There was supposed to be a invigorating shot of youth and dynamism to a stodgy and predictable offense with the return of James Franklin who was going to bring his "West Coast" style offense to Maryland. I noticed little difference between what I saw against Delaware and what we saw at the beginning of last season with Jordan Steffy under center. It is the same painfully conservative offense that is based on check down passing and a stock collection of running plays.
I would like to make it clear that although Steffy was awful in this game, and he really was awful, it is more the fault of the coaching staff who decided to put him out there. He can't move in the pocket and has almost no ability to scramble. He can't run away from ACC caliber defensive linemen. When you have an offensive line that struggles at pass blocking like this group does it is a very bad combination. In game situations he "manages" the offense via dump off passes or forces throws that he shouldn't in field position (inside Maryland territory or the red zone) that is the worst for those kinds of mistakes. It was a brutal flop if the coaches hoped that Steffy would prove them correct against Delaware.
I'm not sure what is going on with Friedgen. He seems to have become both timid and paranoid all at the same time. He trotted out the idea that Delaware is a good team (which they may be in AA but how many games would they win in the ACC?) and then announced that Steffy had injured his thumb as a possible excuse for his terrible play. If Steffy would have trouble holding the football as the coach explained then why not sit him against Middle Tennessee? What is the point of the suspense? Even with two healthy thumbs Steffy is an inferior QB to Chris Turner.
The bright spot was the running game and Da'Rel Scott. Scott is a star in the making and his 197 yards in his first career start ranked 16th all time for yards in one game and were the highest total for a back since Bruce Perry and Josh Allen in 2003. Friedgen committed to running with one back and it payed off for the Terps with Scott gashing the Delaware defense on a number of long runs. There were a few times I felt like Scott should have been able to shift into overdrive and pull away for a touchdown but he didn't have that extra gear. Fridge suggested that his legs were still a little weary from camp. He looks similar to Bruce Perry in 2001 when he was also a sophomore and exploded on the scene for Maryland. It would be nice to see Scott get the ball on some wheel routes or in the flat where he can use his explosiveness and not take a 26 carry pounding like he did on Saturday.
Freshman Davin Meggett was also impressive with 54 yards on 7 carries for a 7.4 yard per carry average and a touchdown. He isn't as quick or explosive as Scott but he has nice vision and patience. It isn't clear how Morgan Green will fit into the rotation once he is fully healthy but it appears the Terps are fairly solid at the tailback position.
Given the dreadful QB play I'm not sure you can evaluate the receivers. Darrius Heyward-Bey looked dangerous on a number of runs and receptions but is held back by an offense that doesn't go down the field and the lack of a real threat at the other wide out spot. He still had 90 total yards and getting him the ball on an end around is a viable alternative if the QBs can't get it done.
As I mentioned earlier the offensive line has a long way to go with its pass blocking. Both tackles had holding penalties and Delaware was able to get some pressure on the Maryland passers. The run blocking on the other hand was very good.
The defensive line was adequate but that was about all. They mustered only a little pressure on the quarterback and did get washed out with some running plays. The Hens' line was fairly big for I-AA standards but it isn't going to be easier against most of the ACC units. Jeremy Navarre had six tackles but wasn't the disruptive force that you'd have hoped for with some of the preseason hype.
Linebacker Alex Wujciak lead the team with 8 tackles and did a good job of pursuing the ball for a first time starter. He should get better with more experience, keep in mind this was his first real game action and he missed all of last season with a knee injury. Dave Philistin had a mixed game with six tackles but several gaffes that could have been costly. He missed a sack on a big play by Delaware and should have had a tackle on a short yardage play on a 3rd down. His tackling was shaky. Philistin and Moise Fokou are going to be pushed by Chase Bullock and Adrian Moten.
Terrell Skinner at safety is an experiment that immediately payed dividends. He was all over the field with six tackles and an interception. Skinner had one blown coverage on a long gain by Delaware but showed some great instincts and aggressiveness that Maryland hasn't had at safety in years. Kevin Barnes also had a nice interception and overall the corners played well though they were not tested by Delaware's receivers.