Following a 2008 campaign that redefined the term erratic, the Maryland Terrapins (8-5 overall, 4-4 in conference) seem poised to repeat their inconsistency this year.
The offseason was a time of movement neither forwards nor backwards for Ralph Friedgen’s squad; a surprisingly good outcome, considering the departures of the team’s top receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey (609 yds, 5 TD) and Danny Oquendo (371 yds, 2 TD) as well as linebacker Dave Philistin (94 tackles).
And while the Terps’ recruiting class is nothing legendary, the six Rivals.com four-star and sixteen three-star recruits were enough to earn Maryland the site’s 26th overall ranking (fifth in the ACC).
Unfortunately, two of the team’s top additions, D.J. Adams and Caleb Porzel, come at tailback, a position that called for little more beefing up.
Junior Da’Rel Scott is coming off of a 1,133 yard season and is sure to get the majority of the carries. Back-up Davin Megett will likely see the ones that Scott doesn’t. If Maryland has one position to truly boast about, this is it.
For a second season though, Scott and Megett face the problem of an inexperienced offensive line. This year’s projected starters rank second to last in the ACC with a cumulative 27 starts. Senior Phil Costa and junior Bruce Campbell account for all of these.
While the talents of their two backs are sure to override the inexperience and carry the Terps a long way, the line’s success will still be a major variable in determining the team’s quest for a fourth-straight bowl birth.
Also an important toss-up will be the play of senior quarterback Chris Turner. Turner struggled mightily at points last season and threw multiple interceptions in four of thirteen starts, including a three-pick performance in the early season loss to Middle Tennessee State.
He also flashed brilliance in victories over California (15-19, 156 yd, 2TD), Clemson (16-30, 172 yd, TD), and Wake Forest (28-41, 321 yd, TD).
A major blow to the passing game is the departure of Turner’s top target, Heyward-Bey. Sophomore Torrey Smith has some large shoes to fill.
Smith did an incredible job on special teams and even broke the ACC record for single-season return yards (1,089). And while he only started six games at wide-receiver, he showed great promise at the position, highlighted by an eight-catch, 115 yard performance against Boston College in the final game of the regular season.
Perhaps a fraction of Smith’s success returning kicks was due to the number of times that the Terps were kicked off to. Their porous defense allowed over 22 points per game and seemed to lack a real punch for the majority of the season.
Friedgen did manage to fill the void created by the departure of defensive end Trey Covington by adding DeOnte Arnett and David Mackall, Rivals’ sixth and 15th ranked players at the position.
However, the Terps lost seven of their top defensive starters and will have to find their footing quickly if they hope to go bowl-ing again this winter.
Wins over four of five ranked opponents last season made it clear that Friedgen’s players have impressive potential. Losses to Middle Tennessee State (4-3, 5-7) and Virginia (3-5, 5-7) revealed a penchant for underachieving.
With so many variables at play one cannot simply make a projection for the 2009 Maryland Terrapins. Doing so would be a waste of time and energy. The only thing to do is sit and watch.