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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 74: Maryland

After starting strong, Maryland football has been a shell of its former self since 2003.

Maryland had been average, or slightly above average, in the five years following the third of three 10-win seasons that ushered in the Ralph Friedgen era. Yet there was little reason to believe that the Terps, who won eight games in 2008 and 23 games from 2006-8, would end the 2009 season with two wins, only one of which came against F.B.S. competition. Well, maybe I should have seen it coming: Maryland did return the fewest lettermen of any team in the country. Nevertheless, the poor finish raised — and continues to raise — meaningful questions about the future of the program.

Conference
Atlantic Coast, Atlantic

Location
College Park, Md.

Nickname
Terrapins

Returning starters
12 (7 offense, 5 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 66

2009 record
(2-10, 1-7)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 104

2010 schedule

  • Sept. 6
    Navy (in Baltimore)
  • Sept. 11
    Morgan St.
  • Sept. 18
    at West Virginia
  • Sept. 25
    F.I.U.
  • Oct. 2
    Duke
  • Oct. 16
    at Clemson
  • Oct. 23
    at Boston College
  • Oct. 30
    Wake Forest
  • Nov. 6
    at Miami (Fla.)
  • Nov. 13
    at Virginia
  • Nov. 20
    Florida St.
  • Nov. 27
    N.C. State

Last year’s prediction

Maryland returns the second fewest starters, 10, of the Friedgen era, as well as the fewest lettermen of any non-service academy. Even in an average A.C.C. – still, one that will be better than last year – these are not good statistics. For example, graduation has decimated the offensive and defensive lines.. There are some things to like about Maryland, such as its experience at quarterback and talented skill players, but I don’t believe this team is equipped to make a run at an A.C.C. championship. I’m not crazy about Maryland, but I do think the Terps will return to bowl play. But barely: 6-6, 4-4 in the A.C.C.

2009 recap

In a nutshell One cannot help but ask how much longer the team can move forward with Friedgen in charge, especially with assistant head coach and offensive coordinator James Franklin waiting in the wings. At least Franklin can’t do any worse. Maryland scored 256 points, the second-fewest under Friedgen, and allowed 375 points, the most. The Terps finished 100th in scoring defense and 83rd in total defense, 98th in scoring offense and 102nd in total offense. Franklin’s turn will come — some may hope sooner rather than later — but Maryland’s stature will continue to drop with each season it lags behind in the A.C.C. race.  The situation he will soon inherit looks far less rosy than it did even a year ago.

High point That lone win against a team from the F.B.S.: by 24-21 against Clemson on Oct. 3. Believe it or not, the Terps actually stood at 2-3 at this point, thanks to an earlier win against James Madison (barely).

Low point Maryland has now dropped two straight against powerhouse Middle Tennessee State, one on the road and, after last season, one at home. It didn’t get much better from there. The Terps lost to both Virginia (at home) and Duke, the first time the program has done so since 1999.

Tidbit Maryland’s 10 losses last fall leaves Clemson, N.C. State and Miami (Fla.) as the only programs in the A.C.C. to have never suffered a double-digit loss season. Maryland, Boston College (1978), Georgia Tech (1994), North Carolina (2003) and Virginia Tech (1950) have each landed a single double-digit loss season; Florida State a pair (1973-74); Virginia four (1959-60, 1975-81); Wake Forest six (1957, 1962, 1974, 1977-78, 1995); and Duke a conference-worst seven (1996, 2000-2, 2005-7).

Tidbit (meaningless statistic edition) Only two non-B.C.S. conference teams in the F.B.S. have defeated Maryland in College Park. One, of course, is Middle Tennessee State. The other is Ohio, who beat the Terps by a touchdown in 1997. Navy has beaten Maryland 14 times in 20 tries, but all its victories have come either in Annapolis or on a neutral field.

Former players in the N.F.L.

37 RB Lance Ball (Denver), CB Kevin Barnes (Washington), LB Eric Barton (Cleveland), OT Bruce Campbell (Oakland), CB Nolan Carroll (Miami), LS Jon Condo (Oakland), OG Phil Costa (Dallas), OG Andrew Crummey (Jacksonville), TE Vernon Davis (San Francisco), FB Jeff Dugan (Minnesota), LB Moise Fokou (Philadelphia), CB Domonique Foxworth (Baltimore), OT Jared Gaither (Baltimore), TE Dan Gronkowski (Detroit), TE Joey Haynos (Miami), LB E.J. Henderson (Minnesota), LB Erin Henderson (Minnesota), OT Stephon Heyer (Washington), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Oakland), QB Shaun Hill (Detroit), DT Travis Ivey (Miami), LB D’Qwell Jackson (Cleveland), FB Cory Jackson (San Diego), DT Kris Jenkins (New York Jets), LB Shawne Merriman (San Diego), DT Dre Moore (Tampa Bay), DT Dean Muhtadi (Arizona), DE Jeremy Navarre (Jacksonville), K Nick Novak (San Diego), P Adam Podlesh (Jacksonville), S Terrell Skinner (Minnesota), DE Randy Starks (Miami), OG Jaimie Thomas (Indianapolis), C Edwin Williams (Washington), WR Isaiah Williams (Pittsburgh), S Madieu Williams (Minnesota), CB Josh Wilson (Seattle).

Arbitrary top five list

Worst moments from the latest “Indiana Jones”
1. Casting Shia LaBeuof.
2. The “nuking the fridge” debacle.
3. Swinging on vines with monkeys.
4. Embarrassing ending.
5. That George Lucas took a dump on my childhood.

Coaching

Ralph Friedgen (Maryland ‘70), 66-46 over nine seasons at his alma mater. He ranks fourth in school history in both wins and winning percentage (.640), the latter counting only Maryland coaches of the modern era. Friedgen’s head coaching tenure with the Terrapins has been very top-heavy: 31-7 his first three years, Maryland had finished below .500 four of the past six seasons. But what a start it was: the three consecutive double-digit win seasons (10-2, 11-3, 10-3 from 2001-3) included an Orange Bowl appearance, an outright A.C.C. championship – the first team other than Florida State to win an outright crown after the Seminoles joined the A.C.C. – and three straight top-25 finishes (11th, 13th and 20th, respectively). However, it has been a struggle for Friedgen and the Terrapins since 2003. Though Maryland did finish 9-4 in 2006 and reach eight wins in 2008, those marks are joined by a 5-6 finish in 2004-5, a 6-7 2007 season and last season’s disaster. Even when taking into account last fall, Friedgen remains one of the most successful coaches in Maryland and, surprisingly, A.C.C. history: his 64 victories through the 2008 season ranked as the third-most through eight seasons in conference history. As an assistant, Friedgen has served as the offensive coordinator for Georgia Tech (1987-91, 1997-2000), the San Diego Chargers (1994-96) and during a previous stop in College Park (1982-86). It’s only unfortunate that the final memory Friedgen will present as the coach at Maryland will be his inability to maintain his early success; one can hope that this coming season, potentially his last, will allow to him go out on a high note.

Players to watch

Junior Torrey Smith’s rapidly developing receiving skills and sublime return ability make him one of the top all-purpose performers in the A.C.C., if not the entire country. Darrius Heyward-Bey’s departure allowed Smith to step into a leading role in the passing game last fall, and the junior responded with team high’s in receptions (61), receiving yards (824) and touchdowns (5). While his improved performance as a pass-catcher was one of the few bright spots on last year’s team, Smith was his typically superb self as a kick returner: 25.7 yards per return, including two returned for touchdowns. Maryland will have a new starter at quarterback; Chris Turner’s replacement would be very, very wise to look for Smith early and often. Senior Adrian Cannon (44 receptions for 468 yards and 4 scores) and junior Ronnie Tyler (28 catches for 345 yards) will round out the starting lineup.

The new Maryland quarterback will very likely be junior Jamarr Robinson, who brings a degree of mobility missing from the position over the past handful of seasons. Robinson earned significant time last fall, participating in seven games and starting twice: in his first start, a loss to Virginia Tech, Robinson threw for 104 yards and rushed for 129 more; in his second start, a loss to Florida State, Robinson rushed for 58 yards while completing 20 of 27 attempts for 213 yards and a score. His dual-threat ability is intriguing, and the experience he gained late last season will pay enormous dividends in 2010. I suppose the Terps could also turn to Miami (Ohio) transfer Clay Belton — he started six games for the RedHawks — or redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien — a favorite among the coaching staff — but I’d be surprised if Robinson does not land the starting job.

Maryland has options at running back. The first is senior Da’Rel Scott, who hopes to remain healthy after injuries cost him much of 2009. Scott still led the team in rushing (425 yards) despite missing five games with a wrist injury. He was terrific in 2008: 1,133 yards and 8 touchdowns — both tops on the team — on 5.4 yards per carry. In fact, Scott has averaged at least five yards per carry in each of his first three seasons, including 7.3 yards per tote during his freshman campaign. Junior Devin Meggett earned plenty of action when Scott was sidelined last fall, rushing for 338 yards and a team-leading six scores. Maryland needs Scott to be healthy if it plans to improve upon last year’s paltry rushing attack — 105. 8 yards per game — but it helps to go two players deep at the position.

The Maryland defense has questions along the defensive line; question marks in the secondary. Things look great at linebacker. This is where senior Mike Wujciak, an all-A.C.C. pick, does his thing. Another player in a distinguished line of superb Maryland middle linebackers, Wujciak posted 131 tackles — second-most in the conference — a sack and two interceptions last fall. He made those picks count: the 152 interception return yards marked a new school record. His junior numbers were remarkably similar to his sophomore totals: 133 stops (8.5 for loss) and 1.5 sacks, helping him land second-team all-conference honors. Wujciak is the key to any improvement Maryland makes on the defensive side of the ball; he’s the most irreplaceable player on the team. The all-American candidate will again be flanked by sophomore Demetrius Hartsfield (64 tackles) on the weak side and senior Adrian Moten (68 stops) on the strong side. Moten enters his final year as the active Maryland leader in tackles for loss (18) and sacks (13).

The lone returning starter up front is sophomore nose tackle A.J. Francis, who played commendably as a first-year starter on the interior of the Maryland line. His best days are surely ahead of him, as Francis did struggle at times last fall, as one would expect from a rookie starter. Redshirt freshman De’Onte Arnett and sophomore Zachariah Kerr will battle to start alongside Francis, with neither separating himself from the other during the spring. Kerr has the edge against the run, thanks to his size, but Arnett’s potential as a pass rusher might be the deciding factor in pushing him into the starting lineup. Don’t be surprised if sophomore Joe Vellano, who currently stands behind Francis on the nose, earns a look at tackle if Kerr and Arnett scuffle.

There is plenty of competition at end. Junior Derek Drummond and sophomore Justin Anderson currently hold the two starting spots, but expect players like Drew Gloster, a senior, and former highly-touted recruit Masengo Kabongo to battle for meaningful snaps once the Terps return to the practice field in August. Drummond is the most experienced returning end, but his production has not been commensurate to his abilities. The same could be said of Kabongo, who has yet to make an impact on the college level. It will be up to these ends to form some semblance of an average pass rush, which — as stated countless, countless times on the Countdown — can help overcome an inconsistent secondary.

Injuries in this Maryland secondary crippled the back end of the defense last fall, but also allowed a few returning defensive backs to gain valuable experience. One such player, cornerback Cameron Chism, stepped into the starting lineup for the final 10 games of the year after a broken leg sent departed starter Nolan Carroll to the sidelines. Chism is the lone returning starter, but, as noted, the Terps can call upon a handful of experienced contributors. This is particularly the case at safety: junior free safety Kenny Tate (47 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception) and senior strong safety Antwine Perez (45 tackles) combined to make five starts in 2009. That pair are locked into the starting lineup, though there will be intense competition to settle who will start at cornerback opposite Chism. It will likely come down to junior Trenton Hughes and redshirt freshman Dexter McDougle, neither of whom lacks for athletic ability. The big issue, of course, will be consistency.

Position battles to watch

Offensive line The Maryland offensive line was awful at times last fall, so perhaps new blood up front will lead to an improved performance from this group. Two starters must be replaced: left tackle Bruce Campbell and center Phil Costa. Even with the pair of departed starters, this line is far more experienced entering 2010 than it was heading into last fall: six returning contributors, compared to only two meaningful linemen in 2009. Look for some minor reshuffling of the line in an effort to find the most talented starting five. After making starts at left tackle, left guard and right tackle last fall, senior Paul Pinegar will play center in his final season. Junior Andrew Gonnella makes a small move, transitioning from right guard to left guard; he started eight games on the strong side in 2009. The third returning starter, sophomore R.J. Dill, will stay at right tackle, even though his future may be on the blind side. There is an open spot at right guard, where Maryland can turn to sophomores Justin Lewis and Bennett Fulper; each started at least one game as freshmen. Junior Lamar Young seemed to be the best option at left tackle, but his recent departure will allow sophomore Justin Gilbert to earn significant snaps with the first team.

Game(s) to watch

Though the second half of the year is tough, the opportunity is there for a solid start. Given that fact, keep an eye on how the Terps fare through an Oct. 2 home game against Duke. If Maryland can start 4-1, a bowl berth is a definite possibility.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell So Maryland won’t win only two games in 2010. I think we can all agree on that. Helping matters is a relatively weak Atlantic division, which pales in comparison to the very deep A.C.C. Coastal lineup. The Terps also have the good fortune to draw Duke and Virginia from the Coastal in conference play. It could have been worse: N.C. State, for instance, must face Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia Tech in addition to its Atlantic division brethren. Here’s some more good news: after being decimated by graduation heading into last season — to the tune of only slightly more than a dozen returning lettermen — Maryland brings back most of last season’s contributors. It’s not all good news, however. The offensive line is a concern, as is quarterback play — until Robinson can prove he’s capable of holding the starting role. The defensive line will have a new look, as will the secondary. Much depends on the development of last year’s true and redshirt freshmen, as Maryland currently has only nine seniors on its two-deep. This is a far better team, a hungry team, and one very capable of making a four-win improvement on last year’s mark and returning to bowl play. Let’s see if the Terps can send Friedgen out in style.

Dream season Maryland shocks the A.C.C. by going 9-3 and winning the Atlantic division. Friedgen rides out into the sunset, secure that the program is back on track.

Nightmare season Consecutive 2-10 seasons spells the end for Friedgen, leaving Franklin to clean up the mess.

In case you were wondering

Where do Maryland fans congregate? You could always hang out at Terrapin Times and Turtle Sports Report, the two biggest Maryland fan sites. But don’t forget about these solid Terrapin blogs: Tracking the Terps, from The Baltimore Sun, Testudo Times and Turtle Waxing. Did I forget anyone? As always, list additional sites below.

Up Next

Who is No. 73? Our next school is the largest university in the 31st-largest state in the country.

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Comments

  1. Dr. Klahn says:

    Is this largest by population or by area?
    Population my guess is Mississippi State, area my guess is LSU.

    Paul: Both counts, university enrollment and state, by population. So you’re right. And you knew L.S.U. wasn’t coming up at No. 73, Les Miles’ missteps aside.

  2. george howley says:

    In terms of population Mississipi and Mississippi State would be the largest university in the land of cotton.

  3. philip says:

    whoaaa. is that an albino turtle?

  4. Jay says:

    I agree on your arbitrary top 5…..What were they thinking???? George? Harrison? You guys know better…..

  5. [...] blogs: The Pre-Snap Read preview countdown continues, including a look at Maryland. Barking Carnival continues to comment on the inner workings of the Big 12′s realignment [...]

  6. Jabulani says:

    BERTH. The word is BERTH. Not birth.

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