13 returning starters (6 offense, 7 defense)
Key Players: QB Jordan Steffy, QB Josh Portis, RB Lance Ball, WR Darrius
Heyward-Bey, OG Andrew Crummey, DE Jeremy Navarre, DT Dre Moore, LB Erin
Henderson, CB Isaiah Gardner, SS Christian Varner
Maryland went 9-4 last season, but they were the worst 9-4 team you’ll see.
They only beat William & Mary by 14 and barely topped winless Florida
International 14-10. They won five ACC games, all against teams that were noted
for either bad coaching or losing games they should win.
The Terps beat Virginia by two, NC State by six, Florida State by three,
Clemson by one and Miami by one. Chuck Amato of NC State and Larry Coker of
Miami are gone. Bobby Bowden made a lot of changes to his staff. Tommy Bowden
has cornered the market on losing to less-talented teams at Clemson, and Al
Groh’s was recently named the worst coach in college football by Stewart Mandel.
When the Terps played some teams with some good coaching at the end of the
season, they got smacked, first 38-16 by Boston College and then 38-24 by Wake
Maryland was out-gained by an average of 86 yards per game in ACC play, the
second-worst margin in the conference. I’d wager that it wasn’t Maryland’s
talent that won those games. Chuck Amato, Tommy Bowden, etc. played a big
Maryland has talent at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.
The Terps like to rely on their running game, and they have two solid runners in
Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore. They combined for over 1,500 yards on the ground
last season, and both will be seniors in 2007.
At wide receiver, the Terps have rising star Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey
caught 45 passes for 694 yards last season. Those 694 yards are the third-most
for a freshman in ACC history. Maryland also has Danny Oquendo, who caught 34
passes last year, and Isaiah Williams, who had 26 receptions. Tight end Joey
Haynos also returns, along with his 37 catches.
The Terps don’t appear to have much at quarterback, at least not right now.
If Maryland had to play a game tomorrow, former VT recruiting target Jordan
Steffy would be the starter. He is 12-of-37 for 132 yards in his career, with no
touchdown passes and two interceptions. In his lone appearance last season
against William & Mary, he was 0-for-5 with a pick.
However, Steffy does know the offense very well, and thus far has been able
to hold off Florida transfer Josh Portis. Portis is inexperienced as well,
although he has performed better in game situations than Steffy. He played in
six games for Florida in 2005 and actually led the team in rushing against
Kentucky and Wyoming.
Steffy appears to have a slight advantage right now, but Portis probably has
more upside. It will be an interesting decision for Friedgen, and College Park
is prime territory for a quarterback controversy in 2007.
Maryland has a lot of experience on the defensive line. Jeremy Navarre,
Carlos Feliciano, Dre Moore and Trey Covington return as starters. There are
also two more seniors on the two deep, so the Terps have plenty of guys who have
been in the wars up front.
However, is that really a strength? This group was only 96th nationally
against the run last season, and the secondary was just 10th in the ACC in pass
efficiency defense. The Terps couldn’t stop the run, and they couldn’t stop the
pass. Again, how did they win nine games?
With the exception of 2nd Team All-ACC linebacker Erin Henderson, linebacker
is a concern for Maryland. They lost starters David Holloway and Wesley
Jefferson. Besides that, they also lack experienced backups. Of their top three
projected reserves, two are r-freshmen and the other is a former walkon.
But the Terps always seem to have good linebackers under Friedgen, including
one in each group that is a star. Henderson is a star, and if new starters Dave
Philistin and Chase Bullock play well, this group could turn into the strength
of the defense, rather than the weakness.
On September 22, Maryland travels to Wake Forest to take on the defending ACC
Champs. The Terps lost at home to Wake last year 38-24. In that game, the Demon
Deacons pounded Maryland on the group for 296 yards. That was Wake’s highest
rushing output of the season. Despite having a relatively weak running game last
year, they had no problem running on the Terps.
Maryland will likely be coming off a loss to West Virginia. If they don’t
beat Wake on September 22, they’ll face the possibility of an 0-4 stretch. They
travel to Rutgers the following week, and then host Georgia Tech, which are both
projected losses for the Terps.
Will Stewart’s Take
I don’t really have a “take” on Maryland, to be honest, other than
to wonder in a vague way if Ralph Friedgen is one of those guys who can win with
another coach’s players, but not his own. Fridge was 31-8 in his first three
years at Maryland (2001-2003), but since then, a middling 19-16.
I think the guy is a good coach, there just seems to be something missing.
For the time being, the missing element might be “defense.” Friedgen’s
first four Maryland teams finished an average of 25th in the nation in total
defense (never lower than 36th), but his last two units have finished 43rd and
Last year, that lack of defense didn’t hurt them — much — because they won
nine games anyway, though as Chris detailed, many of those were by the
proverbial skin of their teeth. Ironic, considering terrapins don’t have teeth.
Do the narrow victories indicate good coaching, when you can take a bad team and
still go 9-4? Or did they just encounter some good luck and bad opposing
coaches? Round and round I go, wondering what the answer is.
The ACC media don’t expect much of the Terps this year, picking
them a distant fifth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, a far cry behind #4
Wake Forest. But we didn’t expect much of the Terps last year, either, and
(shrug) they won some ball games. A look at Chris Coleman’s preseason game-by-game
ACC predictions from last year shows that of all the teams in the league,
Maryland threw him off the most, at one point winning four straight games that
Chris predicted MD to lose. Only the Miami Hurricanes, who collapsed down the
stretch last year, defied Chris’ predictions as much as Maryland did.
We here at TSL thought Maryland would stink last year. They didn’t. We think
they’ll stink this year. Will they? The Magic 8-Ball says, “Check again
later.” Like late November. Then we’ll know.