Tuesday, August 5, 2008

season preview: Maryland


8/30: Delaware
9/6: @Middle Tennessee
9/13: California
9/20: Eastern Michigan
9/27: @Clemson
10/4: @Virginia
10/18: Wake Forest
10/25: North Carolina State
11/6: @Virginia Tech
11/15: North Carolina
11/22: Florida State
11/29: @Boston College

Skip: Duke, Miami, Georgia Tech

Projected starters:

QB: Chris Turner (rJr.)
RB: Da’Rel Scott (rSo.)/Morgan Green (rSo.)
WR: Isaiah Williams (Sr.)
WR: Darrius Heyward-Bey (rJr.)
WR: Danny Oquendo (Sr.)
TE: Dan Gronkowski (5Sr.)
LT: Scott Burley (5Sr.)
LG: Jaimie Thomas (5Sr.)
C: Edwin Williams (5Sr.)
RG: Jack Griffin (5Sr.)
RT: Dane Randolph (5Sr.)

DE: Mack Frost (5Sr.)
NT: Olugbemi Otulaja (5Sr.)
DT: Jeremy Navarre (Sr.)
LEO: Trey Covington (5Sr.)
SLB: Moise Fokou (5Sr.)
MLB: Alex Wujciak (rSo.)
WLB: Dave Philistin (Sr.)
CB: Nolan Carroll (rJr.)
FS: Terrell Skinner (rJr.)
SS: Jeff Allen (Sr.)
CB: Kevin Barnes (5Sr.)

K: Obi Egekeze (5Sr.)
P: Travis Baltz (So.)

Coach: Ralph Friedgen (8th season)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Media prediction: 5th, Atlantic Division

All-ACC selections:

2007 1st team: DT Dre Moore (graduated), LB Erin Henderson (left for NFL)
2007 2nd team: OG Andrew Crummey (graduated)
2007 HM: RB Keon Lattimore (graduated)
2008 preseason: C Edwin Williams

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that Maryland was the new power in the ACC. Ralph Friedgen made the most of his first head coaching gig in his very first year by taking his inherited team to the ACC championship and the Orange Bowl. A 31-8 record in his first three seasons seemed to indicate the sky was the limit. Since then it’s fair to say it’s all come crashing back down as the Terps have gone 25-23, the only winning season being a respectable 9-4 showing in 2006. The media has reacted accordingly, calling Maryland at fifth in the division and more than likely, out of a bowl.


The quarterback situation is still not 100% settled in College Park. Chris Turner, who as ESPN announcers will remind you over and over again is just like Napoleon Dynamite (only not as good a quarterback) returns as the nominal starter. Jordan Steffy is the backup, and is not permanently ensconced as the head clipboard stand because Turner has yet to dazzle the coaches and get an ironfisted grip on the job. Unfortunately for Maryland, neither is especially good. Turner is efficient, leading the ACC last year in yards per attempt and coming in third in completion percentage, but inconsistency plagues him. Turner played badly in relief of Steffy in last year’s opener against Villanova and took over again only when Steffy sustained a concussion. Turner took over the job with excellent games against Rutgers and Georgia Tech, then turned in three total duds in a row before exploding against Boston College. A little consistency – more games like the BC gem and less like the UNC debacle – would go a long way toward getting Maryland out of the dumps and back into a bowl game.

Turner will have help – all three of his starting wide receivers are veterans. Darrius Heyward-Bey can be especially dangerous and knows how to get open. Interesting tidbit: his three worst games last year were with Steffy at the helm. Isaiah Williams and Danny Oquendo are dependable receivers whose stats don’t quite show it, as Maryland did a lot of running last year with their tandem of Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore.

Unfortunately for the Terrapins, that tandem is gone, replaced with a combination of Da’Rel Scott and Morgan Green. Lance “Bowling” Ball and Keon “Bowling Ball” Lattimore had pretty much the same running style: the linebackers are pins. Scott is the same way, but this year Maryland has a little lightning for their thunder in Green. However, now that the experience-o-meter has shifted from the backfield to the wideouts, look for Maryland to throw the ball more than last season.

Speaking of experience, there is plenty on the offensive line, where all five projected starters are fifth-year seniors with tons of starting experience. They will need to stay healthy though; Maryland had problems last year keeping their line intact and out of the trainer’s room. If they can do that, the experience alone should help avoid any repeats of this rather unfortunate episode. (In case you’re wondering, that’s projected starters Scott Burley and Jack Griffin whose blocks were completely disregarded by Chris Long en route to the quarterback.)


Maryland likes to employ a position they call LEO, which is sort of a defensive end/linebacker hybrid. Essentially it is a 3-4 defense where the linebacker sometimes goes into a three-point stance, much like UVA’s; longtime LEO starter Trey Covington is listed as a linebacker on the roster. Covington has three years of starting experience and is one to watch out for.

They are, in fact, most loaded at linebacker, where the listed starters and reserves will do plenty of rotating. Dave Philistin was last year’s starting middle linebacker but is listed on the weak side on this year’s depth chart, sharing time with Chase Bullock. Listed in the middle is Alex Wujciak, who got plenty of reps this spring while Philistin sat with an injury. Fellow redshirt sophomore Adrian Moten, who last year was second on the team in sacks as a redshirt freshman, also saw plenty of time and could unseat strong side starter Moise Fokou. Regardless of who starts, all should see a lot of the field this year.

If only they were so deep in the secondary. Here they return just one of four starters: cornerback and 2007 team leader in INTs, Kevin Barnes. They aren’t without experience, though: Terrell Skinner and Jeff Allen played in all 13 games as reserves in 2007, with Allen registering 28 tackles in that reserve role. For what it’s worth, the defense should end up as stout as it was last year despite the loss of standout linebacker Erin Henderson.


Both kicker Obi Egekeze and punter Travis Baltz return, and both are solid. Egekeze is near-automatic inside 40 yards, missing only three such kicks last year and turning in a 17-for-23 season overall. Baltz is but a sophomore, and averaged nearly 41 yards per punt last season; he is a good one.

Punt returns are handled by Oquendo and he should continue to do so. Da’Rel Scott was last year’s kick returner and is still listed as such, but he may turn over those duties to CB’s Anthony Wiseman or Nolan Carroll given the necessity of keeping him healthy to run the football on offense.


Maryland, simply put, is an experienced team but not a very talented one. They have all the appearances of a team that should be expected to make some noise: a returning quarterback with good stats, a tremendously experienced offensive line, a deep linebacking corps, and a veteran bunch of wideouts. It all adds up to just one preseason all-ACC pick, however, and a projection to 5th in the division. The pieces are there for Friedgen to bring this team to a bowl, but the schedule is very unforgiving and it’s not hard to envision the Terps winning just one of their eight conference matchups. Worse, the large number of fifth-year seniors means Friedgen will have to scramble to replace them next year. The writing may not be on the wall, yet, but somebody’s picking up the pen.

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