The Maryland Terrapins have started the 2012 football season with a 2-2 record, and, in the process, have looked much better than most prognosticators anticipated.
The two wins haven’t come versus world-beaters in Temple and William & Mary, but the Terps have showed resolve and toughness in all four of their contests.
In not-so-surprising Maryland/DC-area sports team fashion, the Terrapins have fallen short when favored in a game and wildly exceeded predictions when underdogs. As home favorites versus Connecticut and Williams & Mary, the Terps have failed to cover the spread. However, when they were considered big underdogs versus Temple and West Virginia, Maryland cashed their backers’ tickets.
Coach Randy Edsall’s team has certainly had its ups and downs this season. Let’s take a look at the highlights and lowlights of the first four games of the 2012 season.
Two true freshmen have stood out for the Terps’ offense early this season. Stefon Diggs is next in the line of dangerous Terrapin offensive weapons; although, in a much different mold than recent stars like Torrey Smith, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Vernon Davis.
Diggs is an outstanding receiver, a dangerous open-field runner and a game-changing returner. A quick look at what Diggs has done in his first four collegiate games:
-21.6 yards per catch on 12 receptions
-Three receiving touchdowns
-Averaging 11.8 yards/punt return
-Averaging 23.3 yards/kick return
Coach Edsall has been on record, stating that he has only wanted Diggs to get 10 or so touches per game, and that’s including the return game. As the season progresses and Diggs becomes more comfortable in a collegiate offense, we should see his touches and production increase.
As a result, we should see numerous highlight plays as Diggs will continue to battle Miami freshman Duke Johnson for the ACC Rookie of the Year award.
As for the other impact freshman, Brown’s usage has also been limited. Edsall is using a four-man committee at the running back position, as Brown has only received 15 percent of the rushing attempts on the team.
Not only do Brown’s stats look impressive as he leads the team in rushing yards and yards-per-rush, the tape looks just as impressive.
It will be exciting to see the Terps’ offense develop into an explosive, dangerous attack with Brown and Diggs for the next couple of seasons.
The one consistent aspect of this Maryland team has been their ability to stop the run. The Terps have limited opposing offenses to 3.0 yards per rush on 145 attempts.
This includes a complete shutdown of West Virginia’s backfield duo of Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie, who have combined for 329 yards and 5.8 yards per attempt in 2012.
In Saturday’s meeting, the Mountaineers’ running game was held in check with just 25 yards on 25 carries.
While the Terps didn’t win that West Virginia matchup, Maryland has already won two games this season, which matches last year’s total.
That has to be considered a positive as the Terps head into ACC play after their bye week.
Considering that the starting quarterback was injured in the preseason and the fact that there was a general lack of talent and cohesiveness after more than 20 players transferred in the off season, winning two of the first four games is definitely a success for Maryland.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Locksley
While the Terps have a great rush defense, the same cannot be said for their pass defense.
Geno Smith predictably torched the Maryland defense for 338 yards and three scores with zero interceptions.
With safety/linebacker hybrid Kenneth Tate returning from injury, their pass defense is sure to improve, but it wasn’t enough to stop West Virginia last week.
Frankly, there’s not a great amount of talent in the defensive backfield, so it will be hard for this unit to climb in the pass-defense rankings.
On the other side of the ball, the offense is lacking an identity. Despite playing less-than-stellar competition through four games, the Terps are ranked 103rd in the nation with 21.3 points per game.
It’s difficult to have offensive consistency with a freshman quarterback that was unexpectedly thrust into the starting role a few weeks before the season started.
While Brown and Diggs are true freshmen, they are the means to an end. By giving Brown a majority of the backfield touches and not limiting Diggs to a “touch count,” the offensive potential for Maryland can be maximized in 2012.
Through four games, the duo has averaged only 10.25 offensive touches per game. That’s unacceptable and will have to change moving forward if the offense wants to score more than 21 points a game in conference play.
The ugliest part of the Terrapins’ season has been the turnover ratio.
The offense has turned the ball over a whopping 13 times in four games. With that being said, it’s surprising that the team has actually won two games.
The defense hasn’t done a poor job as they’ve forced six turnovers, but a 2-to-1 ratio is not an indicator of a successful football team.
You would think that Perry Hills would be mostly to blame, but he has “only” thrown five interceptions. By doing elementary math, we can surmise that the Terps have lost eight fumbles.
A young team is expected to turn the ball over a lot, so we can expect the growing pains to continue as 2012 progresses.
A young team needs a leader to guide them, and I’ve yet to be convinced that Randy Edsall is the future of the Maryland football program.
Continuing with this 2011 trend, Edsall continues to blame players for losses while taking credit for the victories.
It wouldn’t be a Maryland football article if I didn’t find a way to bash Edsall, but others have noticed this flaw as well.
This has been ugly for Maryland since Edsall took over in 2011 and will only continue to get uglier if he doesn’t change his ways.