Maryland Football: 5 Guys Who Need a Great Spring Performance
After finishing the 2011 season with a 2-10 record, the Maryland Terrapins football team has to do better in 2012. Although the team has had its share fair of struggles, this was their worst season since finishing 2-10 just two years ago in 2009.
What made this season even more disappointing was it was the first season under head coach Randy Edsall. Edsall's hiring was supposed to bring a change to Maryland football, yet already he's coached a team way worse than the 9-4 team Ralph Friedgen coached last season. If he wants job security, Edsall is going to have to inspire his team to play better.
This begins with offseason workouts. Already the Terrapins have had an interesting offseason that has included signing a four-star recruit. If their players can spend the offseason working hard on improving and getting closer to each other, Maryland could easily improve their record this season.
Here are five players that will likely need good spring performances for Maryland to improve.
A lot of responsibility tends to fall on the team's starting quarterback, perhaps even more so when the team is losing. But that is not the case with Maryland, as 2011's starting quarterback Danny O'Brien has decided to transfer. This leaves Maryland without a clear-cut starting quarterback, at least for now.
There are only two quarterbacks on the roster, with one or two freshmen possibly arriving this summer. It looks like the most likely starter will be junior C.J. Brown, since he is more familiar with the system than transfer Ricky Shultz. Brown saw substantial playing time late into 2011 and even started a few games, although he did not start either of Maryland's two victories.
A lot of responsibility now falls on Brown's shoulders as he tries to take control of the starting quarterback position and make Maryland forget about O'Brien. For his career, Brown has seven touchdowns and six interceptions with only 49.4% completion percentage. There are obviously lots of reasons to doubt he is the answer at quarterback at Maryland so Brown will need to prove his doubters wrong this season.
One of the few bright spots of last season was the play of senior linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield. Hartsfield ranked second in the ACC with an average of 12 tackles per game. He finished with a total of 108 tackles for the season.
This was impressive given that this was Hartsfield's first season starting at middle linebacker. Formerly a WILL linebacker, Randy Edsall switched his position to give Hartsfield more responsibility in the defense. Hartsfield adjusted and even was named as an honorable mention to the All-ACC team.
Now in his fifth season at Maryland, Hartsfield will be looked upon to provide the leadership on the defense and to the whole team. He's one of the few players that's proven his worth on Maryland's roster.
However, Hartsfield needs one more great season to build up his draft profile and hopefully create a better defense in Maryland. This starts with a strong spring offseason, where he is heavily involved in Maryland's workouts.
Junior center Bennett Fulper is already dealing with a setback, one that could hurt his chances of starting for the Terrapins. He is dealing with an undisclosed injury that will limit the extent to which he can participate in Maryland's offseason workouts.
Fulper has been a consistent force along the offensive line for Maryland. He started in four games as a freshman before emerging as a full-time starter the next two seasons. He's displayed versatility by starting at guard and tackle before settling into his current role as starting center.
Now Fulper is getting ready for his senior year which looks to have a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the offensive line. Both of last season's starting tackles transferred and new starting tackle Justin Gilbert is also hurt. Fulper needs to get better so he can take opportunity of being one of the most experienced offensive linemen on the team and try to pass Sal Conaboy for the starting center position.
A starter on the interior defensive line for the last three seasons, A.J. Francis looks to be set as Maryland's starting nose tackle. His role should be a little different than in past seasons as Maryland looks to make the switch to a 3-4 defense this season.
For the 3-4 to really work, a giant nose tackle is usually needed to eat up space. At only 295 pounds, Francis unfortunately is a little lacking in that category. It could help him considerably if he bulks up and grows some more muscles.
If he can grow some more, Francis should have a great final season in Maryland.
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One of the only running backs on Maryland's roster with collegiate experience, Justus Pickett has to be feeling good about his situation. The freshman is currently projected to be next season's starting running back for the Terrapins.
Last year Pickett was the primary backup to senior Davin Meggett. Pickett still managed to get 274 rushing yards and one touchdown on 74 attempts. He also managed 10 receptions for 49 yards and one touchdown.
At only 5'10" and 175 pounds, Pickett is a small running back, so if he is to become a full-time starter, he is going to want to bulk up some more. He will also need to work hard as freshmen recruits Wes Brown and Albert Reid could challenge him for the starting spot. If he can hold them off, Pickett will have shown that he deserves to start for the Terps.