Fear the turtle?
Not many people have in college football recently, but the Clemson Tigers have lost of three of the last four to Ralph Friedgen’s crew from College Park, MD., including the last two in Death Valley, and head coach Dabo Swinney and his Tigers need to smear the turtle instead of fear it if they want to return to the ACC Championship Game.
Since going 10-3 in 2003 and beating West Virginia in the Gator Bowl, the Terps are a dismal 35-40, including a 2-10 campaign last season. However, one of the wins was against – yep – Clemson, on October 3rd. They lost the next seven to close out the season, and things may not be much better in 2010.
The likely starting quarterback is Jamarr Robinson, who was Chris Turner’s backup last season. The junior appeared in seven games, and was 46-of-85 for 459 yard and two touchdowns and he added 229 yards on 53 carries. He is undoubtedly the most athletic quarterback the Terps have had in a long time, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the ole Fridge employ some version of the option, at least a couple of times a game, to take advantage of that.
At running back, the Terps return 5-11, 200-pound senior Da’Rel Scott, a former 1,000-yard rusher who has had problems staying healthy. In 2009, he had a broken wrist and was limited to just 85 carries for 425 yards and four touchdowns, but he has a sprinter’s speed and can get into the secondary in a hurry. How good he can be all depends on his health and how the offensive line comes together. Junior Davin Meggett is Scott’s backup, and he’s rushed for almost 800 yards and 10 touchdowns in two years off the bench.
The wide receiver corps is highlighted by 6-1, 200-pound junior Torrey Smith, who turned into one of the nation’s most productive all-purpose players a season ago. Smith is the go-to guy at “Z” receiver, and he snared 61 passes for 824 yards and five touchdowns in earning second-team All-ACC honors. His head coach told the media this past week that Smith is probably the hardest-working player on the squad. Senior Adrian Cannon started ten games at receiver a year ago, and he will look to see if he can improve on his 44 receptions for 468 yards and four touchdowns.
At tight end, the starter may not be decided til the end of fall camp. Sophomore Devonte Campbell actually started the final four games last year and finished with five catches for 14 yards, but junior Lansford Watson will battle Campbell for the starting spot.
University of Maryland
LOCATION: College Park, Md
CONFERENCE: ACC / Atlantic
NICKNAME: Terrapins, Terps
COLORS: Red, White, Black, Gold
STADIUM: Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium
HEAD COACH: Ralph Friedgen
RECORD: 66-46 (10th year)
Returning Lettermen: Off. 27, Def. 23, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 15
The offensive line was bad last season, and they lost their two best players, LT Bruce Campbell and C Phil Costa, to graduation. One move they made was moving senior Paul Pinegar inside from tackle, but he is a former walk-on and isn’t dominant by any stretch of the imagination. Junior G Andrew Gonnella is also a former walk-on, yet he is slated to start on the left side for a second straight season.
Competing for the other guard spot will be 6-4, 295-pound sophomore Bennett Fulper, who started four games a season ago. Replacing Campbell at the left tackle spot is 6-6, 300-pound sophomore Justin Gilbert, while 6-7, 300-pound sophomore R.J. Dill, who went from the scout team to an eight-game starter in his first year of eligibility might be the player to watch up front after making the All-ACC team.
There are two things you need to know about this defense – that second-year coordinator Don Brown tries to create havoc with his group, but that for him to do so is dangerous because the Terps have one of the worst pass defenses in the country.
In 2009, the Terps finished 97th in the nation in pass defense, giving up over 250 yards per game through the air, but if there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s that Brown has a good set of linebackers to work with in Alex Wujciak, Adrian Moten and Demetrius Hartsfield. In fact, this is the best unit in the entire program.
Wujciak led the team with 131 tackles a year ago, while Moten led the team in sacks with six, and Hartsfield is a star in the making. Wujciak is a 6-3, 245-pound senior who added 8.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles and has All-American potential. At strongside is Moten, who flirted with turning pro but decided to return for his senior season. Hartsfield was having a great season at weakside until a broken wrist curtailed him, but even after missing two games and parts of two others, he still finished with 64 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.
I spoke with Wujciak earlier this week, and he said he doesn’t know why the Terps have had success against the Tigers, but he does love playing in Death Valley.
“Obviously, we’ve beaten them the last couple of years, but I really don’t know the formula,” Wujciak said. “Two years ago down there we stopped them on 4th-and-1, and then last year they missed the field goals, so it might come down to bad luck for them and good luck for us. And the past couple of years, they have had C.J. Spiller, who is one of the top players in the country, and you really get up when you play against a team and a player like that.
“But then again, your odds of winning decrease when you play a game in Death Valley. My first ACC game was there, and that game was the loudest game and the loudest stadium I have ever played in. That place is unbelievable. The fans are into it, and they love their Tigers, and when they come running down the hill, it’s crazy.”
The defensive line is a work in progress, but 6-4, 295-pound sophomore NT A.J. Francis was a Freshman All-American last season, making 31 tackles. The DT spot is still up for grabs, with 6-2, 320-pound sophomore Zach Kerr and 6-4, 275-pound redshirt freshman De’Onte Arnett waging battle to see who gets the top spot.
The ends have one veteran, and that is 6-4, 245-pound junior Derek Drummond, who was a backup last season and had 16 tackles. The starter at strong-side end is 6-5 and 265-pound sophomore Justin Anderson, who only had three tackles a year ago.
The Terps return one starter at corner in 5-10, 190-pound Cameron Chism, who played well after Nolan Carroll was injured, making 66 tackles and a team-high four interceptions. The other corner spot will be manned by 5-11, 185-pound junior Trenton Hughes, who had 11 tackles while playing in every game last season.
At strong safety is 6-1, 210-pound senior Antwine Perez, the one-time Southern Cal signee who still has NFL scouts wondering if he will ever fulfill his potential. At free safety is the linebacker-sized Kenny Tate, a 6-4, 220-pounds specimen who runs like a DB. He started four games a season ago, and logged 47 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Another bright spot for the Terps is special teams, where almost everyone returns from a year ago. Senior P Travis Baltz is a three-year starter and an All-ACC first team selection in 2008. He was injured for part of last season, and sophomore Nick Ferrara stepped in. Ferrara is also the placekicker, and he hit 18-of-25 field goals and all 26 of his extra point attempts.
The Terps are dangerous in the return game, with Torrey Smith back to handle the kickoffs and junior Tony Logan fielding punts. Both are gamebreakers if given the slightest crease, but Maryland averaged just six yards per punt return last year, which was 100th in the nation. Smith has averaged 26 yards per return the last two years, and has taken three back for touchdowns.
Ten Best Maryland Players
1. LB Alex Wujciak, Sr.
2. WR/KR Torrey Smith, Jr.
3. RB Da’Rel Scott, Sr.
4. LB Adrian Moten, Sr.
5. LB Demetrius Hartsfield, Soph.
6. CB Cameron Chism, Jr.
7. NT A.J. Francis, Soph.
8. P Travis Baltz, Sr.
9. WR Adrian Cannon, Sr.
10. S Antwine Perez, Sr.
Sept. 6 Navy
Sept. 11 Morgan State
Sept. 18 at West Virginia
Sept. 25 FIU
Oct. 2 Duke
Oct. 9 OPEN DATE
Oct. 16 at Clemson
Oct. 23 at Boston Coll
Oct. 30 Wake Forest
Nov. 6 at Miami
Nov. 13 at Virginia
Nov. 20 Florida State
Nov. 27 NC State
Other 2010 Season Previews (Click logo to view)