In 2008, Maryland football was one of the most unpredictable teams in the country. They had four wins over ranked teams, yet they also lost to Middle Tennessee State and were blown out at Virginia.
At the end of week 12, Maryland had a shot at winning their division. They lost their final two games and ended up tied for third place in the division, with a 4-4 conference record and a 7-5 overall record.
Maryland fans should not expect much more consistency out of the Terps in the 2009 season. The Terrapins will be very young and inexperienced. They lost 30 players to graduation in 2008.
The inexperience will be especially apparent on the offensive line. Maryland lost five of it’s top seven offensive linemen from last season. Only six of their lineman have ever even played in a game, and three of those six are walk-ons.
Maryland is set at center with Phil Costa, who has plenty of starts, although they are at left and right guard. Bruce Campbell won the left tackle position last season. Other than that, the right tackle and both guard positions are question marks.
The defensive line is a concern as well. With nose tackle Dion Armstrong’s decision to leave the team, Maryland’s entire d-line has only seven starts between them.
The defensive line has been a problem area for the Terps in the past. In the past five seasons, Maryland has finished in the bottom half of the ACC in both rushing defense and sacks.
Perhaps that trend will change, however, with new defensive coordinator Don Brown. Brown’s arrival brings higher expectations to a unit that was 10th in the league in total defense last season, giving up 365 yards a game.
Brown was formerly head coach at UMass, where his teams finished among the top 20 nationally in total defense three of his five years there, and led the nation in scoring defense in 2005.
Brown will also coach the cornerbacks, which will hopefully help a secondary that was tenth in the league in both passing defense and interceptions in 2008.
Safety Kenny Tate has been a standout in the secondary throughout camp. Says Ralph Friedgen of Tate, “He’s all over the place. He’s intercepting passes, he’s sacking guys. Every time you look up he’s making a play.”
Tate was converted from wide receiver to safety last year due to a shortage of defensive backs, and stands to make a big leap in his second full year at the position.
The linebacker position is typically a strength for Maryland. They return Alex Wujciak, who was second in the league in tackles per game last season, as well as Adrian Moten.
Talented redshirt freshman Demetrius Hartsfield will be the third starter at linebacker. True freshmen Darin Drakeford and Avery Murray, sophomore Ben Pooler, and Drew Gloster, a converted tight end, will all step into reserve roles.
Another positive for Maryland is that they have an experienced returning quarterback. Senior Chris Turner is the unquestioned starter.
He had a solid season last year, and is the top returning passer in the conference. If he gets injured, backup Jamarr Robinson is unproven, and behind him is freshman Danny O’Brien.
Junior running back Da’Rel Scott is another bright spot for the Terrapins. Scott is one of only two returning backs in the ACC who ran for over 1,100 yards last season, along with Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer.
Davin Meggett, who had a solid freshman season last year, is expected to split carries with Scott.
With the departures of Darrius Heyward-Bey and Danny Oquendo, Maryland will be looking to a group of talented young receivers including Emani Lee-Odai, Adrian Cannon, LaQuan Williams, and Torrey Smith.
They will all be stepping into bigger roles this year, and Maryland’s passing offense, which was second in the conference last season, should not miss a beat.
Torrey Smith will also be back returning kicks in addition to time at receiver. Last season, Smith set a single-season ACC record for kickoff returns with 1,089 yards.
Travis Baltz also returns to help the special teams as last season’s leading punter in the conference. Maryland will be looking for a new kicker to replace Obi Egekezie, with the job going to either Mike Barbour or Nick Ferrera.
The ACC media and other outlets have picked Maryland to finish fifth in the Atlantic Division. SI.com picked Maryland to finish 2-6 in conference and 5-7 overall. The Terps will be young, and it’s not like they have a top five recruiting class coming in to fill the void their seniors left.
This is where Maryland typically is picked to finish in the conference, behind other schools with more heralded recruits. However, Maryland always seems to find a way to win enough games to make it to a bowl.
In the past few years Maryland has also had a penchant for upsets. They will have plenty of opportunities for upsets, playing ranked teams California, Virginia Tech, Florida State, and North Carolina.
At the very least, Maryland should reach six wins and be bowl eligible. In 2008 the ACC had tons of parity, with everybody beating everybody and a record 10 teams going to bowl games. There is no reason to expect 2009 will be any different.
I predict the Terps will go 5-3 in the conference, and 8-4 overall. That may not be enough to win their division, but it will get them to a decent bowl game.
2009 is also an opportunity for all their talented young players to gain experience for a run at the ACC championship in 2010 or 2011.