THE LINGERING QUESTION: Did Maryland make the right move in firing former coach Ralph Friedgen? An equally interesting question might be whether Maryland made the correct choice in hiring Edsall over Mike Leach. We probably won't know the answers for a few more years, but plenty of people will be asking both questions at the end of this season if the Terps fail to match their 2010 win total.
THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO: O'Brien falls victim to the sophomore jinx, Maryland drops its first two games and its turnover margin reverts to its 2009 level (minus-6). If all three of those things happen, the Terps could finish below .500.
STAT TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Maryland ranked fourth nationally in turnover margin (plus-15) last season and went 9-4. One year earlier, the Terps ranked 97th in turnover margin (minus-6) and went 2-10. Maryland's chances of matching last season's success could depend on whether they continue forcing mistakes on defense and taking care of the ball on offense.
OVERVIEW: Maryland figures to show more multiple looks under new coordinator Gary Crowton, who had held the same position at LSU. Crowton's scheme also could include some elements of a spread and no-huddle attack, though new coach Randy Edsall's Connecticut background suggests the Terps will focus on establishing a solid running game.
BACKFIELD: Danny O'Brien heads into his sophomore season as the most proven quarterback in the ACC. O'Brien threw for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns with only eight interceptions as a redshirt freshman last season and became Maryland's first ACC rookie of the year since the conference started giving out the award in 1975. Edsall produced one 2,000-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard rushers in his final three seasons at Connecticut, and he has a couple of quality running backs at Maryland in Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams. Meggett, the son of former NFL star David Meggett, ran for a team-high 720 yards last season without starting a game. Adams rushed for 11 touchdowns - including four in the Military Bowl - as a short-yardage specialist.
RECEIVERS: O'Brien will miss All-ACC selection Torrey Smith, who left for the NFL after his junior season and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round. Smith caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Nobody else on the team had more than 324 receiving yards or three touchdown catches. The Terps' top returning receiver is TE Matt Furstenburg (12 catches, 206 yards, one TD). Maryland needs a breakout season from Kevin Dorsey (15-187-2), Kerry Boykins (10-123-1), Quintin McCree (16-188-1) or Ronnie Tyler (13-149-1). Other players to watch include Florida transfer Adrian Coxson and converted QB Devin Burns.
LINE: Maryland has plenty of experience here. Junior T R.J. Dill and senior G Andrew Gonnella each have two years of starting experience. Bennett Fulper has started 11 games over the past two seasons and is versatile enough to play center or guard. The Terps must replace Justin Lewis, a starting guard last season who was dismissed from the team this week for a violation of team policies. The Terps should be accustomed to working without Lewis, who sat out spring practice to recover from offseason knee surgery. Josh Cary had exited spring practice as the starting right guard. The lone senior starter on last season's line was Paul Pinegar, who alternated between center and right tackle. Sophomore T Max Garcia is the favorite to take over that spot. Maryland's depth chart currently has Garcia at left tackle and Dill at right tackle. Dill primarily played left tackle last year. The Terps also have Justin Gilbert, who started three games at left tackle before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Gilbert hurt the knee again in spring practice and will be out until October.
OVERVIEW: Maryland traditionally ran a 3-4 defense under former coach Ralph Friedgen, but the Terps showed more four-man fronts last season and will continue that trend this season. Maryland's new coordinator is Todd Bradford, who spent the past three years at Southern Miss. Maryland ranked ninth nationally in pass efficiency defense and 21st in run defense last season.
LINE: Second-team All-ACC selection Joe Vellano and two-year starter A.J. Francis helped Maryland be stingy against the run last season. Vellano had five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss to lead the team in both categories. Another returning starter is junior Justin Anderson, who moved from end to tackle this spring. Although Maryland's line features plenty of proven upperclassmen, two redshirt freshmen exited spring practice atop the depth chart. E Clarence Murphy and T Andre Monroe may lack experience, but they won raves from the new staff for their spring performances. David Mackall worked as a backup linebacker last season, but he moves into the starting lineup at the "rock" end spot.
LINEBACKERS: Maryland must find a way to replace Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, who combined for 194 tackles last season. Wujciak recorded way more than 100 tackles in each of the past three seasons. The new staff has moved All-ACC FS Kenny Tate to more of a hybrid linebacker/safety position, and he is listed as the starter at the "star" linebacker position. Although Tate technically is switching positions, his responsibilities won't change that much. Tate, who has good speed for a guy who is 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, often would help out in run support or pass-rushing situations last year, as 8.5 of his 100 tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. After starting at outside linebacker earlier in his career, Demetrius Hartsfield moves to the middle as Wujciak's replacement. Hartsfield has 152 tackles over the past two years. Darin Drakeford moves into the starting lineup after making 36 tackles - 5.5 for loss - as a reserve last season.
SECONDARY: Maryland has two returning starters at cornerback, but there's no guarantee both will start this season. Cameron Chism enters his third season as a starter with a firm grip on his spot in the lineup, but sophomore Dexter McDougle currently is ahead of returning starter Trenton Hughes in the competition for the other first-team assignment. The presence of three solid cornerbacks could help Maryland compensate for its inexperience at safety, where the Terps must replace the departed Antwine Perez while also working around Tate's move to linebacker. Eric Franklin made two starts and Matt Robinson one last season. Both should have full-time starting roles this season.
The departure of Travis Baltz leaves Maryland breaking in a new kicker and punter, though the kicker will be a familiar face. Nick Ferrara served as Maryland's main kicker in 2009 before losing the job to Baltz last season. Ferrara was 18-of-25 on field-goal attempts and went 7-of-10 from at least 40 yards out in 2009. Ferrara also has the ability to punt if necessary, but that job likely will go to either true freshman Nathan Renfro or redshirt freshman Michael Tart. Tony Logan is back after ranking third nationally last year with an average of 18.1 yards per punt return. He scored on two punt returns last season. Maryland must find someone to replace Smith, who graduated with an ACC record in career kickoff return yards (2,983). Maryland ranked 13th nationally in kickoff coverage but 86th in punt coverage last season.
the recruiting side
Average national rank past 5 years: 36th
The buzz: The recruiting class was a bit of a flop, finishing ninth in the ACC overall. OL Nathaniel Clarke was the headliner of the class, and WRs Tyrek Cheeseboro and Nigel King and DB Jeremiah Hendy could make an impact. Under new coach Randy Edsall, the Terps already have commitments from two top offensive linemen, led by in-state star Mike Madaras, and are in the mix for many top in-state prospects as well as in Pennsylvania, Edsall's old stomping ground. Landing one of the state of Maryland's two five-star prospects, DT Eddie Goldman and WR Stefon Diggs, would go a long way toward proving Edsall can recruit at the needed level. - MIKE FARRELL
Monroe, a redshirt freshman, was the biggest surprise of spring practice. A former two-star prospect from St. John's College High in Washington, D.C., Monroe played well enough to exit spring practice atop the depth chart. Maryland's chances of putting together another top-10 run defense could depend on whether Monroe continues his rapid progress and puts together a big season.
Maryland's ideal schedule would include a couple of cakewalks that allow the players to adapt to the new staff, but the Terps won't get that luxury. Maryland opens the Edsall era with a nationally televised Labor Day night game against Miami. The Terps follow that up by playing host to West Virginia. The national exposure of the Miami game should benefit the program, but Maryland might have been better served playing FCS patsy Towson as the opener instead of as the fourth game of the season. Maryland is at home for its first four games but is away from College Park for each of its last three games, though that includes a Nov. 12 date with Notre Dame at FedEx Field in nearby Landover, Md. Maryland's chances of making a serious run at a conference title likely will be determined during a three-game midseason stretch against Atlantic Division foes. Maryland plays host to Clemson, travels to Florida State and plays host to Boston College in successive weeks. Maryland's regular-season schedule doesn't include dates with reigning ACC champion Virginia Tech or North Carolina.
Maryland could have a better team than last season and finish with a worse record. Last season's Maryland team might not have been quite as good as its record suggested. The Terps benefited from an outstanding turnover margin (plus-15), and those stats have a tendency to even themselves out from year to year. The schedule isn't as favorable this season, as Maryland opens with Miami and West Virginia while adjusting to a new staff (the two teams they'll be facing also will have new coaches in place). O'Brien also might not be quite as effective without the benefit of throwing to Smith. Edsall's Connecticut teams had a penchant for starting slowly before coming on strong down the stretch. This team very well might follow a similar formula. The Terps probably won't win nine games again, but a seven- or eight-win season certainly seems realistic.