Guest Post by Patrick Guthrie
I remember seeing this clip the year before I went to college and thinking I was in for four years of ACC Championship contending football. Well, my time at Maryland as an undergrad has come and gone, and the Terps haven’t necessarily lived up to boasts of the Lodge family football game. Even in years where they were in contention for the league title late in the year, it seemed like every time the big networks took notice, Maryland receded back inside its shell.
But one thing is for sure; this year will be different. A completely different coaching staff, better in some ways (Edsall > Friedgen) and worse in others (Bradford < Brown). Without further ado, it’s time to break down the 2011 Maryland Terrapins, starting with the offense.
Danny O’Brien is good, that much Terps fans can agree on. What isn’t as widely acknowledged is that as a redshirt freshman last year, he proved to be one of the better QB’s in Maryland history. After an audition against Morgan State (5-10, 3 TD) O’Brien took over the reins from Jamarr Robinson in the third game against Florida International. He finished the year with 22 touchdowns to only 8 picks, and lead a lightly regarded Maryland team to a surprise 9-4 season and dominating bowl game.
Those 22 TD’s from O’Brien are the 2nd most by a Maryland QB ever in a season (behind Scott Milanovich’s 26 in 1993). Although football at the college and pro level is becoming more of a passing game, it says something that coaching staff trusted this kid enough to let him air it out 337 times last year (6th most in UMD history).
With another good year, O’Brien’s name will start popping up on draft boards, considering the total package that he brings to the QB position. For as young as he was last year, his pocket awareness was striking. If there’s any nitpicking to be done, his accuracy was a little shaky at times last year (9-26 against Duke and 9-28 against Miami). But in the two biggest games of the year (FSU and NC State back to back at home) O’Brien was a 63 % passer, and threw for a combined 686 yards, 5 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions. His arm strength is more than adequate on deep balls, and he’s athletic and elusive enough to extend plays when the pocket breaks down.
I don’t even think it’s an argument that O’Brien is the best QB in the ACC this year, something that Maryland hasn’t been able to say since I’ve been a fan. If the team will go as the quarterback goes, Maryland will be a fixture in the polls this season.
Injury prone home run threat Da’Rel Scott is gone, but it’s not as big of a loss as it would appear. The Terps bring back their leading rusher (Davin Meggett) and their leader in rushing touchdowns (DJ Adams). Without Scott, the running game doesn’t necessarily have the threat of the big play. But Meggett and Adams are both hardnosed, between-the-tackles type backs who will keep the chains moving, and – more importantly – stay on the field.
Meggett is penned in as the starter, and over the past four years has been everything Scott wasn’t, for better or worse. With Meggett, you can expect a very straight-ahead, wear down the defense type running style. An optimist would say he doesn’t shy away from contact, a pessimist would say he’s inadequate at finding holes in the defense to exploit. Whatever the case, Meggett hasn’t been much of an injury concern over the years. If the now experienced offensive line can create some larger holes for him, Davin could be a solid if not spectacular option at running back for an offense that will rely more on the pass anyways.
Adams was relegated to mostly goal line back status last year, but there’s more to him than that. His 16 carry 84 yard performance against Wake Forest last year was an eye opener for most Maryland fans, and although he doesn’t have break away from the secondary type speed, he’s more capable of gashing a defense than the constant bruising that Meggett will provide. His nose for the end zone is obvious (11 TD’s last year including 4 against the terrible ECU defense), but as the season progresses, I expect to see more of a platoon between him and Meggett with Adams having the longer more memorable runs after Meggett wears the defense down.
It remains to be seen how fond Randy Edsall and Gary Crowton are of the I-formation, but Maryland does have some depth at fullback. After redshirting last year, it looks like Rashaan Moore or true freshman Tyler Cierski will be the starter this year.
53.6%. That’s how many of Danny O’Brien’s completions went to Adrian Cannon and Torrey Smith in 2010. For all of the talent that O’Brien has, he’s going to need to find some new options. Fortunately, Matt Furstenburg does return, so O’Brien will have his security blanket at Tight End to check down to. But in terms of down the field options, some individuals need to separate themselves from a group of possible targets. Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler are the old men of the group as seniors this year, but the smart money is on Kerry Boykins and Kevin Dorsey to step up.
Dorsey is 6’2” and runs a 4.35 40 (according to his high school highlight video, so take it with a shaker of salt). He did have 2 touchdowns last year, and had a nice game against Miami (3 catches, 63 yards, and a 42 yard touchdown). Although both of his touchdowns were over 40 yards last year, his above average size could make him very useful in the red zone.
Boykins was a highly touted recruit out of Virginia in 2008, along with then-receiver Kenny Tate, he was supposed to lead the next wave of Maryland receivers. In his first 2 years, Boykins has only had 10 catches, but being behind a first round draft pick, and a known commodity like Adrian Cannon will do that. Boykins had his first touchdown against BC last year, and could emerge as the biggest downfield threat for the Terps because of his top level speed.
Dorsey and Boykins both have speed to burn, and if one of them can emerge as a legitimate #1 target for an increasingly passing offense, then the receivers group would sort itself out nicely considering its depth. Senior Ronnie Tyler is the consummate slot receiver, capable of making difficult catches, and willing to go through traffic to do so. McCree could be the odd man out and playing the fourth receiver, with special teams game breaker Tony Logan possibly emerging for a few plays on offense as a senior to put some fear into safeties and corners leaguewide.
Overall, this is a very deep group of players, but it’s just about which of them will step up to catch the balls that O’Brien will be slinging.
At first glance, the offensive line is a group that shows a solid amount of talent all the way down the depth chart. From converted defensive end De’Onte Arnett backing up senior Andrew Gonella at left guard, to blue chip recruit Pete White backing up Josh Cary at left guard. There are the questions as to why Arnett is now playing O-line, and why White wasn’t able to beat out a walk-on for his spot, but by all accounts there’s no need to worry, as Maryland’s offensive line is widely regarded as above average.
The first thing that jumps out at you is the sheer size of the starters. All of them are atleast 6’4” 290 lbs, which screams good run blockers to me if the continuity is there. Max Garcia will be protecting Danny O’Brien’s blind side this fall until Justin Gilbert’s knee is all the way healthy after he reinjured it this spring. RJ Dill will bookend on the right side, and in a pinch could fill in at left tackle if Garcia is overwhelmed when the season starts.
5th year senior Andrew Gonnella will be the starting left guard, and walk-on Cary is currently the starting right guard after he apparently beat out White for the spot during the spring. Bennett Fulper will be back at center. Cary is the only new player to break in here, so logically the line should be slightly improved from last year. The line allowed 22 sacks last year, good for 4th fewest in the conference, and realistically 3rd fewest if you realize that Georgia Tech runs a triple option where sacks are very difficult to come by.
The Terps also averaged 4.15 yards per rush, good for 5th in the conference, even though they only ran the ball about 33 times a game (2nd fewest in the ACC). The line doesn’t have any real dominators, but if a team is built from the lines up, then Maryland should have a steady foundation where there were once cracks and creaks.
Patrick Guthrie is a University of Maryland alumnus and contributor to BaltimoreSportsReport.com. He’s a champion 9 innings Baseball player who blogs about all things sports on his personal weblog, “Two Years Too Late.”