CFN Preview 2013 - Maryland Terrapins
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Maryland Terrapins
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By Richard Cirminiello
Head coach Randy Edsall has had two seasons to put his stamp on the Maryland program. It's time for some dividends to start being paid out.
Head coach: Randy Edsall |
Third year: 6-18
Off. 18, Def. 16, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Maryland Players
1. WR Stefon Diggs, Soph.
2. LB Cole Farrand, Jr.
3. CB Dexter McDougle, Sr.
4. CB Jeremiah Johnson, Jr.
5. WR Deon Long, Jr.
6. QB C.J. Brown, Sr.
7. RB Brandon Ross, Soph.
8. NT Darius Kilgo, Jr.
9. RB Wes Brown, Soph.
10. LT Mike Madaras, Soph.
9/7 Old Dominion
9/14 at Connecticut
9/21 West Virginia (Balt)
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 at Florida State
10/19 at Wake Forest
11/16 at Virginia Tech
11/23 Boston College
11/30 at NC State
It sure has been a rocky road for Edsall, who left Connecticut as a favorite target among ADs around the country. However, in College Park, his Terrapins have won only six games over the last two years, as fan interest has waned. Still, progress is happening, even if it's not as obvious as many would like; Maryland's problems on the field have not impacted the school on Signing Day, and the staff is as stable as it's been in four years. Oh, and the 2012 edition did double its win total from the previous year. Baby steps.
At the intermission of last season, Edsall looked as if he might vie for ACC Coach of the Year. His undermanned team was 4-2, having toughed out back-to-back nail-biters over Wake Forest and Virginia. And then the dream unraveled to the tune of six consecutive losses, three by a touchdown or less. The decline wasn't entirely the fault of the Terrapins, a program that was snakebitten by injuries, especially to the quarterbacks. You want bad luck? How about three season-ending knee injuries to quarterbacks, forcing the team to use a fifth-string true freshman who arrived thinking he'd play linebacker?
The Terps were so close to breaking through a year ago. Can it build on that progress now that the QBs are off the DL? Maryland has to be better behind center. C.J. Brown, who led the team in rushing in 2011, is the frontrunner heading into summer. While he'll continue to motor on the ground as the pilot of the attack, his main objective will be to get the ball in the hands of his skill players. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are the front men for a dynamite corps of receivers, and three talented sophomore backs continue to push one another for reps.
While the offense has to be better than in 2012, the defense is rebuilding around an average collection of holdovers. All four of last season's All-ACC performers are gone, leaving the Terps with a talent—and leadership—void. The D has kept the team in a lot of games over the last two seasons. But that's not likely to be the case this fall.
There are holes and concerns on both sides of the ball, but there's also more stability than at any point since Edsall replaced Ralph Friedgen. Maryland should be more competitive this season. It'll have to be in order take some heat off a coaching staff that knows the importance of winning in Year 3.
What to look for on offense: The battle at running back. The Terps have a good problem, three gifted sophomores, with not a lot of separation between them. Brandon Ross is in the lead, but former blue-chip recruit Wes Brown was hampered by injuries in the spring and unable to compete for the job at 100%. Oh, and Albert Reid was also a four-star recruit who got his feet wet in his 2012 debut. Ross vs. Brown, in particular, promises to be an intriguing summer duel that ideally brings out the best in both backs.
What to look for on defense: The progress of the defensive ends. If the D has any chance of surging past expectations, it'll need more support from the edge rushers. There's simply no easy way to replace Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis who have graduated. Doing their best to offset the losses are Keith Bowers and Quinton Jefferson, one of the surprises of the offseason so far. Fingers are also crossed that Andre Monroe can recapture his old form. He had five sacks in 2011, but missed all of last year to injury.
The team will be far better if … it can stay healthy. No team would have survived the rash of injuries that Maryland endured in 2012. Yeah, the quarterbacks were transformed into a M.A.S.H unit, but both sides of the ball were bit hard by the injury bug. While the Terrapins have recruited well under Edsall, they still lack the overall depth to compete with some of the better teams in the ACC. And any losses of personnel are going to derail this squad faster than it would some of the league's more fortified schools.
The Schedule: A few warm-ups against FIU and Old Dominion are a must before going into a rough three game stretch going to Randy Edsall's old stomping grounds at UConn before dealing with West Virginia in Baltimore and going to Florida State. Fortunately, there's a week off to prepare for the Noles, and then comes the payoff with three home games in the next four. The games against Virginia and Virginia Tech in the Coastal aren't a positive - especially with the game against the Hokies on the road - and hosting Clemson isn't going to be fun. Beating Boston College might be a must before finishing up at NC State.
Best Offensive Player: Sophomore WR Stefon Diggs. Diggs has quickly become the poster boy for this coaching staff's ability to attract elite talent to College Park. He dwarfed expectations in his debut as a Terp, immediately becoming one of the ACC's most dangerous all-purpose weapons. Despite playing with a potpourri of unproven and overmatched quarterbacks, he still caught a team-best 54 balls for 848 yards and six touchdowns. Diggs also rushed for 114 yards and returned two kicks for scores, showcasing the speed and quickness that first attracted so many scholarship offers.
Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Cole Farrand. After laying the foundation for the second-half of his career in 2012, Farrand is eager to become one of the physical and emotional catalysts for the rebuilding Maryland defense. He harbors many of the characteristics, such as his instincts and toughness, that the coaches want in an inside linebacker. Playing on a full-time basis for the first time, he tallied a Terp-high 78 tackles, six stops for loss and three forced fumbles. Bigger and stronger at 6-3 and 245 pounds, Farrand is eyeing 100 tackles and all-league recognition.
Key player to a successful season: Senior QB C.J. Brown. After last season's disaster, Maryland is pining for more leadership and consistency from behind center. Brown is the best Terp to give the program what it needs on offense. He's experienced, poised and capable of beating defenses with his legs. But can he maximize all of the talent that the program has at wide receiver? He's been working on his arm strength, mechanics and reads since suffering an ACL injury that cost him the entire 2012 campaign.
The season will be a success if ... the Terps increase their win total for a second consecutive year. Maryland was 4-8 last year, so might six wins and bowl-eligibility be on the 2013 to-do list? It won't be easy, considering the defensive losses, but it won't be impossible either. The team opens with Florida International and Old Dominion, and only Clemson and Florida State will be completely off limits. The key will be to stay healthy and build depth as the season unfolds. If the Terps aren't ravaged by injuries by the Nov. 2 bye week, they'll have a shot to bolster Edsall's job security.
Key game: Sept. 14 at Connecticut. Sure, Edsall going back to his old stomping grounds at Rentschler Field is an intriguing storyline, but this trip to East Hartford is more about gaining momentum on the road than renewing old acquaintances. Maryland should be 2-0 by Week 3. If it can get to the halfway point of bowl-eligibility by mid-September, the beleaguered program will have a legitimate shot of making a poignant return to the postseason later in the year.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Yards per rush: Maryland 2.6 – Opponents 3.5
- Sacks: Maryland 28 – Opponents 39
- First-quarter scoring: Maryland 43 - Opponents 99
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2013 Maryland Defense |
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