2013 Mayland Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Maryland Terrapin Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The Maryland offense was feeble in 2012. The program is about to learn just how much of its futility was attributable to misfortune. The Terps were besieged by knee injuries to the quarterbacks, forcing them to eventually move rookie LB Shawn Petty under center. It was an impossible set of circumstances. But those quarterbacks are on the mend, including fifth-year senior C.J. Brown, who is uniquely qualified to run Mike Locksley's zone-read system. Is he, though, skilled enough to take advantage of Maryland's brightest assets, its wide receivers? Brown has modest arm strength, which could get exposed when emerging stars Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are running fly patterns through opposing defenses. The staff is optimistic about the future of its young triplets in the backfield, sophomores Brandon Ross, Wes Brown and Albert Reid. However, all three will fail to maximize their sizable potential unless a perennially weak offensive line can perform an about-face following successive years of blatant ineffectiveness in the trenches.
Star of the offense: Sophomore WR Stefon Diggs
Passing: Perry Hills
97-169, 1,336 yds, 8 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Brandon Ross
85 carries, 390 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Stefon Diggs
54 catches, 848 yds, 6 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB Brandon Ross or Wes Brown
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LT Mike Madaras
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Deon Long
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Diggs, 2) Long, 3) Ross
Strength of the offense: The wide receivers, mobile quarterback, backfield depth
Weakness of the offense: Passing efficiency, the O-line, durability, explosive plays, turnovers, third-down conversions, converting in the red zone
After injuries relegated the Terps to a fifth-string quarterback, converted LB Shawn Petty, it would be impossible for the situation behind center to be any more precarious than it was in 2012. The good news is that everyone is back in College Park, headed by 6-3, 210-pound C.J. Brown, who missed last year to an ACL tear. Even better, the senior will have two years of eligibility remaining, earning a sixth year from the NCAA. He was a sparkplug in 2011, especially on the ground. Brown appeared in 10 games and started five. He was electrifying at times, running for 574 yards and five touchdowns on only 79 carries. Twice, he bolted for more than 100 yards, including 162 versus Clemson to set a school record for quarterbacks. However, he also completed less than 50% of his throws, going 82-of-166 for 842 yards, seven touchdowns and six picks.
The battle for the backup job remains wide-open between 6-3, 205-pound sophomore Perry Hills, 6-2, 195-pound sophomore Caleb Rowe and 6-1, 180-pound junior Ricardo Young.
Hills was thrust into the starting after Brown went down, but suffered his own ACL tear after seven games. Predictably erratic for a first-year player, he went 97-of-169 for 1,336 yards, eight touchdown and seven picks, adding three scores on the ground. Rowe played well against NC State and started the BC game, but, you guessed it, tore his ACL and was done for the season. He wound up 25-of-44 for 290 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. The well-traveled Young started his career at Virginia Tech and transferred to New Mexico before following coordinator Mike Locksley to Maryland.
Watch Out For .... Brown's comfort level with planting and cutting on his surgically-repaired knee. His biggest asset is clearly his mobility, especially in an offense that wants to leverage the athleticism of the quarterback position. Brown was predictably tentative in the spring, something that bears watching in the summer.
Strength: Experience. The silver lining of all of those knee injuries is that a lot of players who weren't expected to get reps in 2012 did get reps in 2012. Brown, Hills and Rowe have starting experience, meaning Maryland is much further ahead of where it was at this time last year.
Weakness: The passing game. The Terps were far too inconsistent through the air last fall and again in the spring, a reality likely to trickle into September. Brown is still somewhat raw, has questionable arm strength and lacks accuracy, even as he's worked in practice and in the film room to become more efficient. Hills and Rowe flash potential, but it can't be forgotten that both are still in their second year out of high school.
Outlook: The Terps went to hell and back at quarterback last season. This year ought to feel like a breeze at the position. Brown will remain hit-or-miss as a pure passer, but his veteran leadership, moxie and running ability will be valuable assets to the offense. Assuming the starter stays healthy, look for Hills to fill the backup role and Rowe to use the redshirt year he was unable to in 2012.
Three sophomores. One job. And a whole lot of heated competition in the fall. If there's a leader heading into summer, it is 5-10, 205-pound Brandon Ross, a budding prospect from Delaware. He'll looking to build on a strong finish to his rookie year, in which he rushed for a team-high 390 yards and a touchdown on 85 carries. He has the speed to get outside the tackles, and has improved his strength in order to become a more effective back between the tackles.
The staff remains excited about the potential of second-year runner Wes Brown, a four-star recruit who sat out spring drills to recover from shoulder and ankle injuries. He was limited to 90 carries, which produced 382 yards and two scores before being shut down in November. At 6-1 and 210 pounds, he has feature back size and the vision to deftly navigate through traffic jams.
The Terps' other four-star gem from 2012 was 5-10, 200-pound Albert Reid, another letterwinner in his debut on campus. He started a couple of early games, but faded to finish with only 103 yards on 36 carries. The staff likes his blue-collar, lunch pail mentality, even if he's the longest shot of the trio to serve as the every-down back this year.
The clear-cut starter at fullback is junior Tyler Cierski. At 6-0 and 262 pounds, he's a real bruiser as a lead blocker for the tailbacks. Not one to the touch the ball with any regularity, he's extremely strong and nasty at the point of contact.
Watch Out For .... all three backs to get touches on Saturdays, but the staff to do whatever is necessary to mine a true feature back. Head coach Randy Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley have publicly stated a desire to tab an every-down back who can carry the ball 20 times a game. A so-called backfield-by-committee is not something with which they're comfortable.
Strength: Depth. The Terrapins now have three talented big backs with playing experience from last season. The program has recruited the position well in recent years, and will no longer be employing wide-eyed rookies. The staff genuinely believes it harbors three players capable of handling the feature role if asked.
Weakness: Consistency. The problem with sophomores is that they still haven't gotten all of those rookie mistakes out of their systems yet. The second-year Terrapins still need to improve on the small stuff, such as picking up blitzes, waiting for their blocks to develop and knowing all of their assignments.
Outlook: Much like at quarterback, Maryland should be improved at running back now that everyone is a year older and a little healthier. Who starts? The coaches don't know for sure, which means no one knows for certain. Ross appears to be closest to the top of the depth chart, though it's not really a complete competition until a healthy Brown joins the fold in the summer.
In his first year removed from high school, sophomore Stefon Diggswound up being as good as advertised, when he was one of the nation's top wide receiver recruits. Despite being paired with a hodgepodge of unproven quarterbacks, he wound up catching a team-high 54 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns. Diggs also rushed for 114 yards and returned two kicks for scores, showcasing the speed, elusiveness and open-field moves that first attracted so many scholarship offers. With a little more consistency from the hurlers, the 6-1, 185-pounder is capable of blooming into one of the ACC's top all-purpose weapons, the Terps' version of Clemson's Sammy Watkins.
The team has added some help to Diggs in the passing game, 6-1, 180-pound junior Deon Long, a sought-after recruit. The big-play JUCO All-American from Iowa Western Community College began his career at West Virginia before playing for current Terps' offensive coordinator Mike Locksley at New Mexico. In Albuquerque in 2011, he earned Second Team All-Mountain West honors by catching 47 passes for 809 yards and four touchdowns.
Bucking to become the third starter in three-wide sets is sophomore Nigel King. He got a taste of action a year ago, catching nine passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he has natural physical advantages and a head of steam from spring, but needs to continue to sharpen his fundamentals and hands.
Senior Dave Stinebaugh has won the job to replace Matt Furstenburg at tight end. The 6-4, 250-pound veteran has earned two letters in College Park, eagerly contributing on special teams and as a blocker on offense. He'll get more opportunities to be a receiver this fall.
Junior Marcus Leak was buried at the bottom of the post-spring depth chart, but that's unlikely to be the case by the end of the summer. The 6-0, 205-pounder was suspended for the spring, and is still recovering from last year's toe surgery. However, as a playmaker, he's tough to ignore, needing seven games to catch 23 passes for 393 yards and two touchdowns.
Watch Out For .... the Terps to move Diggs around, making it harder for defenses to key on him. The staff wants to make sure its star is a moving target, lining up in different spots from play to play. He's going to make plays no matter what, but he'll be even more dangerous when not stationary before the snap.
Strength: Playmakers. This corps of skill position players went from good to potentially great when Long was signed to join with Diggs on the outside. The Terrapins now have two terrific field-stretchers, a one-two punch in the passing game that'll make it lethal to double one or the other.
Weakness: The tight ends. The program had grown accustomed to having Furstenburg around, but he's now attempting to make the Baltimore Ravens. The Terrapins can use a reliable target on intermediate routes, but Stinebaugh could wind up looking like a journeyman draped in a starter's garb.
Outlook: Maryland boasts a collection of wide receivers as exciting as at any point in recent history. Diggs and Long are gamebreakers, and the young backups will surprise if proper attention is not paid to them. The only thing that might hamstring this unit is its own battery mate. The guys on the outside can fly, but is there a quarterback on the roster who can keep them from breaking their stride on go routes?
Six linemen who started games in 2012 are back this season. Big whoop. The unit was feeble a year ago, an all-too-familiar theme in College Park. Hope for the future comes in the form of second-year LT Mike Madaras. The 6-5, 290-pounder played in all 12 games as a rookie, seizing control of the starting job in Week 5 and never letting go. He still has a lot to learn and refine in his game, but he's well on his to becoming the young anchor of the front wall.
The seasoned veteran at right tackle will be 6-5, 300-pound Nick Klemm, who was actually supplanted by Madaras on the left side in 2012. He started the first four games, and has lettered in each of the last three seasons. The hope is that his pass protection shortcomings will be less likely to get exposed on the right side.
At the pivot, 6-4, 290-pound junior Sal Conaboy is holding an edge on 6-5, 290-pound sophomore Evan Mulrooney. Conaboy started seven games in 2012, interrupted only by an injury, and was more consistent with his snaps in the spring. Mulrooney filled in for five games when Conaboy was out, but his quest for the job was stunted in March and April by a hip injury.
The program's most reliable guard, 6-4, 290-pound senior De'Onte Arnett, lines up next to Madaras on the left side. He started nine games in 2012, missing time to an injury. He arrived from high school as a can't-miss defensive lineman, and is still refining his technique as a blocker on offense.
Right guard should be handled by 6-6, 295-pound sophomore Andrew Zeller, who supplanted Arnett in three games last fall. He arrived as a physical tackle, but is more effective in confined spaces. Those unexpected reps he received last year will serve him well as a full-timer this fall.
The Terps are hoping to receive immediate dividends from G Silvano Altamirano. The 6-2, 290-pound transfer from San Diego Mesa (Calif.) College is currently backing up Arnett, but the coaches feel as if he has the maturity, physically and emotionally, to step into the lineup if asked.
Watch Out For.... four-star OT Derwin Gray to stand out in the crowd once he arrives on campus. The kid from Washington D.C. could have gone just about anywhere, including USC, Oklahoma, Ohio State or Florida State. He chose Maryland to remain close to home and to play right away, which just might happen at a school that's been pining for a blocker of his caliber.
Strength: The tackles. It's a relative assessment, but Klemm is a grizzled veteran, while Madaras is the undisputed rising star of the holdovers. Oh, and the addition of an agile athlete, such as Gray, can only help the talent quotient on the edge.
Weakness: Holding the line. A year ago, the Terrapins ranked 112th nationally in both rushing offense and sacks allowed. Those kinds of numbers are code for an O-line that lacked chemistry and top-tier talent, and was bullied around the field on a weekly basis.
Outlook: Sure, Maryland needs to stay healthy in 2013, but improving up front is the single most important factor in order for the attack to make strides this year. The Terrapins simply cannot expect to be potent if the backs and quarterbacks are constantly dodging pressure in their own backfield. This remains a flimsy group, buoyed only by the hope that Madaras and Gray can blossom into cornerstone-type players.
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