Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: Maryland Terrapins

2009 Record: 2-10 (1-7 in ACC)
2009 Bowl: None
Final 2009 AP Ranking: N/A
Head Coach: Ralph Friedgen (66-46 all-time at Maryland)
Non-Conference Schedule: Navy (9/6), Morgan State (9/11), at West Virginia, FIU (9/25)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 21.3 points per game (11th in ACC, 98th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 105 (10th in ACC, 106th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 210 (6th in ACC)
Total Yards/Game: 315 (10th in ACC, 102nd in Nation) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 31.3 points per game (last in ACC, 100th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 150 (6th in ACC)
Passing Yards/Game: 245 (last in ACC, 97th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 396 (11th in ACC)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: -0.50 per game (11th in ACC, 97th in Nation)
Penalties: 46 yards per game (5th in ACC)

Returning Starters
Offense: 7
Defense: 5
Kicker/Punter: 2

Phil Steele All-ACC Pre-Season
LB Alex Wujciak (First Team)
KR Torry Smith (First Team; also Second Team as WR)
RB D'Rel Scott (Second Team)
SS Antwine Perez (Second Team)
FS Kenny Tate (Third Team)
LB Demetrius Hartsfield (Fourth Team)
LB Adrian Moten (Fourth Team)
P Travis Baltz (Fourth Team)

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Jamarr Robinson, Jr (46 of 85 for 460 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT, 229 yds rushing)
Rushing: RB Da'Rel Scott, Sr (85 carries for 425 yds, 4 TD, 5.0 ypc, 60 ypg)
Rushing: RB Davin Meggett, Jr (99 carries for 337 yds, 6 TD, 3.4 ypc, 28 ypg)
Receiving: WR Torrey Smith, Jr (61 rec, 828 yds, 5 TD, 5.1 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Alex Wujciak, Sr (131)
Sacks: LB Adrian Moten, Sr (5.5)
Interceptions: CB Cameron Chism, Jr (4)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Lindy's: Not Ranked
Mark Schlabach: Not Ranked
Rivals: Not Ranked
Scout: Not Ranked
Sporting News: #89
Sports Illustrated: Not Ranked
Athlon Sports: #67

2010 Pre-Season ACC Atlantic Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #5
Phil Steele: #4

Wins are going to be hard to come by when you combine the 2nd lowest scoring offense in your league with the defense that gives up the most points. Maryland went 2-10 last year with their only conference win being an early season upset of Clemson. There has to be a lot of pressure on Ralph Friedgan and his staff after dropping a game to Middle Tennessee and getting drubbed out of conference against California and Rutgers. They lost 7 straight games to end the season but did show improvement in losing 3 of those games by a total of 9 points. Can Ralph turns the Terps around before he is run out of town? The SB Nation Maryland blog Testudo Times stepped up to the plate to let us peek into the mind of the Maryland football fan.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

Maryland’s strength rests, as it did last year, in their skill positions. Torrey Smith, Adrian Cannon, and Ronnie Tyler make up a near-elite corps of wide receivers, and I’m not sure if any team in the ACC can match their depth at running back – there are five potential starters in that group if it weren’t for Da’Rel Scott’s presence at the front. The team is littered with individual talents that are all-conference caliber – Smith, Scott, Davin Meggett, Cam Chism, Adrian Moten, Alex Wujciak – so there’s a huge talent base there if they ever gel.

Unfortunately, massive holes are in the spaces between stars. Outside of Chism, the secondary is a major question mark, with two talented but unproven and inconsistent safeties in Kenny Tate and Antwine Perez. The defensive line is little more than a mass of semi-talented, unproven bodies at this point. The offensive line is the biggest weakness; they were awful last year and haven’t done much to improve. That’s the biggest key to me, pretty easily; a lot of people will point to Maryland’s uncertainty at quarterback, but that’s just an easy way out; the surrounding talent is strong enough to make any decent QB look good enough, but the offensive line can’t be hidden.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test?

Maryland starts the year off with Navy in Baltimore, a rematch of a great game from a few years ago. The fans really want a consistent rivalry between the two start up; it’s a pretty obvious choice, if you ask us. Navy will be a tough test because they always are; no matter the talent level of the respective teams, Navy will fight tooth-and-nail and run a funky, confusing offense. They’re not looking great next year, but they simply can’t be passed over.

After that, it’s West Virginia in week 3. WVU and UMD do not like each other; this used to be a great rivalry before taking a two-year hiatus. It’s back now, which is great news, but Maryland won’t win unless they’re surprisingly good, and that probably won’t happen. WVU just outclasses Maryland (in talent, not actual class).

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Probably West Virginia, actually. Maryland has a history of losing badly to them in recent years, and they’ve gotten better while Maryland’s gotten worse. Maryland avoids Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in the ACC this year, so the conference slate isn’t too imposing; this game, though, has blowout potential.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

This team just went 2-10, so no one’s being talked about enough. Torrey Smith is quite legitimately an elite all-purpose player and would’ve easily led the nation in all-purpose yardage last year had Maryland had any other legitimate offensive option (he was first halfway through the year last season, and finished in the top five). Alex Wujciak is an underrated, tough-nosed linebacker similar to a Paul Pozluzney; just a hard player and a tackle machine.

But the players that could turn into stars that no one seems to know about are Cam Chism and D.J. Adams. Adams is a redshirt freshman running back and is behind quite a stable of solid backs, but he was absurdly impressive in spring ball and if he gets a shot at the field he’s not likely to give it up. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding him. Cam Chism is a junior CB that had his redshirt year wasted on a few special teams plays and didn’t see playing time until the end of last year. But he was fantastic when he was on the field and has the potential to turn into a legitimate shutdown cornerback.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Torrey Smith, undoubtedly. He’s not overly shifty, but he’s very fast and doesn’t go down easily. Strangely, he’s the definition of a straight-line, downhill runner, which is rare at wide receiver, but it works for him. He’s a threat every time he touches the ball, which should be about, oh, twelve times a game minimum (it will likely be less).

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Most impactful? Probably Alex Wujciak. Wujciak just manufactures tackles. He’s almost always in double-digits in tackles and is one of the better linebackers in the conference. Now, it’s my personal belief that Adrian Moten has more talent at linebacker, but his role as a pass rusher doesn’t allow him to rack up the tackles like Wujciak.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

A lot. For one, R.J. Dill needs to become a viable option at RT, and Justin Gilbert needs to prove he belongs on the field at LT. Redshirt freshman guard Pete White needs to live up to the hype assigned to him when he committed two years ago and solidify a starting spot. Jamarr Robinson or Danny O’Brien has to be at least decent at quarterback. For the sake of space, we’ll end with Kenny Tate and Antwine Perez at safety; both former five-stars (Perez originally committed to USC and then transferred to UMD), their talent is off the charts, but so is their poor decision-making. They’ll need to reel that in; if they do, the defense will be looking very, very good.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Either the aforementioned D.J. Adams or the aforementioned Pete White. If Maryland is going to make a bowl, White will need to get a shot and thrive. If they’re not, don’t be surprised to see Adams making a large impact late in the year. Of course, this is assuming that Jamarr Robinson wins the QB battle over Danny O’Brien; if he doesn’t, then it automatically shifts to the redshirt freshman O’Brien.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Maryland has a few options here; the defense is loaded with high-level talent. David Mackall and Javarie Johnson are two DE/OLB tweener true freshman that enrolled early and have done well in spring ball. Their speed means they’ll have a key role in Maryland’s attacking defense, so don’t be surprised to see either of them on the field early. The secondary also has a few potentially big newcomers: CB Dexter McDougle and S Travis Hawkins. Both redshirt freshmen, they actually started at the other’s position; Hawkins was originally a CB, and McDougle a S. But they found they were much more effective after switching, and both have received a lot of praise from the coaching staff in the spring.

Ralph Friedgen might be sitting on the hottest seat in all of college football right now. What does he need to do to keep his job?

It’s simple: make a bowl game, he’s safe. Don’t, and he’s out. Friedgen has one more year on his deal after this, so if he can bring the team to respectability, he’ll get his chance to ride off into the sunset before retiring. If they’re bad again, Maryland won’t be able to afford letting him ride off into the sunset; one more bad year could be program-crippling.

He started off with 3 straight 10 wins seasons and has not posted double digits wins since. Is it as simple as he was winning with the last coach's players and now he's having trouble recruiting and developing new guys?

To an extent, yes, but it wasn’t just talent. Vanderlinden, the preceding coach, recruited not just talent but also a mindset. The teams that won 10 games called themselves “Dirty Terps”, thrived as slighted underdogs, and had plenty of swagger. It was almost like The U of the ‘90s. The more recent teams had almost a sense of entitlement, more cockiness than swagger. There was certainly no sense of urgency. Friedgen hasn’t really connected to them on that level. And, yes, the talent hasn’t been there as much as it was for Vanderlinden; Friedgen has excelled at putting together good but not great classes, and then he’s in trouble when the star players end up dropping out, as they do far too often.

A lot of that is due to Maryland’s difficult standards in academics. The Terps have had extremely high academic standards in athletics ever since the Len Bias incident; it was actually a state mandate at one point, and the standards have simply never been relaxed. It makes it tough to get borderline academic players into school.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

My gut says 5-7. My head says 4-8. Not a big difference. There’s plenty of talent on this team, but just far too many question marks to be a real bowl game challenger. A successful year would be getting to a bowl, nothing more; this team just went 2-10, so I have no delusions of grandeur.

Thanks again to the Testudo Times. Follow them on Twitter @testudotimes.

Next Up: South Carolina Gamecocks

2010 Previews
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston CougarsTulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies


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