Tuesday, August 10, 2010

season preview: Maryland

Maryland Terrapins


9/6: Navy (Mon.)
9/11: Morgan State
9/18: @ West Virginia
9/15: Florida International
10/2: Duke
10/9: BYE
10/16: @ Clemson
10/23: @ Boston College
10/30: Wake Forest
11/6: @ Miami
11/13: @ Virginia
11/20: Florida State
11/28: NC State

Skip: Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

Projected starters:

QB: Jamarr Robinson (rJr.)
RB: Da'Rel Scott (5Sr.)
FB: Haroon Brown (rJr.)
WR: Adrian Cannon (5Sr.)
WR: Torrey Smith (rJr.)
TE: Lansford Watson (rJr.)
LT: Justin Gilbert (rSo.)
LG: Andrew Gonnella (rJr.)
C: Paul Pinegar (5Sr.)
RG: Bennett Fulper (So.)
RT: R.J. Dill (rSo.)

DE: Drew Gloster (5Sr.)
NT: A.J. Francis (rSo.)
DT: Joe Vellano (rSo.)
DE: Justin Anderson (So.)
SLB: Adrian Moten (5Sr.)
MLB: Alex Wujciak (5Sr.)
WLB: Demetrius Hartsfield (rSo.)
CB: Trenton Hughes (rJr.)
CB: Cameron Chism (Jr.)
FS: Kenny Tate (Jr.)
SS: Antwine Perez (Sr.)

K: Nick Ferrara (So.)
P: Travis Baltz (Sr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Ralph Friedgen, 10th season

Media prediction: 6th place, Atlantic Division


2009 1st team: LB Alex Wujciak
2009 2nd team: WR/KR Torrey Smith
2009 HM: none
2010 preseason: WR/KR Torrey Smith, LB Alex Wujciak

(Italics indicate returning player.)

One of the biggest open secrets in the ACC is that Maryland's 2-10 season would have sunk Ralph Friedgen if his buyout hadn't been so beefy. As it is, the James Franklin regime is still on ice in College Park, and another really difficult season awaits.


The Jamarr Robinson era at quarterback actually began a little earlier than intended when Chris Turner suffered a season-ending injury midseason. No longer will the Maryland viewer be subjected to self-congratulatory announcers chortling over their own oh-so-clever Napoleon Dynamite jokes. Robinson is undoubtedly athletic - his 2009 rushing average is almost as big as his passive average, which isn't much - but it's likely he wasn't given free reign last year.

This year, he's got his - and Turner's - favorite targets back, in dynamic wideout Torrey Smith and his dangerous counterpart Adrian Cannon. This is one of the better receiver combos in the conference, and there's plenty of depth past them as well - third wideout Ronnie Tyler also returns, as do most of last year's receiving targets.

The running game is another story. It suffered badly when Da'Rel Scott went down with an injury midseason, but it would have suffered anyway behind a weak offensive line. Scott can be a weapon if he has blockers, but Davin Meggett is up and down, and change-of-pace sophomore Caleb Porzel - who you'll remember as a UVA decommit - just left the team. The line will again determine if Maryland has a running game. It's somewhat more experienced than last year, but has undergone a lot of shuffling. Paul Pinegar, as the line's most experienced and versatile player, moves from tackle to center, and Andrew Gonnella makes a move from right to left guard. There's a glaring weakness at left tackle, where nominal starter Justin Gilbert has no starting experience, and his backups are a redshirt freshman and a sophomore transfer from D-III Frostburg State. Maryland's pass protection was terrible last year, allowing 36 sacks, and the left tackle situation won't help improve on that.


It starts and ends with the linebackers. All three starters return to that unit, and just two elsewhere on the field. Alex Wujciak cleans up the field; in 2009, he had almost twice as many tackles, with 131, as anyone else on the team. He added 8.5 TFL and 2 picks, which he returned for a combined 152 yards. 2009 sack leader (with six) Adrian Moten is also solid on the strong side.

But just like you don't want your secondary leading the team in tackles, you don't want your linebackers leading the team in sacks. The defensive line is woefully inexperienced. The only senior on the whole unit, Drew Gloster, has moved in his career from tight end to linebacker and finally to DE out of pure necessity, and lost a season in between to academics. He and his counterpart on the other end, Justin Anderson, have a combined total of nine career tackles to their credit. The inside is a little stouter, but the unit's one returning starter, sophomore DT A.J. Francis, isn't the get-inside-the-backfield type.

In the secondary, CB Cameron Chism is an impressive player, gathering four interceptions last season. But the secondary was slammed with graduation this offseason and needs to totally reinvent itself. Safety Antwine Perez saw a lot of time last year and racked up 45 tackles in a reserve role, and should be the leader of a unit that could be talented but is largely unproven.


Other than a horrible punt coverage unit that allowed 12 yards per return in 2009, this is likely to be one of the conference's better special teams units overall. Torrey Smith ran back two kicks to the house in 2009, and punter Travis Baltz averaged almost 41 yards a punt despite a midseason injury. Nick Ferrara improved his kicking as 2009 progressed, and as a sophomore this year he's likely to be one of the league's quality kickers.


Can Maryland improve on 2-10? The pieces are there to do so, but the Terps should in no way be confused with a bowl team. The passing game involves some dynamic athletes, which is probably a necessity rather than a luxury because the left side of the pocket is likely to spend all year collapsing. The running game won't be impressive either, and whether or not the defense will be effective is totally up in the air. I think the defensive line is going to be just this side of a disaster, and if not for Wujciak and Moten, the defense would be making a really strong case for conference's worst. They always say the game is won and lost in the trenches, and that's really bad news for Maryland. As it is, the Terps have just enough talent to play spoiler, but not enough to contend, and little enough that 2-10 isn't unimaginable again. Three or maybe four wins seems more likely, but whatever it takes to keep Friedgen off the unemployment line, they won't achieve it. Expect no bowl and a new coach in 2011.

No comments: