Friday, July 11, 2008

Maryland Preview

2008 Schedule
Sept. 6@Middle Tennessee
Sept. 27@Clemson
Oct. 4@Virginia
Oct. 25N.C. STATE
Nov. 6@Virginia Tech
Nov. 29@Boston College

2007 Results: 6-7 overall, 3-5 ACC (T5th Atlantic Division); lost to Oregon State 21-14 in the Emerald Bowl

Offense: New offensive coordinator James Franklin (Kansas State's OC from 2006-07) arrives with his West Coast attack, hoping to instill a consistent pulse in a unit that has woefully underperformed the last few seasons, given Ralph Friedgen's supposed genius (average Terp total offense rank from '04-'07: 83rd). After two years as his own OC, the Fridge steps back again to focus solely on head coaching duties. QBs Jordan Steffy and Chris Turner performed well at times last season, but neither stepped forward in the spring to claim the starting position, so it appears that August practices will settle the issue heading into the opener with Delaware. Replacing departed running backs Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore is sophomore Da'Rel Scott, who will likely be catching a lot of passes out of the backfield in the new system. The true star of the offense is All-ACC wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey (786 yards last year while being constantly double and triple-teamed). The rest of the receiving corps is deep and experienced and should flourish in the West Coast attack if either of the QBs grasps the new offense quickly. Lastly, the offensive line is certainly the deepest in the ACC, and may be the league's best with four returning starters and tons of experience on the second-team.

Defense: This is where it gets a little dicey. Both the line and the secondary are works in progress, with no standouts except for perhaps Jeremy Navarre, who has shifted from end to tackle. Fortunately, against the largely inept offenses of the ACC, there is time to gel. The linebackers are as strong as ever in College Park, with a deep and experienced group led by Dave Philistin (124 tackles in '07). Last year's Terrapin defense collapsed far too often late in games (Wake Forest, Virginia, UNC, Georgia Tech), causing defensive coordinator Chris Cosh's seat to get a little warm. The regular season finale - a 37-0 bowl clinching shutout of NC State - quieted some of Cosh's critics.

Special Teams: Kicker Obi Egekeze (perfect in PATs, 17-23 FGs in '07) and punter Travis Baltz (Freshman All-American in '07) are back, along with returners Danny Oquendo and Da'Rel Scott. This is easily the best special-teams unit in the ACC and one of the best in the country.

Coaching: The enthusiasm of Ralph Friedgen's superb first three seasons of double-digit wins has dimmed into a mediocre malaise. The losses of former OC Charlie Taafe and former DC Gary Blackney in recent seasons have not been overcome and recruiting has been lackluster the last few years. Another 6-6ish season (or worse) and things will get very testy in College Park. The aforementioned James Franklin brings a brief NFL pedigree, having served one year as receivers coach for Green Bay in 2005, and he was the Terps' receivers coach during the early Fridge years. DC Chris Cosh is in his third season and needs a big performance out of his defense to keep the wolves at bay.

Odds & Ends: The Fridge's record in his first three seasons in College Park: 31-8; his record since: 25-23....that 31-8 mark from 2001-03 was the sixth best overall record over those three seasons in all of college football....the Turtles were one of only four teams to beat two Top 10 opponents in 2007, beating #10 Rutgers in September and #8 Boston College in November

Schedule Analysis: An early test in week 3 against Cal will tell us a lot about the '08 Terps. Or maybe not. Weeks 1, 2 and 4 (Delaware, Middle Tennessee, Eastern Michigan) provide decent cannon fodder for the new offense to test-fire upon. After that there are no gimmes, but with helpful bye weeks prior to the Wake Forest and Virginia Tech showdowns in mid-October and early-November. On the plus side, three of the Turtles' five divisional matchups are at home. Duke, Georgia Tech and Miami are absent from this year's slate.
Projected Wins: Delaware, @Middle Tennessee, Eastern Michigan, @Virginia, NC State, North Carolina
Projected Losses: @Clemson, @Virginia Tech
Toss-Ups: California, Wake Forest, Florida State, @Boston College

Primo Terp Blogs: Turtle Waxing, Testudo Times

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