Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Terps in transition

I think most Maryland fans anticipated a level of continuity going into this season even with longtime coach Ralph Friedgen being forced out in the offseason. Truth is very little has carried over since last season's 9-4 record. Everything from the staff, multiple starters and even the uniforms has changed. Many fans viewed QB Danny O'Brien and defensive star Kenny Tate as cornerstones of their respective units but neither will start at Florida State this Saturday. It appears O'Brien has lost his starting job due to poor performance and Tate has some unspecified injury that will keep him out for the third game in a row this week.

The new spread offense is very comparable to James Franklin's from last year even though Franklin probably had better talent at the skill positions, certainly at wide out. The defense has bottomed out falling to 87th in the country in scoring defense from 37th last season allowing over 430 yards per game at this point. To be fair Clemson's offense is one of the most explosive units in the nation scoring 35 points or more in every game this season except at Virginia Tech when they demolished the Hokies 23-3. Even so Todd Bradford's defense survived until halftime with Clemson misfiring with the ball but once the 2nd half started the floodgates opened. Injuries have certainly decimated the defense with a grab bag of freshman linebackers all starting in place of the opening game starters. Out of 22 starters for the oh-so-long-ago opener against Miami 10 have either been lost to injury or demoted due to poor performance going into the Florida State game. It is hard to consider that as anything other than a disaster.

C.J. Brown played well in his first start against a leaky but athletic defense. His running ability adds a dimension to Maryland's offense that is impressive. It is true that the zone read spread offense or whatever you want to call Gary Crowton's scheme better suits the elusive Brown over the static O'Brien. Still, O'Brien didn't play well regardless of the scheme or the limitations it may have imposed on him. Brown improved his passing dramatically from the prior week against Georgia Tech and if he continues to improve then there won't be any need for a discussion of the QB controversy. Once defenses adjust to Brown's running ability his passing will be tested but he doesn't face an exceptional defense the rest of the season after FSU.

Guard Pete White did a decent job replacing the injured Gonnella at left guard but you have to wonder if LT Max Garcia's struggles in that game were due in part to losing his starting guard.

Corner Cam Chism had his 2nd pick for a touchdown of the season against Clemson. Chism is a feast or famine corner and he his pick was the defensive highlight of the night but he also struggled in coverage along with CB Dexter McDougle. It isn't their fault really as the pass rush was non-existent and they are not good enough to cover Clemson's wideouts one on one. Defensive ends David Mackall and Keith Bowers have not notched a sack in the last two games and Bowers hasn't recorded one all season. Maryland had one sack on a botched snap even though Clemson passed the ball 38 times. The staff will have to find a way to put more pressure on opposing QBs in the coming weeks which won't be easy with a bunch of freshman linebackers.

Special teams was awful in this game giving up the decisive kickoff return for a touchdown and has been terrible all season. The lack of depth on this team is most apparent in the coverage units which are dreadful. The return units are not much better as Tony Logan has seen his production drop off dramatically.

The schedule lightens up for Maryland after this week with what amounts to three straight home games, the Notre Dame game is at FedEx Field, and then road dates at Wake Forest and N.C. State. A 6-6 record is still very possible even with a loss to FSU on Saturday.

While head coach Randy Edsall hinted Maryland was rebuilding then quickly retreated from those quotes it is clear that the program is in a state of flux. Edsall's dog house is getting pretty big these days as players like Ronnie Tyler, A.J. Francis, D.J. Adams and dare I suggest Kenny Tate are all apparently either phased out or in that process. If Edsall wants to put his stamp on this program and several of those players are resisting that process then it is his prerogative to allocate playing time how he sees fit. However he should also be accountable for the decision to give time to players who are not ready or not talented enough in their place. His decision to run off veteran linebackers Ben Pooler and Ryan Donohue looks pretty dumb at this point as he is forced to roll out freshmen like Mario Rowson and Alex Twine. Many fans are getting restless since the opening win over Miami and unfortunately the road ahead promises to be rocky with the injuries and more than little internal turmoil on the squad. It could be an ugly offseason around College Park unless this team can go on a winning steak to end the season.

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