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“Obviously the focus is on Maryland and playing a team that does a lot of things the same - some of the names, faces and jersey numbers may have changed, we haven’t played them in a while. But they are extremely well coached in everything that they do.
“Watching their defense, they are extremely well organized and coordinated. I have a great deal of respect for (defensive coordinator) Gary Blackney. They do a great job with their front and back end tackles. You all know about the linebacker they have (D’Qwell Jackson), and how good he is. They are a great tackling team - not many yards after contact.
“Their offense is a little difficult to defend. Always with Ralph Friedgen they’ve got a bit of Utah in them with the option and the zones and what they do with the reads. There are some problems there that they create. Their tight end, Vernon Davis, is an awfully good player. I think they are getting a heck of a lot of play out of Jo Jo Walker, who is their punt returner and kick returner who is a very skilled athlete who makes plays. They’re getting a lot of mileage out of (WR Danny) Melendez. I think the quarterback, like ours, is very tough. (Sam) Hollenbach is leading the ACC in ACC games in pass efficiency.
“They took Florida State to the fourth quarter, we know what we’re up against. We know that Ralph Friedgen has put together a great staff and a great program. They are doing a lot of the right things. We haven’t beaten them (since 2000). That will not be a major emphasis for this team, it’s certainly something I mentioned to them as we got going yesterday. But half the players out there, maybe more, have never played against Maryland. We’ll be treating it like an ACC game. That’s a talented program and a talented team we’re playing at home, and it’s important to win at home.”
On facing a Maryland team coming off the bye week:
“For a guy like Ralph Friedgen, he’s an awfully good coach. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, both when he was in the NFL and (in college). I think he’s a dangerous man with extra time.”
On improving time of possession:
“I think our offensive line is playing better. They might be a little spurred on because of the return of Ronnie McGill. Obviously, he makes us a little bit better. He can break tackles or get extra yards after contact. I think it’s a combination of those two things.
“It’s always helpful to have the defense on the sideline drinking Gatorade and talking about what took place the previous series. When you have a quick offensive series, whether it be a turnover or a three-and-out, there’s not much time to rest or to get refocused on what just took place. There’s always things to be talked about on the sideline. You can see Marvin (Sanders) and Ken Browning on the phones with the coaches upstairs and on the sideline with the players trying to work things out. Because there are things that happen that either you practice and it didn’t quite work out they way they wanted it to in a particular series, or there might be some new things. I know this, on both sides of that football when we play Maryland we’ll see some things we haven’t seen. Despite the fact that we have eight games on those guys, we won’t have seen everything they are going to do, they’ll have some new wrinkles for us. You need time to do that, and the offensive staying on the field helps a lot.”
Have you been surprised with the play of the defense?
“That’s expected, and they have to demand of themselves to do that. This football team has made progress from the end of last season to where we are now – especially on defense, but also on offense because of the leadership on the team. These kids know how to practice, they know how to work hard and they know how to give great effort on game day, which is the way it should be. We’ve got to continue to be consistent, which was the objective from Day 1 for everybody.”
On the defense being ranked 34th this week:
“That’s an assessment of our recruiting and our coaching. The coaches I have on staff right now are really and truly reaching these players. But once again, I think it goes back to the players and the leaders I have on this squad.”