point range against the Tigers.
Maryland breezes by the Tigers 31-17. Clemson will fall to 4-1 on the season at the hands of Maryland in College Park. The Terps are a better football team, that is better coached, and playing at home. That is way too much to overcome for Clemson, who will taste defeat for the first, but not the last, time in 2003.
Clemson leaves College Park 4-1 and drops out of the polls. And there is little relief in sight.
Scott Rhymer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Scott and CUTigers.com publisher Roy Philpott are the co-hosts of the CUTigers.com Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM, which airs 2 hours prior to the Tiger Tailgate Show on Clemson Gamedays.