Schedule Preview: Maryland


by - Correspondent -
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Offense


Coming into last season, it appeared Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen had the midas touch with quarterbacks. He had turned George Godsey, Shaun Hill, and Scott McBrien into All-ACC quarterbacks, but he could not find an answer last season. Joel Statham started the season for the Terrapins, but he was inconsistent at best. Statham appeared ready to breakout after leading Maryland over Florida State with a 333 yard passing performance, but Statham was pulled for the season finale, and Sam Hollenbach squeezed out a 13-7 victory over Wake Forest. The 2004 season left Maryland with nothing, but uncertainty at quarterback.


Statham, Hollenbach, and Jordan Steffy return. Steffy was a heralded freshman, who was forced into action too soon. Steffy has been praised for his off the field work ethic, especially studying Friedgen’s complicated playbook. The young quarterback has been limited by injuries, in fact his injury report from the spring looked more like a gameboard of operation. Due to Steffy only seeing limited time in the spring, Hollenbach holds the inside track heading into the fall. Hollenbach is a good decision maker, but he is somewhat limited by his physical talent. Statham showed flashes last season, but too often he was fooled by coverages and made bad throws into coverage. By mid-season, Steffy should overtake Hollenbach, but the quarterback position still appears to be a major concern for the Terrapins.


In fairness to the quarterbacks, Maryland’s running game was nothing to brag about in 2004. The 2003 Terrapins rushed for 1,100 yards more than the 2004 squad. Sam Maldonado, last season’s leading rusher, was lost to graduation. Josh Allen will redshirt in 2005 after tearing his ACL. This leaves the Terrapins without a proven running back heading into the season. Keon Lattimore is expected to overtake senior Mario Merrills in the fall. Lattimore is the more talented of the two backs. Incoming true freshman Morgan Green will receive a long look during fall practice. Friedgen’s offense asks his players to retain a ton of information, and it will make it more difficult on the true freshman to see the field.


Another question Maryland has is who will be the go to receiver? Derrick Fenner is the likely choice, but watch out for Vernon Davis. Fenner is a speedster with good hands, but he struggles getting open on the shorter passing routes. Davis will be used as an H-Back/TE to get him matched up against defensive ends or slower linebackers. Davis’ versatility makes him the most dangerous weapon at Friedgen’s disposal. He led Maryland with 441 yards receiving in 2004. Expect true freshman Darrius Heyward-Bey to see action immediately. He is too talented for the Terrapins to redshirt, plus they need his playmaking ability. Heyward-Bey runs a sub 4.4 at 6-2 190 pounds. He could give Maryland the receiving target they did not have in 2004.


For the first time under Friedgen, Maryland must replace three starters on the offensive line. Center Kyle Schmitt, left guard CJ Brooks, and right tackle Lou Lombardo started every game last season together except for one, where Lombardo missed a game. Offensive line coach Tom Bratten said following spring practice, “This unit is as talented as any we have ever had, but it will depend on how they come together as one unit.” The Terrapins have two prototypical bookend tackles in Stephen Heyer (6-6, 321 lbs) and Scott Burley (6-6, 315). Heyer is the most talented lineman on Maryland’s roster and will anchor the left side. Sophomore Andrew Crummey moves over from guard to center, and will be accompanied by senior Russell Bonham and sophomore Donnie Woods in the middle.


Defense


The Terrapins suffered a big blow on defense when Shawn Merriman decided to leave early for the NFL Draft. He was a monster that disrupted everything, and everyone in the ACC except for Maryland was glad to see him go. There will be two new starters at defensive end for Maryland this year, as rush end Kevin Eli was lost to graduation. Incoming true freshman Melvin Alaeze could start right away in Merriman’s position. Alaeze recorded 110 tackles, 18 ½ sacks, and 30 tackles for loss his senior year. He was one of the top ten prospects in the country last year regardless of position. He has a dangerous combination of power and speed, and he is too talented to not overtake sophomore Jermaine Lemmons. Sophomore Omarr Savage will replace Eli. Savage at 6-5 258 pounds has untapped potential, but he should fill in adequately for Eli. The Terrapins are counting on 6-4 315 pounder Rob Armstrong to return after missing the spring practice with a back injury. Last season, Maryland was unable to replace Randy Starks at nose tackle. In Maryland’s 3-4 scheme, Armstrong’s large frame is important to eat up blocks and free holes for the blitzing linebackers. Dre Moore (6-4 296 lbs) will be called upon if Armstrong is not healthy. The staff has confidence that Moore will continue to improve and could overtake Armstrong outright.


Senior linebacker D’Qwell Jackson decided to return Maryland for his senior season and put the NFL on hold for another year. Jackson is as good as any linebacker you will find in the ACC. Jackson has great range from every direction. Junior David Holloway and senior William Kershaw will play along side Jackson. Kershaw and Holloway had 74 and 53 tackles respectively last season. This trio is one of the top linebacking corps in the ACC. They will be called upon to hold the Terrapins defense together, because it is the only area with very few question marks. Wesley Jefferson and Erin Henderson provide good depth, and many are especially waiting on Jefferson to break out and live up to his billing.


Maryland must replace three starters in the secondary. None will be more difficult than Domonique Foxworth. Foxworth was able to shut down one side of the field, and force teams to attack the other side. Gerrick McPhearson was picked on last year starting opposite Foxworth. McPhearson should be much improved in his senior season and provide stability for Maryland, although despite his All ACC track speed (4.28 Forty) McPhearson was subject to being beat deep last season. Maryland will have another speedster Josh Wilson starting opposite McPhearson. Sophomore Isaiah Gardner and Sophomore Chris Varner will be called upon to replace Chris Kelley and Raymond Custis. Gardner is transfer from Notre Dame, who defensive coordinator Gary Blackney is high on. Varner showed good cover skills as a true freshman playing as a nickel and dime back.


Special Teams


There are some big shoes to fill on the Terrapins special teams. Placekicker Nick Novak and return specialist Steve Suter are gone. Punter Adam Podlesh returns for his junior season after averaging 43.7 yards per punt in his sophomore year. Redshirt freshman Obi Egekeze and junior Daniel Ennis are expected to battle it out for placekicking duties. Egekeze has the stronger leg, but he has struggled with accuracy allowing Ennis to be the #1 kicker heading into August. JoJo Walker will become the return specialist for Maryland.


Overview


Friedgen won 10 games in his first three seasons at Maryland. The program took a step back last year as they had a losing record. There are too many questions marks to believe Friedgen will right the ship this season. First and foremost, someone has to step up at quarterback, but the problems extend far past quarterback. With the exceptions of punter and linebacker, Maryland has questions at every position. The Terps are talented, but they will most likely struggle in 2005 and then have a very talented team returning in 2006.

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