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Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Keys for Maryland and Wake Forest's Atlantic Division runs

By staff

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Maryland and Wake Forest both start practice today, and they both happen to be in the Atlantic Division, which will be wide open. (Florida State should have a bit of an edge, but hey, everyone's got issues). Here are three keys to Wake and Maryland surprising some people and making a run for the division title this fall:

If Maryland is going to have a chance ...

1. The Terps need to find a dependable replacement for center Edwin Williams. He might have been the most consistent player on offense last year. Maurice Hampton and Danny Edwards will compete for the job, though moving right guard Phil Costa there might be the most likely scenario. The running game should be a strength, but only if the offensive line comes together quickly. The Terps need to replace three starters there.

2. Chris Turner is going to have to play like a senior. No more inconsistent play. Beating ranked teams is great, but it won't get you far if you can't beat Middle Tennessee, too. He's clearly capable of it. Turner is 6-1 against ranked opponents over the past two seasons and completed 63.5 percent of his passes in those games for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He'll have several young, talented receivers to throw it to. His experience alone should give the Terps an edge, as there are only three other senior quarterbacks in the league (Riley Skinner, Jameel Sewell and Thaddeus Lewis).

3. Improve significantly on defense. The Terps ranked 10th in the ACC in total defense, ninth in scoring defense, 10th in passing defense, and ninth in rushing defense. First-year coordinator Don Brown has his hands full, but as a previous head coach he knows what needs to be done. First, he'll have to replace seven starters.

If Wake Forest is going to have a chance ...

1. The Deacs need to find somebody to catch the ball. Wake has to replace starters D.J. Boldin and Chip Brinkman, who combined for 40 career starts. Sure, the Deacs have to develop a better running game, but there were hints of that at the end of the season, especially in the EagleBank Bowl, and there is depth at the position, and the offensive line will be better. Receiver is a bigger question mark.

2. Playmakers need to emerge on defense. Seven starters are gone, the most notable being linebacker Aaron Curry and cornerback Alphonso Smith. The defensive line, led by tackles John Russell and Boo Robinson, will have to be the leaders, along with cornerback Brandon Ghee.

3. They must find a replacement for punter/placekicker Sam Swank. The good news is that they have already been tested without Swank, as he was injured last year and missed six games. That gave Shane Popham valuable experience. He made 7 of 12 field goal attempts and averaged 39.2 yards on 54 punts.