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2008 Maryland Preview - Offense
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CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 2, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Maryland Terrapin Offense

Maryland Terrapins

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Maryland Preview | 2008 Maryland Offense
- 2008 Maryland Defense | 2008 Maryland Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Maryland Preview | 2006 CFN Maryland Preview 

What you need to know: With nine starters returning, things can’t be so bad, right? Well, not exactly. The climate on offense isn’t going to improve unless a couple of key backfield problems are solved. First, the Terps must decide on a quarterback to run James Franklin’s West Coast offense out of Chris Turner, Jordan Steffy, and Josh Portis, none of whom have achieved much at this level.  Portis has the most upside, but he’s running No. 3 on the depth chart and is saddled with a couple of layers of rust. Second, the offense needs replacements for the productive running duo of Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. Da’rel Scott and Morgan Green are promising and explosive sophomores with the skills to flourish running behind the enormous Maryland line.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Chris Turner
153-241, 1,958 yds, 7 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Da'Rei Scott
14 carries, 135 yds
Receiving: Darrius Heyward-Bey
51 catches, 786 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Junior WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Jordan Steffy or junior Chris Turner
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Da’Rel Scott
Best pro prospect: Heyward-Bey
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Heyward-Bey, 2) Senior LT Scott Burley, 3) Senior LG Jaimie Thomas
Strength of the offense: Speed at the skill positions, run blocking
Weakness of the offense: Inconsistency at quarterback, pass protection

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: And the winner is? As is often the case with Ralph Friedgen, the coach still hasn’t decided on his starting quarterback, although it appears senior Jordan Steffy and junior Chris Turner are the semifinalists. Steffy was the starter for the first five games of 2007 before being shelved with a concussion, a recurring theme throughout his career. He was struggling at the time of the injury, finishing the year 70-of-104 for 686 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. At a sturdy 6-1 and 209 pounds, his mobility is a good fit for the new offense, provided his accuracy and decision-making as a thrower improves.

More of a prototypical pocket passer at 6-4 and 210 pounds, Turner was the unlikely passing leader a year ago, going 153-of-241 for 1,958 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions.  He started the final eight games, getting mixed reviews in an up-and-down season of big wins, yet modest production. To be in the huddle when Delaware visits Aug. 30, he’ll have to play with more consistency in practice and on game day.     

Projected Top Reserves:
... If the quarterbacks were judged solely on physical ability, junior Josh Portis would run away with the job. They’re not, which is why he’s No. 3 on the depth chart and trying to hold off redshirt freshman Jamarr Robinson. At 6-4 and 210 pounds, he’s a sensational all-around athlete with 4.5 speed, but sat out 2006 after transferring from Florida and was ruled ineligible for 2007. Besides having to shake off some rust, he needs to improve on his mechanics and do a better job of managing the offense. At some point, if he can’t crack the two-deep, the coaches might toy with a position switch.   

Watch Out For ... multiple quarterbacks to play extensively again this season. It could happen by design to maximize the diverse skills or Steffy and Turner, or by necessity if the starter has trouble moving the offense and keeping the job.
Strength: Experience. The only positive to come out of Steffy’s injury last fall was that it forced Turner into the lineup for more than half the season, giving the Terrapins two quarterbacks with relevant experience as a starter.
Weakness: Passing skills. Neither Steffy nor Turner looked particularly capable in the pocket last season, combining to throw just nine touchdown passes to 11 interceptions. While Maryland completed nearly two-thirds of its attempts, they rarely produced big plays or were followed by extra points.
Outlook: The competition between Steffy and Turner will be close and unlikely to be decided until just before the opener. While Steffy makes more sense in the West Coast offense, Turner is the better pocket passer. Whoever gets the nod will need to make a quantum leap in his game to light a spark under a passing attack that produced just three touchdown passes in last year’s first nine games.
Rating
: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: The faces will be new, but the Terps will continue employing a two-headed backfield that was so successful when Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore were in College Park.  Taking their place will be sophomores Da’Rel Scott and Morgan Green, a couple of major talents just waiting to get uncorked. In limited action, Scott showed glimpses of his potential, rushing 14 times for 135 yards and turning his only reception into a 57-yard touchdown. A former 100-meter spring champion in high school, he brings the kind of breakaway speed that this offense has been lacking. At 5-11 and 192 pounds, he has adequate size, but needs to stay healthy and keep working toward becoming a complete back.

Back at fullback is no-nonsense plower Cory Jackson, a 6-1, 245-pound junior content to open holes for his teammates. He has started 11 games in his first two seasons, catching more passes, 11, than the number of times he gotten carries.

Projected Top Reserves: The 5-11, 207-pound Green was one of the program’s key recruits of 2005, yet injuries have limited him to a single appearance in last year’s opener. The perfect complement to Scott’s explosiveness, he can pound it between the tackles and is easily the strongest of the tailbacks. At a minimum, he’s going to be a force in short yardage and around the goal line.

The surprise No. 3 back coming out of spring was 5-9, 180-pound senior walk-on Rashad Henry, a transfer from Bowie State who hasn’t played since 2005.  While no threat to get past Scott or Green, he has the 4.3 speed to be used as a situational spark plug, especially on third-and-long.

Closing in on Jackson at fullback is sophomore Haroon Brown, who played in five games as a true freshman when injuries struck the position. At 5-10 and 257 pounds, he’s a pile driver who can also carry the ball from time to time.  

Watch Out For ... Scott to conjure up images of former Terp and ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Bruce Perry. He’s an all-purpose dynamo who can burst through the line for big chunks of yardage and turn a pass in the flat into a quick six.
Strength: Speed. Unlike the last few seasons, when Ball and Lattimore would rarely wiggle free for big yardage, this year’s top backs can get to top gear in a hurry. Behind a massive veteran line, Scott, Green, and Henry have the jets to produce plenty of short drives.
Weakness: Durability. Scott and Green have been nicked up a lot in the early stages of their careers. That was fine when they were buried on the depth chart, but now that they’ll be showcased, both must prove they can handle 20 carries a game if the opportunity is there.
Outlook: Ball and Lattimore were good players for the program. In time, Scott and Green will be better. What they lack in experience, they’ll make up for with pure speed and a knack for exploding into opposing secondaries. If everyone can stay off the trainer’s table, the potential is there for this to be the most exciting backfield in the Friedgen era.  
Rating: 7

Receivers

Projected Starters: For the third year in a row, 6-2, 206-pound junior Darrius Heyward-Bey will be the team’s—and possibly the ACC’s—most explosive receiver. A unique blend of size and blazing speed, the only thing keeping him from being the nation’s most dangerous long ball threat is better play at the quarterback position. A year ago, he had 51 catches for 786 yards and three touchdowns, adding 107 yards and a touchdown on the ground. While consistency has escaped him, he’s able to overcome with superior physical ability that’ll make him a first round draft pick if and when he takes off early for the NFL.

At the outside “X” receiver will be 6-3, 200-pound senior Isaiah Williams, an experienced, physical receiver who has never quite hit the high note. Injuries have been one hurdle for a player who topped out a year ago with 25 catches for 395 yards and a just one touchdown. Considering how much attention Heyward-Bey gets, he should be doing a lot more on the opposite side.

With Joey Haynos and Jason Goode out of the picture, senior Dan Gronkowski is set to take over at tight end. A massive and powerful target at 6-6 and 255 pounds, he’s been used more as a blocking tight end throughout his career, catching a career-high seven passes for 66 yards a year ago. Determined to shed old labels, he had a terrific spring, showing sticky hands and looking multi-dimensional in the new offense.

Projected Top Reserves: At “X”, Williams and sophomore LaQuan Williams are virtually interchangeable, sharing time in the starting lineup a year ago. A rangy and fluid 6-1, 180-pounder, he debuted with 15 receptions for 217 yards. While he can make the acrobatic grab, he needs to make the routine catches more consistently.

When the Terrapins use a third receiver, senior Danny Oquendo is likely to be found in the slot.  A tough 6-0, 190-pounder, he’s lettered all three seasons, catching 19 passes last year for 173 yards and a touchdowns. He’s not a game-breaker, but can be a great option when the quarterback needs seven or eight yards to pick up a first down.

In the event Heyward-Bey bolts for the NFL after this season, Maryland is hoping 6-3, 190-pound sophomore Emani Lee-Odai will be ready to fill his shoes. A fantastic overall athlete with 4.4 speed, he caught five passes for 87 yards, but is capable of so much more once he masters the finer points of the position.

Backing up Gronkowski at tight end will be junior Tommy Galt, who earned his first letter last year as a member of the special teams. Mostly a blocker at 6-5 and 259 pounds, he made progress in the spring as a pass-catcher, enhancing his position on the two-deep.

Watch Out For ... the incoming freshmen. Although it won’t be easy pushing past the veterans on the two-deep, this could be the best collection of pass-catching talent to ever choose Maryland.  Wide receivers Kenny Tate, Kevin Dorsey, and Kerry Boykins, and TE Devonte Campbell were all nationally-ranked recruits with a mess of offers at their fingertips.
Strength: Athleticism. Ever since Ralph Friedgen arrived, Maryland has dramatically improved its speed and playmaking ability, as evidenced by this group. Heyward-Bey, Lee-Odai, and both of the Williams’ have great size and the speed to blow past opposing secondaries.
Weakness: Consistency. One game, the receivers are all-world. The next, however, they’ll disappear.  While the quarterbacks share some of the blame, the pass-catchers have to step up and play at a higher level of consistency.
Outlook: While Heyward-Bey is inching closer to stardom, he still needs more help from the rest of the receiving corps. Physically, they have few peers, but collectively, they have to do better than a year ago, when no wide receiver other than their ringleader caught more than 25 passes.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: With six linemen back who started games a year ago, this unit has the bodies and the experience to be a team strength. The key, however, will be to keep everyone healthy.  The one crushing loss is the graduation of All-ACC RG Andrew Crummey, who will be succeeded by either 6-3, 300-pound junior Phil Costa or 6-7, 308-pound senior Jack Griffin. One of the strongest and most explosive of the blockers, Costa started seven games in the second half when injuries struck the line. Versatile enough to also play center, he owns a 35-inch vertical leap, second best among offensive linemen in school history.

Going neck-and-neck with Costa is Griffin, a three-time letterwinner, who also started games a year ago out of necessity. A blue-collar worker with the frame of a tackle, he began his career as a defensive tackle, starting eight games at the position in 2005.

Opposite Costa or Griffin will be hulking LG Jaimie Thomas, a 6-4, 330-pounder entering his second season as a starter. He has a strong base, giant wingspan, and a powerful upper body, using all three to effectively move defenders off the line and create space for the backs. Among the linemen, he’s considered to have the best future at the next level.

The anchor of the line is senior C Edwin Williams, who has played in 36 consecutive games and started each of the last 26. Super-sized for the position at 6-2 and 315 pounds, he moves very well, makes sound reads, and will be up for all-league honors with another solid season at the pivot.

At left tackle will be 6-5, 335-pound behemoth senior Scott Burley, who began to blossom in his first season in the lineup. Finally healthy after being dogged by injuries early in his career, he improved as the season progressed as a pass blocker. To become even better, however, he’d benefit from losing some weight and improving his foot speed.

Rounding out the offensive front at right tackle is senior Dane Randolph. At 6-5 and 300 pounds, he’s the most athletic of the linemen and perennially one of the strongest in the weight room. A former defensive linemen, the NFL will give him a chance to play if he can make continuous progress in his final season on campus.    

Projected Top Reserves: Whoever winds up second in the competition between Costa and Griffin will play a vital role as a reserve. Both players have been cross-trained at other positions, meaning they’ll be able to contribute liberally on an as-need basis.

The future star of the offensive line is sophomore Bruce Campbell, a mega-recruit from 2007 who was one of just four true freshmen to play last season. An outstanding all-around athlete at 6-6 and 285 pounds, he’s being groomed as the heir apparent to Burley at left tackle.  

Watch Out For ... the health of the group. As last season proved, durability is not its calling card.  If the offensive line is going to reach its potential, it has to avoid the injuries that plagued the unit throughout the 2007 season.
Strength: Size and strength. One of the biggest and strongest lines in the ACC, Maryland’s is capable of lining up and simply blowing other defenses off the ball. The left side of Burley and Thomas, in particular, averages 6-4 and almost 340 pounds.
Weakness: Pass protection. Yeah, they’re huge, but it comes with a price, namely a bunch of lumbering linemen. The lack of agility and quickness was evident last season as the Terrapins surrendered 40 sacks, which was 105th in the nation.
Outlook: For a second straight year, the overwhelming key for this unit will be to stay healthy.  Maryland now has enough seasoned veterans to form a solid offensive line, but all bets are off if the deck is constantly being reshuffled. While the running game will be fine, the quarterbacks need more time to make reads and locate secondary receivers.
Rating: 7