Sunday, August 14, 2011

season preview: Maryland

Maryland Terrapins


9/5: Miami (Mon.)
9/10: BYE
9/17: West Virginia
9/24: Temple
10/1: Towson
10/8: @ Georgia Tech
10/15: Clemson
10/22: @ Florida State
10/29: Boston College
11/5: Virginia
11/12: Notre Dame
11/19: @ Wake Forest
11/26: @ NC State

Skip: Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

Projected starters:

QB: Danny O'Brien (rSo.)
RB: Davin Meggett (Sr.)
WR: Kevin Dorsey (rJr.)
WR: Quintin McCree (5Sr.)
WR: Kerry Boykins (rJr.)
TE: Matt Furstenburg (rJr.)
LT: Max Garcia (So.)
LG: Andrew Gonnella (5Sr.)
C: Bennett Fulper (Jr.)
RG: Josh Cary (rSo.)
RT: R.J. Dill (rJr.)

DE: Clarence Murphy (rFr.)
DT: Joe Vellano (rJr.)
DT: Andre Monroe (rFr.)
DE: David Mackall (So.)
SLB: Kenny Tate (Sr.)
MLB: Demetrius Hartsfield (rJr.)
WLB: Darin Drakeford (Jr.)
CB: Dexter McDougle (rSo.)
CB: Cameron Chism (Sr.)
S: Eric Franklin (Jr.)
S: Matt Robinson (So.)

K: Nick Ferrara (Jr.)
P: Michael Tart (rFr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Randy Edsall (1st year)

Media prediction: 5th, Atlantic Division


2010 1st team: WR Torrey Smith, PR Tony Logan, LB Alex Wucjiak, S Kenny Tate
2010 2nd team: DT Joe Vellano
2010 HM: OT Paul Pinegar
2011 preseason: LB Kenny Tate

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Last year's Maryland preview was both horrendously inaccurate ("the Terps should in no way be confused with a bowl team") and astoundingly - if accidentally - prescient.  ("but whatever it takes to keep [Ralph] Friedgen out of the unemployment line, they won't achieve it.")  Hard to say what it would have taken, but Maryland's new AD decided nine wins wasn't it, and fired the Fridge.  Coach-in-waiting James Franklin took the Vanderbilt job (and instantly turned Vandy into a surprise recruiting juggernaut) and the Terps hired Randy Edsall from UConn.  Edsall knows exactly what to say to a Maryland crowd already, and has a good track record in a decade-plus at UConn, but still, Maryland's got another uphill climb if they want to match last year's results.


Big big things are expected of sophomore QB Danny O'Brien, who stormed onto the scene last year with 22 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.  Twelve of those were thrown to Torrey Smith, though, who's now in the NFL; only one player on Maryland's roster this year caught more than one touchdown in 2010.  Maryland will be working with an entirely revamped receiving corps; the three listed starters combined for fewer than 500 receiving yards last year.  Those three, along with Ronnie Tyler, will all have to step up from a reserve role.

Maryland does return Davin Meggett at tailback; last year he split carries almost evenly, but will probably be the feature back this season.  D.J. Adams will continue in the short-yardage role; Maryland will probably look to try and settle on at least a change of pace for Meggett from one of their other backs.

The offensive line looked like it'd be stocked up with veterans, but as the offseason went on, they started to drop off.  Andrew Gonnella is a mainstay at guard, but his counterpart, Justin Lewis, was kicked off the team with an assault charge.  Former walk-on Josh Cary is the new starter at right guard, and Max Garcia is filling in for Justin Gilbert, who will be out until at least October with a knee thing.  Maryland's silver lining is the usual "getting the depth some good experience" thing, but it comes at the expense of the continuity they had been counting on.


Edsall has done a little bit of the Mike London thing here and moved a few players toward the line of scrimmage, though not quite as dramatically as London has.  All-conference safety Kenny Tate now appears at linebacker, and he's a good enough player that the media voted him to the preseason all-conference team at his new position.  Demetrius Hartsfield is a very good linebacker and moves to the middle spot this year, and Darin Drakeford played well as a backup in 2010, so Maryland's linebackers are in good shape.  As long as they're healthy.  If Tate goes down with injury, his replacements are literally smaller than Maryland's cornerbacks.  The idea of a 180-pound linebacker - that's redshirt freshman Desmond Kearse - is a strange one and would probably bode very ill for Maryland.

Speaking of cornerbacks, they'll probably do alright, although Cameron Chism needs to get in front of some passes; he went all of 2010 as a starter without intercepting one.  Dexter McDougle looks to have won the other cornerback spot over Trenton Hughes, a senior who led Maryland in pass breakups last year.  This is a group with potential that needs to start making it work.

The safeties are another problem.  With Tate moving to linebacker, like UVA Maryland is thin at safety.  Eric Franklin and Matt Robinson each have a little starting experience under their belts, but there isn't much playable depth, so Maryland will likely sink or swim with their starting pair.

The line is also a strange situation.  Joe Vellano is the one steady presence for now; he's a disruptive defensive tackle who led the team in TFL and sacks from his interior position.  The rest of the starting defensive front is manned by a converted linebacker (David Mackall) and two redshirt freshmen.  One suspects the defensive line rotation isn't fully settled.


Nick Ferrara missed most of last year with an injury but kicked well as a freshman.  Maryland has to replace longtime punter Travis Baltz, as well as Torrey Smith on kick returns, but punt returner Tony Logan took two to the house last year and averaged a terrific 18.5 yards per return.


A likely part of the reason Friedgen was fired is because the Terps seem unlikely to build on the 9-4 season last year.  In other words, Friedgen had probably peaked, and for the last time.  Maryland doesn't have it real easy to start the year, hosting both Miami and West Virginia, and the schedule is a fairly difficult one, though they do get to skip VT.  This will be a terrific test for Danny O'Brien, with a suddenly patchworky offensive line and entirely new targets to throw at.  The guess here is a sophomore slump that's not entirely his doing.  There's just too much reworking of the defense going on and too many playmakers gone from the offense for it all to suddenly come together again for another big season, so, despite being made to look silly last year by calling the Terps short of a winning season, I'll do the same again.  I think 6-6 is the realistic ceiling as they adjust to a new coach.

1 comment:

PO13 said...

I'm excited to be going to College Park to watch the UVA game in November. Having been to campus a few times I wonder how the actual football gameday environment compares to UVA or a Michigan.