Head coach: Ralph Friedgen
9th year: 64-36
Off. 19, Def. 18, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Terp Players
1. LB Alex Wujciak, Jr.
2. RB Da'Rel Scott, Jr.
3. WR/KR Torrey Smith, Soph.
4. DT Travis Ivey, Sr.
5. C Phil Costa, Sr.
6. QB Chris Turner, Sr.
7. LT Bruce Campbell, Jr.
8. P Travis Baltz, Jr.
9. CB Anthony Wiseman, Sr.
10. LB Adrian Moten, Jr.
9/5 at California
8/30 Delaware W 14-7
Maybe it’s a sign of progress in College Park when Humanitarian Bowl invitations are no longer good enough. Or maybe the best that Maryland has to offer is now in the rear-view mirror. Since stringing together 10-win seasons from 2001-2003, the Terrapins have been a model of inconsistency, going just 33-30. And while that’s not catastrophic, it is a sign of lost momentum and downgraded expectations.
Last year was a typical one for Maryland, pulling some upsets and losing games it wasn’t supposed to. How, exactly, do you beat four ranked teams and lose to Middle Tennessee in the same season? Yet, it still found its way back to the ACC mid-section, a familiar spot over the last few years. The 2009 edition figures to be equally unpredictable and difficult to size up. On one hand, Friedgen and his staff have a lot of exciting talent, courtesy of some crackerjack recruiting. Da’Rel Scott is an All-ACC back. Alex Wujciak is on his way to becoming one of the nation’s top inside linebackers. And go mention the name Torrey Smith to your friends before the opener. You’ll look like a genius by November.
On the other hand, however, half of last year’s starters have graduated, more than any other ACC school, and both lines were decimated in the process. QB Chris Turner is still trying to become more than just a journeyman, and the defense is a work-in-progress that’s going to struggle against the better offenses. In other words, go ahead and try to evaluate the Terps at your own peril.
Friedgen is at the tail end of his up-and-down tenure, having already designated James Franklin as his successor. He’d like to recapture some of the magic he had earlier in the decade, but instead, he’ll have to settle for another anonymous bowl berth in December.
What to look for on offense: Sophomore WR Torrey Smith. Former Terp Darrius Heyward-Bey was the No. 7 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft. In time, Smith will be better. While not as fast, he’s a more complete receiver, and has the work ethic and demeanor of a budding superstar. The program couldn’t keep him off the field as a freshman, and he wound up taking over a starting job midway through the year. Now that there’s an opening for a go-to receiver, he’s on the tarmac and preparing for lift-off as one of college football’s bright young playmakers.
What to look for on defense: More pressure. With the arrival of new coordinator Don Brown comes a mandate to force the issue on every level of the defense. That means more blitzes from outside linebackers Adrian Moten and Demetrius Hartsfield and more press coverage from the defensive backs. When Brown looked at Maryland, he saw a team that was on its heels too often rather than dictating the tempo of the game. He has the athletes to make this system fly, but now he has to make sure that the execution is clean. If successful, it’ll mean sacks and more takeaways than a year ago.
The team will be far better if … it can put an end to the rollercoaster ride. Few teams have been harder to read the tea leaves on than Maryland, which can look like a Top 25 team one Saturday and be lousy the next. Last year was a prime example. The same Terp team that beat Cal, Clemson, and North Carolina also lost to Middle Tennessee State and was shut out by a bad Virginia team. Somehow, this program has to locate a level of consistency, especially when it’s on the road.
The Schedule: The Terps will have to fight the payback effect in the season opener as they travel to face a Cal team that was upset in College Park last year. The Middle Tennessee game would seem to be a layup, but the Blue Raiders pulled off the upset in last year's matchup. The non-conference schedule is finished up by the end of September with a good test against Rutgers, and then it's statement time with a home game against Clemson to kick off the ACC season with a bang. Getting Virginia and Duke from the Atlantic is a break, as is getting Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson at home. Even so, the finishing kick is a bear with at NC State, Virginia Tech, at Florida State and Boston College coming after the bye week.
Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Da’Rel Scott. When the Terps needed a feature back last fall, Scott was there to deliver, finishing second in the ACC in rushing at nearly 100 yards a game. A blur in the open field, he also has the size to work between the tackles and the hands to bail out the quarterback. If he can stay healthy, a problem in his starting debut, he’ll have a chance to be first team all-conference in back-to-back years.
Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Alex Wujciak. From the moment he stepped on campus, the Maryland staff knew it had something special in Wujciak. After sitting out all of 2007 with an injury, he erupted in his first season of action, leading the Terps with 133 tackles and out playing talented veterans, like Dave Philistin and Moise Fokou. He’s the blueprint for a middle linebacker, blending quickness, instincts, and ferocity into a 6-3, 255-pound frame.
Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Chris Turner. He’s the fulcrum of a season that’ll either go north or south based on his development as a passer. In an offense that too often lacks balance and struggles on the other side of the 50, he has to put it all together and help accelerate the learning curve of the young receivers. Maryland simply isn’t good enough in any one area to survive with a passing game that has one of the worst efficiency ratings in the ACC. It’s time for Turner to perform like a fringe NFL hurler.
The season will be a success if ... the Terps make it four straight postseason bowl games. Naturally, they’d love to upgrade from last year’s Humanitarian Bowl, but with just 10 starters back and glaring question marks on both lines, expectations are predictably modest. Six wins should be the absolute minimum, with eight within reach if everything breaks in their favor.
Key game: Oct. 10 at Wake Forest. Hey, this is the ACC, where just about everyone has a shot at a title, so don’t expect Maryland to shoot for anything else. In the wide-open Atlantic Division, this is the type of game that could be a launching pad for the winner. The Terps shut down the Demon Deacons, 26-0, last October, which eliminates any fear factor of traveling into Winston-Salem.
2008 Fun Stats:
- Punt return average: Maryland 7.0 yards - Opponents 4.2 yards
- Interception return average: Opponents 11.6 yards - Maryland 4.3 yards
- Time of possession: Opponents 32:13 - Maryland 27:47
- 2009 CFN Maryland Preview | 2009 Maryland Offense
- 2009 Maryland Defense | 2009 Maryland Depth Chart
- 2008 Maryland Preview | 2007 Maryland Preview | 2006 Maryland Preview