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2007 Maryland Preview
Posted Apr 12, 2007

Want the off-the-beaten-track pick to win the ACC title (or at least get there)? Maryland has as much speed and athleticism as anyone in the league led by LB Erin Henderson. Will the Terps have enough overall talent to improve on a nine-win season?

Maryland Terrapins

Preview 200

By Pete Fiutak & Michael Bradley

- 2007 Maryland Offense Preview | 2007 Maryland Defense Preview
2007 Maryland Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Maryland Preview 

By the time the ’06 season was over, the whispers about whether Ralph Friedgen had lost his magic touch were no longer heard in college circles.

After a strong debut that featured double-figure win totals in each of his first three seasons with the Terps, The Fridge fell back for a few years, leading Maryland to 5-6 records and failing to qualify for a bowl game. It seemed as if the offensive wizard who had re-established the Turtles as an ACC powerhouse had slipped.

Head coach: Ralph Friedgen
7th year: 50-24
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 19, Def. 18, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 14
Ten Best Terp Players
LB Erin Henderson, Jr.
2. WR D. Heyward-Bey, Soph.
3. DT Dre Moore, Sr.
4. OT Jared Gaither, Jr.
5. DE Jeremy Navarre, Jr.
6. CB Isaiah Gardner, Sr.
7. TE Joey Haynos, Sr.
8. RB Lance Ball, Sr.
9. RB Keon Lattimore, Sr.
10. LB Trey Covington, Jr.
CFN Prediction:
Sept. 1 Villanova
Sept. 8 at FIU
Sept. 13 West Virginia 
Sept. 22 at Wake Forest
Sept. 29 at Rutgers
Oct. 6 Georgia Tech
Oct. 20 Virginia
Oct. 27 Clemson
Nov. 3 at North Carolina
Nov. 10 Boston College
Nov. 17 at Florida State
Nov. 24 at NC State

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6

Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 William & Mary W 27-14
9/9 MTSU W 24-10
9/14 at West Virginia L 45-24
9/23 FIU W 14-10
10/7 at Georgia Tech L 27-23
10/14 at Virginia W 28-26
10/21 NC State W 26-20
10/28 Florida State W 27-24
11/4 at Clemson W 13-12
11/11 Miami W 14-13
11/18 at Boston Coll L 38-16
11/25 Wake Forest L 38-24
12/29 Champs Sports Bowl
Purdue W 24-7

Then came a seven-game stretch in the middle of last season, and Friedgen was ascendant again. Maryland didn’t win the ACC title, or even the Atlantic Division. A pair of ugly, two-touchdown, late-year losses took care of that, but the Terps did win six of seven in the season’s midsection, indicating Friedgen had found his lost mojo, and setting the stage for what could be an interesting 2007.

All but five starters return for the Terps, including a pile of promising skill position performers and eight of the top 11 tacklers. In most circumstances, a team coming off a 9-4 mark would be considered a title favorite in the conference, but one of Maryland’s losses was quarterback Sam Hollenbach, and that could be trouble. Not that Hollenbach was on a par with former Terp greats Boomer Esiason and Frank Reich, but he was an efficient passer, good leader and strong decision maker. How well sophomore Jordan Steffy, who attempted just five passes last year – and didn’t complete any – performs could well determine whether the Maryland arc continues to rise, or whether the Terps hit a plateau.

Steffy doesn’t have to throw for 3,000 yards, but he does have to be efficient. Runners Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore could each top 1,000 yards, and will carry the attack behind one of the ACC’s stronger lines. With a defense that should be just good enough to get by, another bowl campaign is a lock. If Friedgen can work even more magic, the season could be special.  

What to look for on offense:
Balance. The Terps want to get the ball downfield, but with backs like Ball and Lattimore, each of whom averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry, and a line which matured last season, it’ll be too tempting to grind it out. Steffy had good passing numbers in high school, but it’s his mobility that’ll make him dangerous on rollouts and sprints. He’ll have plenty of targets at his disposal, since the Terps’ top seven receivers return.

What to look for on defense:
Maryland loves to let its inside linebackers make plays, as evidenced by the 100-plus tackles piled up by Erin Henderson and Wesley Jefferson last year. The Terps use a 3-4 look and are blessed with a pair of drain-plugging nose men (Carlos Feliciano and Dre Moore), who keep the linebackers clean. But Maryland was not overwhelming along the front seven last year, giving up 4.6 yards per carry. There’s depth in the secondary, but more productivity is necessary since Maryland had just eight interceptions and allowed enemy quarterbacks to complete 58.7% of their passes.

The team will be much better if …
its turnover margin improves. The Terps were 90th in the nation last year and were out of some games, like the loss to Boston College, after giving the ball away early. If Maryland isn’t going to overwhelm its rivals offensively, it had better create some sudden-change opportunities. More experience throughout the defense and a reduction in lost fumbles (11) should help make turnover margin more favorable.

The Schedule:
It's tougher than it might appear, with several rough pockets and a tough finishing kick that features three road games in the final four, with Boston College as the one home date. Starting out with Villanova and at Florida International should tune everything up before dealing with Big East powerhouses West Virginia and Rutgers, along with a road date at Wake Forest and a battle with Georgia Tech.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore WR Darrius Heyward-Bey.  For the first time in many years, Maryland has a young, game-breaking receiver who can stretch a secondary and pick up big yards in chunks.  A burgeoning star after his first season in College Park, Heyward-Bey has electrifying speed to go along with a sizable 6-2, 205-pound frame and an upside that’s even larger.

Best Defensive Player
: Junior LB Erin Henderson.  After sitting out 2004 as a redshirt freshman and 2005 with an ACL tear in his left knee, Henderson proved well worth the wait in 2006, leading the Terps in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles.  The younger brother of former Butkus Award winner E.J. Henderson is a 6-3, 242-pound tackling machine who pursues exceptionally well and can deliver the payload when he reaches his target.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Jordan Steffy. Here’s where Friedgen will earn his money. He redshirted Steffy in 2005 with an eye on letting him compete for the starting job last season. When Hollenbach won the spot, Steffy was left to wait some more. Now, it’s his time, and Maryland doesn’t have much other choice. Maybe redshirt freshman Jeremy Ricker could mount a strong challenge, and Jamarr Robinson, who committed last year and enrolled in time to compete in spring drills, has potential, but it looks like Steffy will be the difference between a good and a great season. Should he produce, the Terps will be formidable and Maryland will be back in the ACC title mix.

The season will be a success if ... the Terps win nine games again. Repeating last year’s success might be a tall order considering the schedule, but there’s no way Friedgen’s club will shoot for anything less. Even though the team should be better, it’ll take a few upsets and a bowl win to get to nine, playing home games against West Virginia, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Boston College, along with road games at Wake Forest, Rutgers and Florida State.

Key game: Sept. 22 at Wake Forest. Not only can the Terps start out their ACC season with a bang by beating the defending champions, they might need the road win to avoid an ugly start after playing West Virginia the week before and with Rutgers and Georgia Tech coming in the following two weeks.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Scoring: Maryland 284; Opponents 284
- Penalties: Opponents 75 for 597 yards; Maryland 56 for 483 yards
- Red zone touchdowns: Opponents 20 of 40 (50%); Maryland 24 of 49 (49%)


Related Stories
2007 Maryland Preview - Offense
 -by  Apr 11, 2007
2007 Maryland Preview - Defense
 -by  Apr 11, 2007
2007 Maryland Preview - Depth Chart
 -by  Apr 11, 2007

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