2005 ACC Football Preview/Prediction: Maryland, Atlantic Division #3

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Previews Thus Far
Atlantic Division Coastal Division
Maryland TBD
Clemson UNC
Wake Forest Duke
For a breakdown of the ACC’s football
divisions, click here.

Maryland Preview


Eye View:
On paper the Terps shouldn’t be ranked this highly as
they have only eleven returning starters from a team that was 5-6 last year.
However, people tend to forget that the Terps won 31 games from 2001 to 2003,
and this team is more physically gifted than any of those squads (although
admittedly the ACC is a different league now than it was then). I’m willing to
give Fridge a pass on last year, calling it an aberration.


Areas of Strength (offense): Tight end Vernon Davis is a spectacular
athlete that will be even more effective if the Terps can establish a decent
overall passing game. He’s a mismatch waiting to happen. I like the potential
of the Maryland offensive line, although it is extremely young and is
realistically a year away. (More on that below.)


Areas of Concern (offense): Just
about everything. The
quarterback problems of last year linger with Sam Hollenbach, Joel Statham and
Jordan Steffy battling for the right to run the offense. Hollenbach is leading
the race right now and he is the most sound, but he lacks the arm strength of
the other two and the overall athleticism of Steffy. However, given the
complicated Maryland offense and the emphasis on precise execution, he would
seem to be the most obvious fit. Steffy is the most intriguing option, as he has
added 20 lbs. and apparently recovered from surgery in the spring. The loss of
starting tailback Josh Allen to an ACL takes a playmaker away, but there are
three potential options in Mario Merrills, Keon Lattimore and incoming freshman
Morgan Green. Merrills is the quickest through the hole, while Lattimore is big
(235) and a good pass receiver. Green rushed for over 5,000 yards in high school
but still has a lot to learn. At wide receiver senior Derrick Fenner has 4.37
speed, a 40 inch vertical leap and underwhelming production (35 catches for a
12.3 yard average, two touchdowns). Fellow senior Jo Jo Walker needs to take a
step up at the other wide receiver spot. Lastly, the offensive line lost its
anchor, senior tackle Stephon Heyer, to a torn ACL recently. The other four starters
are possibly sophomores or freshmen. The best of
the youngsters is Andrew Crummey, who could either play center or right guard
depending on how the projected backups (RG – Russell Bonham and C – Edwin
Williams) play in August.


Areas of Strength (defense): The linebackers are a huge asset as all
three starters return, led by all ACC linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. Jackson is
the heart and soul of the defense. His best asset is his sideline to sideline
speed. The outside starters, William Kershaw and David Holloway, both are
capable ACC starters. The interior defensive line should be stout, allowing
Jackson to run to the football. Returning defensive tackle starter Conrad
Bolston is a good player, and Dre Moore and Robert Armstrong are a formidable
duo next to him at nose tackle.


Areas of Concern (defense): The loss of three starters from the secondary
is a problem. Couple that with a pass rush that lost first round draft choice
Shawne Merriman and rush end Kevin Eli, and there are legitimate questions as to
the way the Terps will handle high octane passing attacks. At least speed
shouldn’t be the issue as the corners – returning starter Gerrick McPhearson
and junior Josh Wilson have legitimate ACC track speed. McPhearson should be
primed for a breakout senior season, and if it happens the NFL will come


Key Game: Versus Virginia. For recruiting purposes, both the Virginia and
Virginia Tech games are important, and on paper the game against the Cavs is the
more winnable of the two. One word of caution for Terp followers: beware the
opener against Navy.


Fearless Predictions: Lattimore will win the starting tailback job and
receive the bulk of the carries this fall. Fridge will tinker with the
quarterback situation, but ultimately he will go with Hollenbach for the
majority of the snaps. The offense will be slightly improved and that will give
the Terps enough of a boost to be bowl eligible at 7-4.

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