Clemson-Maryland Preview

by - Correspondent -

Clemson heads to College Park this Saturday to take on Ron Vanderlinden and the surprising Maryland Terrapins. At 4-1, the Terrapins have already surpassed last season’s win total (3-8) with a solid rushing attack and punishing defense. Tommy Bowden needs a much-improved effort from his defense against the Terps in order to avoid a repeat of last week’s dismal showing against N.C. State.

QUARTERBACKS- Woodrow Dantzler answered a number of questions against N.C. State. Although his performance was far from flawless, Dantzler played within himself while effectively moving the offense. Red-shirt freshman Calvin McCall quarterbacks a Maryland offense that is built almost exclusively around the run, with the Terrapins averaging only 166-yards passing per game on a mere 110 total passing plays in five games. When he has thrown the ball, McCall’s numbers have been respectable. The much heralded-freshman has completing over 50% of his passes with four touchdowns and only two interceptions. While Dantzler will have to play a critical role for the Tigers to win the game, all Vanderlinden asks of McCall is that he not lose the game.

Advantage: Clemson

RUNNING BACKS- Tailback LaMont Jordan leads a Maryland offense that averages over 200-yards per game on the ground. A stocky bruiser with deceptive speed, Jordan averages 106-yards per game and five-yards per carry as the focus of the Terrapin attack. After a strong opening half against N.C. State, Clemson tailback Travis Zachery struggled to find holes against the Wolfpack blitz in the second half. Look for freshmen Chad Jasmin and/or Bernard Rambert to see their first action backing up Zachery on Saturday.

Advantage: Maryland

CLEMSON OFFENSIVE LINE VS. MARYLAND DEFENSIVE LINE- Against N.C. State, the Tiger line held up well when the Wolfpack only rushed four. Unfortunately for Clemson, N.C. State began to consistently blitz after the first quarter, effectively shutting down the Tiger running game while constantly harassing Dantzler. Look for a similar scenario to play out in College Park, with the Terrapins bolstering their experienced front four of Erwyn Lyght, Kris Jenkins, Delbert Cowsette, and Peter Timmins with blitzing linebackers.

Advantage: Maryland

MARYLAND OFFENSIVE LINE VS. CLEMSON DEFENSIVE LINE- The Clemson defensive line was dominated against the Wolfpack, and things certainly won’t be any easier against Maryland. The Terrapin running game is the second best in the ACC, largely due to the strength of the offensive line. After watching Virginia Tech and N.C. State push around the Tiger front four, Clemson fans have reason to be concerned against the Terps.

Advantage: Maryland

CLEMSON RECEIVERS VS. MARYLAND SECONDARY- Clemson’s talent-rich receiving corps should make for an interesting challenge for a Maryland defense rated second in the ACC against the pass. The Terrapins are young in the secondary, with two juniors (Lewis Sanders, Tony Okanlawon) and two sophomores (Shawn Forte, Lewis Sanders) starting. Maryland boasts a potential All-American in Sanders, who is tied for third nationally in interceptions with five. Rod Gardner, Mal Lawyer, and Brian Wofford will have their work cut out for them, but the Tiger receivers have proven to be virtually unstoppable when Clemson’s quarterbacks get adequate protection.

Advantage: Clemson

MARYLAND RECEIVERS VS. CLEMSON SECONDARY- After opening with four strong performances in their first four games, the Tiger defensive backs were deep-fried by a relatively unknown group of Wolfpack receivers, giving up four touchdowns and over 220-yards. On paper, the Terrapin receivers shouldn’t pose much of a problem for Clemson’s secondary, but after the Tiger defensive backs’ showing last weekend, nothing is certain.

Advantage: Clemson

LINEBACKERS- Other than Keith Adams, the Clemson linebackers have struggled to be consistent on a game to game basis. Braxton Williams and Chad Carson will have to step up their play considerably to slow down LaMont Jordan and the Maryland rushing attack. If the young linebackers falter, then the Tigers could be in for a long day. The Terrapins are led at linebacker by sophomore Marlon Moore. Moore leads the teams with 12.2 tackles per game and looks to be a star in the making. Without a strong effort by the Clemson offensive line, Maryland’s linebackers could be frequent visitors to the Tiger backfield.

Advantage: Maryland

SPECIAL TEAMS- For the second week in a row, the Tigers will face a dangerous special teams unit. Besides being third in the nation in interceptions, Lewis Sanders is also third-best kickoff returner in Division I-A, averaging over 38-yards per return with one touchdown. The Terrapin’s kicking and punting have been solid, with Brian Kopka hitting on 7-10 field goals and new starter Brooks Barnard averaging over 40-yards per punt nine attempts. Clemson needs to avoid a repeat of the silly penalties and turnovers on special teams that plagued the Tigers against N.C. State.

Advantage: Maryland

COACHING- After starting the season on the coaching hot seat following last year’s 3-8 campaign, Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden looks to have the Terrapin football program back on track. Vanderlinden’s team doesn’t do anything particularly fancy on offense with McCall at quarterback, but the Terps avoid mistakes, as witnessed by their #2 national ranking in turnover margin. Bowden and offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez have molded the Tiger offensive attack into one of the more efficient and dangerous units in the ACC. In contrast, Reggie Herring’s defense has struggled to be consistent, effectively shutting down Virginia and North Carolina while being whipped up front by Virginia Tech and N.C. State. As long as the defense shows up, Bowden and Rodriguez should be able to generate enough offense to challenge the Terrapins.

Advantage: Clemson

PREDICTION- After dropping a game that they should have won in Raleigh, the Tigers desperately need a win at Maryland to bolster their post-season hopes. The Terrapins will be hungry to beat Clemson after losing six-straight in the series. Clemson needs a big effort out of their defensive line and linebackers to keep the Terrapins from running wild. Since Maryland’s passing game isn’t a serious threat, look for Clemson to zero in on LaMont Jordan and leave College Park with a critical win.

Clemson- 28 Maryland- 17

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