Today, we’re 70+ days away from the kickoff of the 2012 college football season. As such, we’ll preview the No. 73 team in our Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football previews, the Maryland Terrapins.
It wasn’t the best first year for Terps head coach Randy Edsall as the team finished 2-10 (1-7 ACC). There was some initial optimism after the team won it’s season and home opener against the Miami Hurricanes but the feeling went away along with everyone’s appetite after seeing their hideous new uniforms. The Terps went on to lose 10 of their next 11 games with the lone win coming against an FCS team in Towson. To make matters worse not a lot of the players are sticking around to see year two of the Edsall reign as 24 players have transferred to play elsewhere including their starting quarterback Danny O’Brien and their best offensive lineman Max Garcia.
Talk about turning over a new leaf. However Edsall is still confident that he can get the job done and believes things will start to turn around this season with 15 returning starters that have bought into what he’s teaching. If things are going to come around they will have to be spurred by their coach’s passion to get the job done.
We already know that the Terps will have a new quarterback under center in 2012, the question is who will it be? Well, the most sensible answer would be C.J Brown. He played in the last ten games of last season and was often more impressive than O’Brien was. Brown threw for 842 yards as well as seven touchdowns and six interceptions in those ten games and can use that experience to his advantage this upcoming season. His closest competition will be freshmen Caleb Rowe who is unlikely to see much playing time so Edsall will have to rely on Brown to lead the offense.
Brown will not have to much experience to lean on in the backfield as their leading returning rusher, Justus Pickett, only had 72 carries for 267 yards and two touchdowns. He will be challenged by Wes Brown who is a bulky, power back that is a four-star recruit coming out of high school. I don’t know if this combination will be lightning and thunder but it could produce a nice change of pace for Maryland’s offense.
If you can sense the theme here, the Terps are very young across the board and especially so at the wide receiver position. However, they have their most explosive offensive weapon in this position in the form of freshmen Stefon Diggs. It was a big signing for Maryland as Diggs was rated as the eighth best wide receiver in the country last season and he’ll be a main cog in their offensive attack. All of their other projected starts at wide-receiver are either freshmen or sophomores so they will likely be learning on the fly but it will be beneficial for the future.
The tight end position is one of the only positions on the offense that their is some decent experience. Senior Matt Furstenburg is likely going to be Brown’s top receiving target besides Diggs. Furstenburg finished with 31 catches for 348 yards and two touchdowns last season—numbers that were pretty good given the lackluster offense that the Terps had last season. Look for Furstenberg to be a main scape-goat in the passing game until Brown can get a little more comfortable later in the season.
As for who will block for these guys it’s up to the only clear starter to anchor their line. Senior center Bennet Fulper has been the most consistent lineman for the past three season and will get to lead a young, but big, OL this year.
Their defense was a main reason that they lost so many games last season. They finished 102nd in the nation in points against, giving up and average of 34.3 points per game. With the recent switch to the 3-4, Edsall is looking to shake things up to improve their porous defense from last season.
A seamless fit for the nose-tackle position would be A.J. Francis who was their best defensive tackle last season. Although he has had some problems in the past, being benched more than once, he is a prototypical NT at 6’3″ and 300 pounds.
Keith Bowers and Joe Vellano will likely be the starting defensive ends in the new 3-4 look. Although Vellano was a defensive tackle last season the transition should be an easy one since he is smaller and quicker than most DT’s.
Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield is arguably the best defensive player that Maryland has and is a stud. He finished last season first on the team, second in the ACC and fifth nationally in tackler per game with 12. He will be their anchor up the middle and will have to have another big season if the Terps want to improve on their win total from last year.
The Terrapins start out with William & Mary, at the Temple Owls and then a home game against Edsall’s former team and RS No. 75 Connecticut Huskies. It’s possible for a 2-1 start if they can win on the road at Temple but there are a lot of questions to be answered on both sides of the ball for that to happen.
After the first three they play a very talented West Virginia team and then enter ACC conference play. I’m guessing that they improve on last year’s record by one game as they surprise someone at home, possibly Wake Forest, to finish 3-9 allowing the heat on Edsall’s seat to turn up even more.