An inside look at the Maryland Terrapins
Hi from just outside College Park, Md., where there's a 60 percent chance of rain tomorrow for the game. Canes fans, bring your orange and green ponchos!
Patrick Stevens, who covers Maryland football for the Washington Times, joins us tonight for an inside look at the Terrapins before they meet Miami on Monday night. Patrick's blog can be found here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/d1scourse/
For the five questions I answered about the Hurricanes, see the Washington Times here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/d1scourse/2011/sep/4/out-of-town-q-and-a-miami/
1. What about Danny O'Brien makes him so valuable, and can he produce a better game than he did a year ago at Miami?
*** O'Brien possesses plenty of skills that make him effective --- a strong arm, superb pocket awareness and an ability to distribute opportunities among any of his receiving options. But most of all, he's smart. Really, really smart, and it is his ability to read situations effectively that helped him with the ACC's rookie of the year award a season ago.
Still, probably his worst game came against Miami. He was 9-for-28 for 134 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Hurricanes, who possessed probably the most athletic defense Maryland encountered last season (though Clemson would also be in that conversation). With Miami short-handed on defense because of all the suspensions, look for O'Brien to have a more typical performance this time around.
2. With Miami dealing with its suspensions, what will Maryland look to do to take advantage (especially on offense)?
*** If there's ever a game for Maryland to eagerly attempt to pound the ball up the middle, this is it. The losses for Miami on its defensive line (as well as the absence of linebacker Sean Spence) are going to make it awfully tempting for the Terps to hand it off to Davin Meggett a ton and see what happens. The bulk of Maryland's roster, after all, was recruited to play in a physical, pro-style system.
That said, the presence of O'Brien and an offensive coordinator with a history as a spread devotee (Gary Crowton) suggests the Terps will try to do open things up beyond simply a power running game, regardless of Miami's roster woes.
3. How much of an impact will backup tailback D.J. Adams' suspension have on Monday's game?
*** It will probably be most noticeable in the red zone. Adams, a sophomore suspended for Monday's game for of a violation of team rules, rushed for 11 touchdowns last season in 67 carries. It's OK if Miami fans don't remember him --- Adams made only a cameo appearance in the game last November
--- but Adams had eight of his touchdowns in Maryland's final four games.
With him out, it means starter Meggett is the only running back available with any career carries. Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Wilson (a converted defensive back) and true freshman Justus Pickett will be Meggett's immediate backups. Here's guessing Meggett will surpass his career-high of 18 carries on Monday.
4. Which defensive player has the chance to make the biggest impact for Maryland on Monday?
*** That would be Kenny Tate, an all-conference safety now listed as a linebacker (but in reality probably not doing all that much different from a year ago). Tate, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior, was recruited to Maryland as a wide receiver but enjoyed a breakout season last year (100 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions). He's capable of making life difficult for even the best opposing offenses.
A few other names to keep an eye on: The tackle tandem of A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano, both of whom started throughout last season; middle linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, who slides over from the weak side after the graduation of Alex Wujciak; and defensive end David Mackall, a sophomore and a converted linebacker whose skill set gives him a chance to be Maryland's best pass rusher since Shawne Merriman.
5. Just how will Maryland look in its first game with new offensive and defensive coordinators?
*** Good question. Maryland has played things exceptionally close to the vest since Randy Edsall was hired in January, and Monday's game will be a fine barometer to determine the value of that strategy of secrecy. With Tate functioning as a linebacker/safety hybrid, Maryland's main look defensively will essentially include five defensive backs. That's a good thing for the Terps given their personnel limitations --- at the two true linebacker spots, Maryland has exactly three scholarship players who have been with the team since the spring.
Offensively, it's a bit more of a mystery. But given Crowton's spread proclivities and the presence of a veteran receiving corps (four wideouts with 10+ catches last season return, even if star Torrey Smith turned pro), it seems likely Maryland will rely on plenty of three-receiver sets even if it only lists two wideout spots on its depth chart this week. Also, expect Meggett to be a three-down back. That's fitting for Edsall -- a year ago at Connecticut, tailback Jordan Todman ranked second nationally with 334 carries.