ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Maryland Terrapins

After Two Very Rough Seasons, Is a Young Maryland Team Ready to Bounce Back?

After Two Very Rough Seasons, Is a Young Maryland Team Ready to Bounce Back?

Team: Maryland Terrapins

2012 W-L: 4-8 (2-6)

Head Coach: Randy Edsall (6-18; third season)

Returning Starters: 9 (5 Offense, 4 Defense)

The Terrapins’ ACC farewell tour sets up rather well. Outside of the top two spots, the Atlantic Division is largely up for grabs. They play a very manageable schedule. And they’ve got an offensive star on their hands in wide receiver Stefon Diggs. All of that sounds great, but there’s plenty to overcome as well. Coach Randy Edsall has won just six games total in two season in College Park, and while the team has talent coming in, there’s not a whole lot of experience to speak of either. Plus, the entire athletic program is pretty much bankrupt and there’s declining fan interest across the board (but notably in football). So how does this all end up playing out?

For starters, Maryland should automatically be better on the offensive end, now that they have quarterback C.J. Brown back from last summer’s torn ACL. Though they trotted out four different players to under center (including a freshman linebacker) in 2012, things actually didn’t start off half bad for the team on offense. With a huge assist from Diggs’s play-making, they started off 4-2, moving the ball reasonably well and scoring 22 points per game. But then the injuries struck, and the Terps would end up with one of the country’s worst offenses across the board. Brown will change things immediately by bringing a versatility to the quarterback position (had seven passing TDs and five rushing TDs in 2011), and help them fix their weakest link from last year. There are still plenty of questions about Brown — fans forget that he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 2011 — but at least it’s better than what they dealt with last season. Along with the dynamic Diggs catching passes, he’ll also have transfer Deon Long at his disposal. Last playing for New Mexico, Long had 47 catches for 809 yards in 2011, and paired with Diggs, should surpass those numbers this year. So long as Brown can get the ball to both of them, Maryland’s obviously looking at a much more dynamic passing game compared to what it had (104th in passing yards per game).

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ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC's Running Backs for the 2013 Season

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC’s Running Backs for the 2013 Season

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the running backs (you can check out last week’s feature on quarterbacks, too). Though there’s not a whole lot of experience at the position — just one returning back (Syracuse’s Jerome Smith) rushed for 1,000 yards last year — this group makes up for a lot of that in potential. Many of the most talented runners this year will be sophomores or juniors, so that aforementioned experience will come with time. As for those who are seniors, many possess a significant leg-up, which you’ll find reflected here as well.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

1. Florida State Seminoles: Injuries ravaged the Florida State backfield in 2012. But because of that, the team’s top two returning rushers, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., actually have quite a bit of experience under their respective belts (221 carries between them last year). They’re both vertical runners for the most part, doing most of their work in the middle of the line, but Wilder, in particular, also has some pass-catching ability out of the backfield (19 catches for 136 yards and two scores last year). Expect that role to expand this year, while also incorporating Mario Pender, who’s the quickest back on the roster and anxious to contribute after red-shirting last season.

2. Miami Hurricanes: Miami’s ranking here is purely on the strength of sophomore Duke Johnson, and his success is likely to decide how far the ‘Canes go this season. Despite splitting carries with Mike James last year, Johnson still ran for 947 yards and 10 scores, while tacking on another 1,133 yards from receiving and kick returns. With that on his resume in just one season, he’s now being listed among the most dynamic players in the country and will be the focal point of every gameplan against Miami. He won’t be acting alone in the backfield, but there’s no telling what to expect from backups Dallas Crawford or Eduardo Clements either.

3. Syracuse Orange: SU’s offense was largely seen as a pass-first attack in 2012, but its success in the season’s second half was heavily reliant on the running game. The Orange bring back everybody this year, and arguably have one of the deepest backfields in the country. The group will be guided by Jerome Smith (1,171 yards last year), but this will be a multi-back, run-first system. Expect Prince-Tyson Gulley to approach the 200-carry mark as well, while the team gets additional contributions from short-yardage specialist Adonis Ameen-Moore and jack-of-all-trades Ashton Broyld in hybrid WR/RB slot role.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Maryland Terrapins

Running Back Brandon Ross is One of Many Terps That Can Solidify His Status This Spring

Running Back Brandon Ross is One of Many Terrapins That Can Solidify Their Status This Spring

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Maryland Terrapins

Spring Practice Start Date: March 2

Spring Game Date: April 12

Maryland’s 2012 season was a complete and utter disaster — five quarterbacks (one of whom was a linebacker), a multitude of defensive injuries and a six-game losing streak to close out the year. And unfortunately, we’re not entirely out of the woods yet, either. While the offseason’s been abuzz around the Terps’ impending move to the Big Ten and their lawsuit to leave the ACC, things have been progressing equally as slow on the field, as their quarterbacks are still unavailable for contact drills.

Those passers — C.J. Brown (clubhouse favorite to (re-)win the starting job), Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe — have thrown on a limited basis this spring, so it’s unlikely we’ll gain any clarity at the position ’till July. So instead, the first week or so of spring practice has actually worked to muddle the situation a bit. Transfers Dustin Dailey and Ricardo Young are taking more reps and working with the first team; meaning they’re also the ones most likely to have the best rapport with returning star receiver Stefon Diggs (huge advantage). No matter who’s throwing the ball though, it won’t matter all that much without a running game. Despite the team’s limited quarterback situation in 2012, Terrapins halfbacks still only racked up 103 yards per game (115th in the country). Can they expect better this spring, and into the fall? Odds are on Brandon Ross becoming an every-down back, and without Wes Brown taking carries from him over the next month, it’s really his job to lose.

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Maryland 36, Temple 27: Terps Hold On For the Victory After Owls’ Big Rally

In His Second Start for Maryland, Perry Hills Looked Much More In Control as He Guided the Terps to a Win

Last year, Temple came to College Park and embarrassed Maryland at home. This year, the Terrapins went to Philadelphia, and while it wasn’t a blowout, the Terps did walk away with a win.

Looking at just the first half, it seemed as if Maryland was going to return the favor of delivering an embarrassing loss to the home team. After a sloppy first quarter which saw three fumbles between the two teams and one field goal per team, Maryland scored 23 points in the second (three TDs and a safety) and finished the half with a big 26-3 advantage.

Temple made some adjustments early in the second half, and they paid off; the Owls scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. Maryland managed to get a field goal in the third, but by the middle of the fourth, their lead was down to just two points (29-27). Thankfully, the Terps got back on track, and had an 11-play, four-plus minute drive that forced Temple to burn all of its timeouts and ended in a Maryland touchdown. The score put Maryland up by nine, which turned out to be the final margin after the defense stopped Temple from gaining a first down.

For Maryland, the results were mixed, but there was more good than bad …

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Maryland QB C.J. Brown Tears ACL, Will Miss 2012 Season

 

Maryland Starting Quarterback C.J. Brown’s Injury Spells Doom for the Terrapins This Season

Maryland has seen its worst case scenario for 2012 come true. Its only QB with college experience, starting quarterback C.J. Brown, has been lost for the season due to injury.

Brown tore his ACL in a non-contact drill on Tuesday afternoon, and will miss the entire 2012 season. The other two quarterbacks that were behind him on the depth chart are both true freshman. Former starting QB Danny O’Brien was lost in the spring when he transferred to Wisconsin. Brown and O’Brien had split QB duties last year, but because of O’Brien’s departure, Brown was the unquestioned starter heading into camp. Now that he is sidelined, one of the true freshmen will be expected to start.

This is a serious blow for the Terps. While Brown may not have been as good a passer as O’Brien, he was extremely good with his feet. Even splitting time with O’Brien last year, Brown was able to set a Maryland rushing record for quarterbacks with 574 yards and had started five games. His teammates had also voted him to be one of the captains for the 2012 season, and he appeared to be quite ready to be one of the new leaders of the team. He had put on muscle in the off-season, worked on his accuracy, and was one of the fastest players on the entire team during drills.

With Brown out for the season, the expectations for the Terps will drop. Despite the 2-10 season from a year ago, there were signs that things were looking up. A new turf field had been installed, a good recruiting class was coming in (and a good one for 2013 is in progress), and the chaos of last season had been put behind them. Now that they will not have an experienced quarterback leading the team, it will be a much tougher road ahead. Continue reading