Jeff, Baltimore: Please explain what happened with Melvin Alaeze. I know he had some trouble with the law, but was the real reason he was let go because of his grades?
Heather A. Dinich: Jeff, I'm going to be honest with you - I was on vacation in Myrtle Beach when that story broke, but as far as I know, the kid was simply a risk Maryland wasn't willing to take.
Jules, Spanish Harlem, N.Y.: Can Ralph rely on the receivers this year, or are we in deep trouble with a marginal QB and inexperienced receivers?
Heather A. Dinich: I don't think the Terps are in "deep trouble" there, because although the receivers are young, they're talented and fast. The question is if they can get to the right spot at the right time. Still, I think it's going to be hard to evaluate the receivers -- or anyone for that matter -- against William & Mary and Middle Tennessee State. To finally answer your question, Maryland's passing game could be one area that keeps it in the middle of the ACC -- again.
Julie, Pearl River, N.Y.: Has Gary patched things up with the two basketball players that were wavering a couple of weeks ago, or do we have some problems with the 2006-07 basketball class?
Heather A. Dinich: Hi Julie, Well, it seems the list of schools for Jeff Jones, who reneged on his verbal to the Terps, grows longer every day. As for Eric Hayes, he is ready to roll at Maryland. The only problems Maryland might have with this class is if none of them come through as the point guard Gary so sorely missed last year.
Adam, Perry Hall: What impact will the rescinded offer to Melvin Alaeze have on the Maryland football team in the near future? Do you think the offense -- particularly the receivers -- will be ready for this season?
Heather A. Dinich: To answer your first question, the most obvious is they lost a talented defensive lineman -- that hurts during a season in which there are no newcomers there. Also, it seemed as if Ralph took that opportunity to send a message about what kind of people he wants in his program. Sometimes coaches put character ahead of physical talent, and in this case, it appears that's what happened. As for the receivers, they're going to have to be ready if Maryland is going to go to a bowl game. The running game looks pretty deep, though, with Lance Ball returning.
John, Leesburg, Va.: What do you hear about Wesley Jefferson having a breakout year? Is he the next E.J. Henderson or D'Qwell Jackson?
Heather A. Dinich: Those are pretty lofty comparisons, and at this stage, I wouldn't say necessarily fair. Jefferson is expected to have a "breakout year" by his own standards, meaning some career-highs, but to put him in that category before Miami and Florida State roll into College Park?
John, Camp Hill, Pa.: Thanks for all the great reporting that you do and the chance to ask questions like this! I recently read about the Byrd Stadium renovations. I was surprised that there is only a net increase of about 2,000 seats. Hoping that our football program is on the upswing, shouldn't we have proposed more seating? Can you confirm that we will finally get the roofs painted red also?
Heather A. Dinich: Hi John, I'll give you the answer Debbie Yow and Ralph Friedgen gave Terrapin Club members in a July 12 e-mail:
"With the financial constraints surrounding this project (ICA is still paying off the $51 million facility debt inherited in 1994, and the lack of state funding available to assist with the Byrd expansion project), the amount of money available to pay for this project is limited. Since ICA is responsible for 100% of the costs for the stadium project, in building our financial plan we had to strongly consider what type of seats would enable us to pay the bills, which leads to suites and premium seating."
Now, as for roofs being painted red, I'm not exactly plugged in to the roof rumors - nor did I notice any roofs over Byrd Stadium.
Ed, Washington, D.C.: Do you think it is Gary's strategy to get somewhat lesser recruits (in top 75 to 150) that he can train and who will stay the whole four years? Or is it just too tough these days for Maryland to compete in the ACC for top 50 talent?
Heather A. Dinich: There's no question Gary has made a reputation for himself by developing lower-profile recruits. At the same time, it says something about the state of the program that Jai Lucas, one of the country's top guards, is leaning towards Oklahoma State and Kentucky instead of Maryland, where his father played. It's not just the ACC Maryland is competing with.
Walt, Columbia: Love your reports on the Terps! My season tickets are right behind the Maryland bench, and I get a real kick out of coach Dave Sollazzo, and the way he is always working with the D-Line. I can see why Ralph hired him. I think that the Energizer Bunny's energy is no match for Coach Sollazzo's. The defensive line is so much bigger, stronger and just as fast as the legendary Randy White, but doesn't have that dominant play that we saw in the Claiborne era. Certainly the linebackers are much better than a generation or two ago, but the defensive line doesn't consistently stuff plays at the line of scrimmage. Do you have any thoughts or statistics on their relative play, and what's going on? By the way, what's the situation with Brandon Nixon? Is he returning?
Heather A. Dinich: Brandon Nixon is going to redshirt. As for the defensive line, it should be better with Jeremy Navarre coming back after a promising season as a true freshman. Conrad Bolston is a senior nose tackle, and there are several other players who could become difference makers. Improvement is needed, as the Terps were 11th in the ACC last season in rushing defense, allowing 165.7 yards per game. Maryland's red zone defense wasn't too hot, as it allowed opponents to score 86.8 percent of the time they were inside the 20, and that includes 23 rushing touchdowns. Only Wake Forest was worse in the ACC.