2009 ACC Football Preview: Maryland

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Maryland Terrapins

Returning Starters: 7 (4 offense, 3 defense)

Key Returnees: QB Chris Turner, RB Da’Rel Scott, RB Davin Meggett, WR
Torrey Smith, C Phil Costa, LT Bruce Campbell, DT Travis Ivey, LB Alex Wujciak,
CB Anthony Wiseman, SS Jamari McCollough, FS Terrell Skinner

Key Losses: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Isaiah Williams, WR Danny Oquendo,
TE Dan Gronkowski, C Edwin Williams, LG Jaimie Thomas, OT Scott Burley, OT Dane
Randolph, DE Trey Covington, DE Mack Frost, DE Rick Costa, DE Dean Muhtadi, DT
Jeremy Navarre, DT Olugbemi Otulaja, LB Dave Philistin, LB Moise Fokou, LB Chase
Bullock, CB Kevin Barnes, SS Jeff Allen.

Overall View

Maryland suffered huge losses in the offseason. The Terps lost their biggest
playmaker in Darrius Heyward-Bey, the first round draft pick of the Oakland
Raiders. They lost most of their offensive line, their top four defensive ends,
top two defensive tackles, two starting linebackers and two defensive backs.
Maryland has been gutted, and their chances of having a good season in an
improving ACC are not strong.

Offensive Strength

Maryland has two outstanding players at the tailback position. Da’Rel
Scott finished the 2008 season with 1,133 yards, averaging 94.4 yards per game
and 5.4 yards per carry. Scott also caught 21 passes out of the backfield, and
with an inexperienced group of wide receivers this year, he will likely shoulder
the load for the Maryland offense.

He’ll have some help from backup tailback Davin Meggett, son of former NFL
running back Dave Meggett. He had 457 yards on the ground last year and averaged
5.1 yards per carry. The Terps have two very good options in the backfield, and
they will depend on Scott and Meggett to keep the chains moving in 2009.

Offensive Weakness

Maryland’s offensive line will be their offensive weakness this year.
The Terps departed 116 career starts following the 2008 season, and the
returning players have started just 27 career games. Phil Costa is a good player
and the best returning lineman, but he is sliding inside to center. Bruce
Campbell is technically a returning starter, though he started just seven of 13
games a year ago.

The inexperience on the offensive line could hurt Maryland’s offense quite a
bit. Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett are very good, but even great backs can’t
get much done consistently without good blocking.

Defensive Strength

By default, Maryland’s secondary is their defensive strength. Anthony
Wiseman returns as a starting cornerback, and he started all 13 games and broke
up 10 passes last season. Free safety Terrell Skinner is also back for his
senior season. (Editor’s note: here’s
a video that never gets old
.) Though safety Jabari McCollough
only started two games last year, he played in all 13 and broke up six passes.
He makes the move to strong safety from cornerback.

Nolan Carroll is the other projected starter in the secondary. If he wins the
starting job, he will give Maryland four senior starters in the defensive
backfield. The talent level isn’t great, but the Terps will have a lot of field
experience.

Defensive Weakness

Maryland has lost their top four defensive ends and top two defensive
tackles, making their defensive line the weakness of their defense. The
Terps return just 10 career starts in their front four. Their new starters up
front will be replacing a group that wasn’t very good a year ago, so this could
easily be the worst defensive line in the ACC.

If the Terps hope to be good up front, they must get good play from defensive
tackle Travis Ivey (four career starts) and defensive end Jared Harrell (2
career starts). If those guys turn out to be just average players, Maryland is
going to get pushed around defensively.

Key Game

To qualify for a bowl, Maryland is going to have to win as many
non-conference games as possible. A road game at #12 Cal isn’t likely, but the
Terps will beat James Madison and Middle Tennessee. A home game against Rutgers
on September 26 could give Maryland a third non-conference win. That means
they’d have to win just three ACC games to qualify for a bowl.

Chris Coleman’s Thoughts

Every year I think Maryland is going to stink, and every year they find a way
to win a couple of more games than I expected.

Maryland,
2006-08
Year Coleman’s
Pick
Actual
Result
2006 5-7 (2-6) 8-4 (5-3)
2007 4-8 (2-6) 6-6 (3-5)
2008 5-7 (2-6) 7-5 (4-4)

I don’t have much respect for Maryland’s overall talent level, particularly on
defense. The Terps are easily the softest defense in the ACC, and they have been
for the last few years. However, they have a tendency to win close games in the
fourth quarter that they have no business winning.

I think that has a lot to do with Ralph Friedgen, whom I regard as one of the
best coaches in the ACC. He gets the most out of his players, and even if they
are getting dominated in the box score, they often find a way to win.

However, I don’t think Vince Lombardi could rescue the Terps from what is
going to happen to them this season. They lost most of their top players, an
already soft front seven is going to get even softer, and they are breaking in a
brand new offensive line. They get to start off the season at Cal, who returns
15 starters, including Jahvid Best, the "best" tailback in the Pac-10.
I’m expecting Maryland to get smacked silly right out of the gate.

The good news for the Terps is that the next three games are very winnable,
with home games against James Madison, Middle Tennessee and Rutgers. Maryland
doesn’t begin their ACC schedule until October 3 against Clemson, so all the new
starters will have some experience under their belts by then.

As you can tell, I’m reaching pretty far to find some positive thoughts on
Maryland. I think there’s a real chance that they could end up being the ACC’s
worst team. They have to play Duke on the road, and the loser of that game could
claim that dubious honor. Maybe the Terps will surprise me again, but I doubt
it.

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