Maryland football fans want to forget 2009 and hope 2010 is much better. This may be a difficult task considering the Terrapins are coming off two win season a year ago, have a coach on the hot seat, and a new AD.
To better figure out what is going on in College Park, I contacted the guys at Turtle Droppings for their insight.
Q: What is the mood around the Maryland program heading into this season coming off a 2-10 record a year ago?
A: Ahh, the mood. Needless to say it’s not good, but at the same time, I don’t think it is as bad as it could be considering the record.
Last year was weird. I felt like they weren’t as a bad as a 2-10 team, yet they were an OT win against a 1AA team, and couple of missed Clemson FG’s away from being 0-12.
At the same time they were in some games late they could have squeaked out a couple more wins.
With all that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they found a way to squeak out 6 wins. That may be a bit optimistic, but you never know. There are some reasons to feel better about this year’s team.
Q: Do you think this is Ralph Friedgen's last year regardless of his record this year?
A: With the news of AD Debbie Yow heading to NCST, I honestly don’t know what to think.
I think before she left, it was likely Friedgen’s last season. With her gone, and only an interim AD in place, he may have a stay of execution until a permanent AD and new President of the school are in place.
I can only imagine, a new AD wanting to start fresh in football given the downward trend of the football team.
Q: How excited are you about the Head Coach In Waiting James Franklin?
A: Again this may not even happen due to Debbie Yow’s departure.
I am mixed on Franklin. I have not been overly impressed by his OC duties. He came in with a lot of bravado, and it has been mediocre at best in my opinion.
A lot of that has to do with the fact the line has been really bad, and Chris Turner was injured as well, and not really the type of QB Franklins offense needs.
Where I do like Franklin, is his energy and enthusiasm. Couple that with his recruiting ability, and he could be the type of guy that could be successful. I just don’t know about his game management yet.
Q: Who are the candidates to replace QB Chris Turner? Does one have the job locked down after Spring?
A: After Turner got hurt last year, then sophomore Jamar Robinson took over. He came in with virtually zero experience, and did a pretty decent job. He brings a dimension to the offense the Terps haven’t had since Scott McBrien, with his ability to scramble.
With the line as poor as it has been, he is going to be running for his life. He appears to have beaten red shirt freshman Danny O’Brien for the job after the spring. With a full spring under his belt, Robinson, could be a nice surprise this season.
Let’s put it this way, if the Terps want to sniff the 6 wins I say they could get, he is going to have to be a difference maker.
Q: Friedgen was a lineman at Maryland. How is the line looking this year? How much can they improve on 106 ypg?
A: The line is really going to be a key for the offense, and in all honesty, my expectations are not high for them.
Bruce Campbell has gone to the NFL (though he was injured much of last year). It gets worse. The most talented (not the necessarily the best) lineman, Lamar Young sat out the spring for academic reasons, and has transferred.
There is a lot of inexperience on the line, and with reserve tackle Paul Pinegar moving to starting Center; you can see the cause for concern. Throw in the fact that four year starter at FB Cory Jackson has graduated, and you can really question if the rushing numbers will improve.
Just for fun, the projected starter at FB, Taylor Watson, was injured during spring practice, and may miss the season, or at least a good portion of it.
That doesn’t sound like a recipe for an improved rushing attack.
Q: The defense was the worst in the ACC last year. Where is the unit most improved?
A: I am not sure if there is one unit that is more improved let alone the entire unit. The linebackers should be the best unit. Alex Wujciak, Adrain Moten, and Demetrius Hartsfield, make for a really good starting group, and there are some guys behind them that can play as well.
The secondary should be good at safety with Kenny Tate and Antwine Perez back there. Cam Chism played well at times filling in for Nolan Carroll last year at corner.
The question will be if the line can generate any pressure on the QB. Don Brown is in his second season as the DC, and familiarity should help.
The problem is his whole philosophy is predicated on pressure, something the Terps haven’t been able to consistently do since Shawne Merriman was wreaking havoc in College Park.
Q: Which of the freshman could make a big impact this season?
A: You have to look at lineman. The depth chart is thin at best on both sides of the ball. Any injury to a starter and it is almost a lock you will see a freshman getting time. Pete White, and Pete DeSouza (both redshirt Freshman) come to mind on offense.
On the defensive side De’Onte Arnett (redshirt freshman) could play himself into a starting role at tackle.
As far as true freshman, I don’t think Maryland signed any immediate impact players. That doesn’t mean someone won’t play due to injury, but I just don’t see anyone going into camp.
Q: What is keeping Maryland from competing again in Atlantic Division?
A: Where do I begin? Truthfully it starts with the line play on both sides of the ball.
Maryland has the backfield, and wide receivers to be able to put points on the board. It just needs someone to open holes for the backs, or give time for the receivers to get open.
Defensively, for Don Brown, it all starts with pressuring the QB, and the D line needs to do that; pretty simple.
Q: What game early on will tell us if Maryland is on the road back or not?
A: The opener against Navy will be a big eye opener. Navy shouldn’t be as good as they have been in the past, and if Maryland is really improved, they should win.
The good news is they have all of August to prepare for the Middies vaunted rushing attack. There is no way around it, this game is huge.
Q: What would be considered a good season? What would be considered a bad season?
A: I guess you have to look at this from the standpoint that after last year a 6-6 or 7-5 would be considered a huge success. Is that something to be proud of? No, but there is no doubt I would live with that for a year.
As far a bad season goes, well, anything less than 6 wins, would be bad.
This football program can’t survive on losing seasons. There are too many other options for people to do in the DC metro area than to go to watch a bad Maryland team play. Winning football brings them to Byrd, plain and simple.
Q: What is your prediction for the Terrapins this year?
A: They should have a legit shot of beating Navy, Morgan State, and FIU.
They will likely lose to WVU on the road. So let’s say 3-1 nonconference (I am feeling optimistic today, if you ask me some other day, I would say Navy is a toss up).
In conference, Duke and Wake at home should be wins. Losses - I would say FSU, Miami, Clemson, and at BC are loses. NCST and at UVA are my toss-ups.
So at best if all goes well they could be 7-5 winning the toss-ups and one head scratcher (see Clemson 2009).
My gut says 5-7, and my heart says 6-6. I will go with 5-7 if you held me at gunpoint. My heart has been broken too many times.
That being said, a repeat of last year is not out of the question.
My take on Maryland…
At the beginning of this decade Maryland was at the top of the ACC with who was thought to be one of the best offensive minds in college football leading their program.
Now Maryland has returned to the where they were before Friedgen became head coach. It is baffling how this QB guru has not had a difference maker at the position for a long time now.
The Terps still have some game breakers they have been known for even in their down years but still need improved QB and line play to get to 6 wins this year.
I agree with they guys at Turtle Droppings in regards to the significance of the Navy game. The players want to get the bad taste of last year’s season out of their mouths and a win over a good Middie squad could set them on the right path. A loss however could start a snowball effect big enough to knock over Friedgen.
I see Maryland being favored in five games this season with a few toss games as well at Virginia and home versus Wake Forest. The Terps had four losses by a touchdown or less last season so their luck could turn around this year.
If Jamar Robinson can be a consistence difference maker on offense, Maryland could even squeak into a bowl game.
Opposing Coach Quote from Athlon Magazine:
“Poor quarterback play has really hurt them, which you would never expect to see from one of Friedgen’s teams”
5-7, 4th in Atlantic Division
Thanks again to Turtle Droppings for their insight.
Next Up: NC State