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Debriefing: The more things change at Maryland, the more they stay the same

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

The least you should know about the 2011 Terrapins. Part of ACC Week.

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Same as the old boss. Randy Edsall was stoked, personally, but the general reaction to his arrival from UConn ranged from confusion to shrugs. When first-year athletic director Kevin White tossed longtime coach Ralph Friedgen overboard in December — days after he was named ACC Coach of the Year for orchestrating one of the most dramatic single-season turnarounds in the country in his tenth season — it was presumably for a name that would make an instant splash, promise a more exciting product and jumpstart drowsy ticket sales. Instead of Mike Leach, though, White's search settled on the closest thing to Friedgen he could find.

Aside from the age difference (Edsall is 12 years younger), Edsall's profile at UConn is almost identical to Friedgen's: Both have led their teams to improbable conference championships, both have won exactly 65 games with six winning seasons apiece since 2002 and both are fundamentally conservative, run-first types whose teams are consistently good but never great. If Edsall ever starts gaining a few pounds and losing a few hairs, it's going to get downright eerie.

Journeyman Tate. Former wide receiver Kenny Tate was arguably the best safety in the ACC in his first season as a full-time starter, and spurned a second or third-round grade in the draft — as a safety — to return for his senior season. Naturally, the new coaching staff took one look at his junior film and thought, "This guy should really be playing linebacker." {YSP:MORE}

So Tate spent the spring practicing at "Star," essentially a roving outside linebacker role in defensive coordinator Todd Bradford's hybrid 4-3/3-4 scheme. In fact, the new defense itself probably presents a bigger learning curve than the position change: At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Tate already looks like linebacker, and Edsall estimates he lined up underneath "almost 90 percent of the time" last year. He was active enough around (and behind) the line of scrimmage to lead the team in solo tackles and finish second in both sacks and tackles for loss. And he's still on track to go somewhere in the first three rounds next April.

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Oh Danny Boy, the sophomore slump is calling... If you're searching for the best quarterback in the ACC going into the season, first of all, step away from the ledge. But once you've accepted the inherent limitations of your endeavor, you can do a lot worse than Danny O'Brien, a redshirt sophomore with NFL size and a refrigerator door full of freshman honors. Statistically speaking, O'Brien had more touchdowns, fewer interceptions, a higher efficiency rating and more wins in 2010 than any other returning starter in the league.

Even more intriguing, though, are his potential targets: All-ACC blazer Torrey Smith took his act to the NFL on the heels of an explosive November, but the guys moving into the first-team roles — Kevin Dorsey, Florida transfer Adrian Coxson and ace return man Tony Logan — were all well-regarded four-star types as recruits and may give the offense a big-play spark it was regularly missing in the Friedgen years.

At least, they'd better, because they're certainly not going to get it from the running game.

Good seats are still available. I'm not going to lie: Maryland remains a boring, middle-of-the-road outfit that's not especially good or especially bad at anything in particular. But with an incoming recruiting class that adds the names Tyrek Cheeseboro, Undray Clark, Evan Mulrooney and Makinton Dorleant to a roster that already includes Haroon Brown, Bennett Fulper, Ryan Schlothauer, Titus Till and Shaquan Virgil, at least Terp fans can look forward to years of interesting media guides.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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