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COLLEGE PARK, Md. The countdown to Miami is on. Less than four days until the Terrapins open up their 2011 season under the lights on Labor Day against a conference foe.
The storyline originally focused on two first-year head coaches making their debuts – Randy Edsall for Maryland, Al Golden for Miami. But over the last two weeks the plot has thickened as former Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro admitted to providing improper benefits to athletes on the football and basketball teams between 2002 and 2010.
On Tuesday, eight Miami football players were suspended for Monday's showdown against Maryland, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris.
"Our kids just have to be prepared for anything, and I think if you have the fundamentals and all the techniques that you worked on – if they can just fall back on those when something new arises we'll be okay," Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said during Thursday's weekly press conference. "I feel good about what we know of whose going to play for them. I think a lot of t hat is all behind us now."
On the Hurricanes' official depth chart, sophomore Stephen Morris is penciled in as the starter at quarterback. Last season, then-true freshman Stephen Morris made his first collegiate start at home against the Terps, throwing for 286 and a game-winning touchdown with 37 seconds remaining.
"He's a good athlete. He's got the ability to run. He looks as if he's a good decision-maker, but he has also has that ability to move in the pocket, to move around back there. When you get guys like that it makes it a little bit more tougher," Edsall said.
While Miami, though to their dismay, may have some unfamiliar faces starting Monday, the same can be about Maryland. The Terps return 12 starters on offense and defense, but expect an infusion of youth and first-year starters to have an impact on the game.
Among them, Doak Walker Award candidate Davin Meggett will become the featured back, Quintin McCree and Kevin Dorsey will headline a new-look wide receiving corps and freshmen Tyler Cierski and Jeremiah Johnson will debut as the team's new fullback and cornerback.
"There's some guys that they don't see on film from a year ago that they have in terms of the tape that they're not going to know about, and we're a new staff coming in," Edsall said.
Another freshman, Justus Pickett, will assume kick return duties. In 2010, the Terrapins ranked 11th in the ACC with an 18.3-yard average.
Pickett, designated "Mr. Irrelevant" by his head coach for being a late addition to the 2011 recruiting class, impressed the staff during the preseason, not only on the field but with the attitude off if it.
"He's shown a maturity and a confidence level beyond his age, and that's the thing that has really impressed myself and our coaches…I like his approach. I like his demeanor. I like how he goes about his business."
With D.J. Adams suspended for violating team rules, Pickett will also spell Meggett at running back.