The coaches have been talking up the improvement to team speed in the offseason but based on the game against West Virginia this team is far more turtle than hare. There were some impressive speedsters on West Virginia and a few that would be able to match up with some of the quickest players in college football but as with the California blowout last season this game highlighted that Maryland, especially on defense, needs a significant upgrade. It isn’t as if Maryland has no team speed. There are a few positions like wide out, corner and running back where the speed is fairly good. The two most positions where this team lacks quick and explosive players is linebacker and defensive end. The linebackers were supposed to be a position of strength this season but have been a disappointment to this point. Both Navy and West Virginia exploited the inability of the defensive line or linebackers to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Alex Wujciak has great instincts and can cover from tackle to tackle as well as anyone. When he has to play in coverage or pursue from sideline to sideline his lack of speed is exposed and he was asked to cover some players against the Mountaineers that he had no chance to contain. Perhaps the younger reserves are not proficient enough with the defensive calls but Wujciak is a liability on passing downs because he isn’t a good blitzer and struggles in space. Seven of Wujciak’s 16 tackles were more than 5 yards down field and six of those were on gains of 8 yards or more. Adrian Moten and Demetrius Hartsfield are better athletes but don’t make the number of plays you expect them to, note Moten’s dropped interception. Tackling was also abysmal as several times players were in the right position but whiffed on the ball carrier. Darin Drakeford had the best game of his career and should see more playing time.
The defensive struggles are not only the linebackers as the defensive line, with the exception of DT Joe Vellano, has been largely irrelevant so far this season. DE Drew Gloster, DT A.J. Francis and DT Zach Kerr have only one tackle for a loss and no sacks between the three of them. Unless this group improves the linebackers will continue to find offensive linemen getting to the second level. Players like Desmond Kearse possess the athleticism to help but right now all he can do is rush the passer. The real solution to this problem is improved recruiting but that won’t change anything this season. Maryland didn’t have a single drive of more than 4 plays until the 3rd quarter and had 5 three-and-out possessions in the game. Throw out the bombs to Torrey Smith and the offense couldn’t muster anything. Franklin doesn’t seem to show any feel for playcalling, struggles to put his best players in positions to score, and doesn’t have any apparent philosophy. Jamarr Robinson didn’t play well but showed more passing ability than his detractors give him credit for and was running for his life all day. He missed some reads and got impatient in the pocket but was running for his life during most of the 2nd half. The injury to LT Justin Gilbert could be a killer for this offense. For now it looks like RT R.J. Dill will shift over and backup RT Pete DeSouza will take over the right tackle spot. DeSouza struggled badly when he came in after the Gilbert injury. He probably isn’t ready to play at this point in his development, he was a “project” to begin with, but the staff doesn’t have other options right now. The protection scheme will have to be adjusted to compensate.
Florida International is no Morgan State and the Terps will have to figure things out quickly if they hope to avoid the embarrassment of losing to a non-BCS league squad for the third year in a row.
The offense was comical in the 1st half. At one point QB Jamarr Robinson couldn’t even get the snap off. Clearly the team was not prepared well by the staff as in the first possession Maryland had to burn a timeout and still had three delay of game penalties. If you don’t know by now this game was another example of why James Franklin’s tenure as offensive coordinator/head-coach-in-waiting is going to come to an end sooner rather than later.