Time: 12:30 p.m.
Location:Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet, Sirius Radio Channel -134 , WTEM-980 AM, WJZ -105.7 FM
Series: Maryland leads 3-0
Last meeting: Sept. 25, 2010, Maryland won 42-28
Coaches: Maryland —Randy Edsall (3rd Season 6-18) Florida International —Ron Turner (1st season 0-0)
- Ron Turner-ound — Ron Turner replaces Mario Cristobal as the new head coach of the Panthers this season. Turner has a wealth of coaching experience, which ranges from college to the NFL. He has been a head coach at the collegiate level twice already, at Illinois and San Jose State, but for the past eight seasons he developed a reputation as offensive guru as an NFL assistant with Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, and Chicago. Turner will have to rely on all of his coaching experience because the Panthers' cupboard is extremely bare. FIU only returns five starters from 2012…but we will get more in depth about that down below.
- New Crew —FIU lost all three of its top running backs from last season, headlined by Kendrick Rhodes, who ran for nearly 750 yards in 2012. In addition, academic issues will most likely keep the Panthers top receiving threats, Willis Wright and Glenn Cole, off the field this season as well. Wright led the Panther with 633 yards in 2012, with an average of over 25 yard per reception, while Cole hauled in 13 passes for 227 yards last year. If that weren't bad enough, FIU lost all five of its starting offensive lineman. Although considering that FIU's line gave up 37 sacks last year, that might not be such a bad thing.
- Hey at least they get their quarterback— The good news is the Panthers' one returning starter is under center. Redshirt junior quarterback Jake Medlock, is a second-year starter, who threw for 2, 127 yards, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions last season. Medlock has an accurate arm, but he can also be dangerous outside the pocket. He ran for 409 yards on 87 carries last season.
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers lost Johnathan Cyrien, who led the team with 93 tackles and four interceptions in 2012, to the NFLdraft. FIU's other top two tacklers are also gone, so are the Panther's two starting corners from last season….are you seeing a trend here? Turner will certainly have a fresh start in year one, with only one returning starter on offense and four on defense. All in all…things could get ugly before they get better.
- Is the curse over? —Maryland's quarterback nightmare is finally behind them, or so they hope. Randy Edsall has continually said that starting quarterback C.J. Brown, who missed last season with a torn ACL, is playing some of his best football. Brown broke on to the scene for the Terps back in 2011 with his ability to run outside the pocket. He set a Maryland single-season rushing yards record for a quarterback (574) in 2011, while throwing for 842 yards in 10 games (five starts). According to Edsall, Brown is playing some of his best football and his passing has improved significantly. However it has been quite some time since Brown has seen live game action.
- Go Long, King Diggs! — C.J. Brown's transition back will be a bit easier with a few new toys to play with this season. Iowa Western Community College transfer Deon Long is an explosive playmaker, who can stretch the field as a primary deep threat target. Long caught JUCO record 100 passes for 1,625 yards and 25 touchdowns for the Reivers last season. Expectations are also high for sophomore Nigel King, who had 9 catches for 125 yards. King is a big, physical speedster, who has shown great promise this off season. Finally, Stefon Diggs. Nuff said.
- The Bottom Line — Is actually Maryland's front line. The Terps have been haunted by the numbers and followed by questions regarding the offensive line all off season. Randy Edsall has taken a new approach: putting the five best players on the line. The result? Former right tackle, then left tackle, Michael Dunn, is starting at right guard and former back up left tackle Ryan Doyle, is starting at right tackle. Mike Madaras and De'Onte Arnett return to their respective positions at left tackle and guard, while Sal Conaboy will anchor down the line at center. How will Edsall's experiment turn out? (I don't think it could get worse) Only game-time will tell.
But seriously, Diggs has added some weight this off-season, worked on his route running, and now has an actual quarterback throwing him the ball. He was second in the ACC, eighth nationally with 172.4 all purpose yards per game, and his 1,896 all-purpose yards last season are the second most in school history, behind Torrey Smith (who broke the 2k mark in '09). He did all of that with as the Terps' primary offensive weapon. Now that defenses have to focus on Long and King, not to mention a significantly improved running game, it is scary to think about the possibilities.
They can avoid the first game follies— While Ron Turner might be an offense guru, you can only do so much with…well, not that much. However, if Maryland comes out expecting to win by default things could get ugly (circa last year's 7-6 thriller over William & Mary). Maryland needs to make a statement, and for once not just with their uniform fashion.
Everything goes wrong — Maryland's line completely crumbles and Hickman gets to Brown early and often and Medlock can buy himself enough time to do some damage.
Maryland: 31 FIU: 6
WR Stefon Diggs— Diggs returns after an electrifying freshman year, which thrust him into the national conversation for some of college football's top honors. Edsall has repeatedly said that Diggs looks even better than he did in year one. He spent the off season working on his route running, and putting on about 10-pounds of good weight. As I mentioned above, Diggs will finally have a consistent and legitimate quarterback throwing him the ball this season, while opposing defenses will also have to worry about cover the Terps other two talented wide outs Long and King. Still, could Diggs crumble under the pressure? I doubt it, but his play is the only thing that will keep his critics mum.
DL Quinton Jefferson— Jefferson was one of the top defensive ends in the nation coming out of Woodland Hills High School (Pittsburgh, Pa.). He played in nine games last season, but Jefferson really started to stand out during the spring and he was one of the most impressive performers of the preseason camp. Expect Jefferson to build off of that momentum come game time.
**note I am not including Deon Long b/c he has already been covered extensively in this preview**
CB (KR/PR) Will Likely— Likely comes from the south-central Florida football hotbed, better known as "the Muck". The stories about him chasing rabbits are well documented and true…and if you need proof, watch him on the field. Likely is a football junkie, it's all business for this true freshman. He enrolled in the spring and has already found his way in to the two-deep. Jeremiah Johnson said Likely's football IQ is extremely high and he already has a great understanding of the defense. Keep an eye out for number four in the nickel. Likely may also get a chance to display the skills he developed chasing rabbits on special teams. He will Likely (pun not entirely intended) spilt returns with Diggs.
LB Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil— Cudjoe-Virgil (nickname "Kujo") has earned continuous praise from Randy Edsall and LB coach Lyndon Johnson since he transferred from Seton Hill University in 2011. Kujo red-shirted last season and earned a reputation for being a work horse on the team. While, Kujo stood out in practice, it was Maryland's preseason scrimmage where the junior finally broke out of his shell. He had at least four sacks in the scrimmage and was a living nightmare for Maryland's line. He was all over the field. The kid also has a great story, his family is living back in Trinidad and his mother is his only family in the States. He said his family back in Trinidad has never seen him play football, and they will be watching online back in Trinidad on Saturday. He was nearly speechless when I asked him what it would be like for them to see him on the field, and that is what motivates him to play with such an intensity. Number 51. Remember it.
K Adam Greene— Brad Craddock is listed as the Terps starter, however, Green proved he has the leg to hit from distance. With Craddock's struggles to find any sort of consistency, Edsall could lose patience and give Greene a go.