Maryland Terrapins: 5 Players to Keep a Close Eye on in the Season Opener

Chris LeydenCorrespondent IISeptember 1, 2011

Maryland Terrapins: 5 Players to Keep a Close Eye on in the Season Opener

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    The University of Maryland Terrapins open up their college football season on Monday when they take on the University of Miami under the lights of Capitol One Field at Byrd Stadium.

    While there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the game on the Miami side, it is the Terps who are coming off a more successful season, one in which they improved with seven more wins than the prior year.

    Even with the 'Canes missing some of their best players, including All-ACC safety Ray-Ray Armstrong and starting quarterback Jacory Harris, many still believe Miami is going to be so fired up from the suspensions that they will play their hearts out and come out ahead.

    The Terrapins definitely have a tough task ahead of them still, but with the combination of a home crowd and a depleted Miami squad, they have a very good chance of starting off the season 1-0 and getting new head coach Randy Edsall his first win at Maryland.

    Of course, as much as football is a team sport, it could come down to an individual performance that boosts the Terps to victory.

    With that in mind, the following slideshow features five players to pay special attention to during the game.

    As always, feel free to comment below.

Danny O'Brien (QB)

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    Like most teams, for the Terps it all starts at quarterback, where they return last season's ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien.

    The Terps lost some of their biggest offensive threats from last season, including running back Da'Rel Scott and wide receiver Torrey Smith, and while new players will try to fill those voids, O'Brien will need to pick up the slack.

    It will be very interesting to see how O'Brien does without Smith especially, as he was always able to get open and get downfield very fast.

    It will also be interesting to see if new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton has O'Brien take some shots in the first drive or if he looks to work him into a rhythm with short passes.

    Either way, the offense goes as O'Brien does, and hopefully for Terps fans he is even more improved in his second year under center.

Jeremiah Wilson and Justus Pickett (RB)

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    With the news now out that back-up running back D.J. Adams has been suspended for the first game of the season, these two freshmen will take on a much bigger role behind Davin Meggett.

    Although no one is expecting them to be as effective as Adams was on the goal line, it would be a huge boost for Maryland if they could get a touchdown out of one of the two.

    Word out of camp is that both have looked very promising and may have actually been competing for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart anyway, and this will now give them a chance to show both Coach Edsall and the fans why they should earn more playing time when Adams is back.

    Miami is without All-ACC linebacker Sean Spence, both their defensive ends and a defensive tackle, so there should be holes for the running backs to break through.

Nick Ferrara (K,P)

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    It is rare that a special teams player makes it onto a list of players to keep an eye on, but when someone is handling the kicking, punting and kick-offs for a team, they become an exception to that rule.

    Nick Ferrara is now going into his third year with the Terps, and besides being the kicker has now proven himself as the team's best punting option. This means that pretty much every single offensive drive the Terps have, Ferrara is going to play some role in either getting Maryland points, or pinning Miami deep on their side of the field.

    While it is nerve-racking to have so much pressure on a kicker, Terrapin fans should have confidence that Ferrara has been very good inside of about 45 yards, and has the ability to make longer kicks too.

Kenny Tate (LB)

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    There was much discussion over the summer of the move by Kenny Tate from safety to the STAR position, which is a hybrid safety/linebacker.

    Tate is the best player on the Terps defense, and is going to need to fill the gap that the departure of Alex Wujack left.

    Tate is going to be the play-caller for the defense, and similar to how O'Brien is going to be crucial every game on the offensive side, Tate will be on the defensive side.

    It will be interesting to see just exactly how Tate is used, but if he can make a big play like an interception, that could be all the Terps need to ride to victory.

Randy Edsall (Coach)

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    A bit of a cop-out here by picking a coach as the fifth player to watch, but in his Maryland Terrapins debut, Randy Edsall will be the focus of a lot of fans as they see not only how he picks plays but also how he manages the game in general.

    Edsall had great success with similar talent at Connecticut, but now he is going to a slightly better conference and has no cake walk for his first game.

    There is a lot of pressure on Edsall to win games in order to fill seats, and with all the media attention the game is getting between the Miami suspensions and the new Terps uniforms, a lot of people around the country will be watching Edsall.