2008 Maryland Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Maryland Terrapin Offense
Preview 2008 - Offense
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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.
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
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,
Weakness of the offense: Inconsistency at quarterback,
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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