5. The kicking game
It’s too early to say the Terps’ field goal-kicking game issues are solved, but cannon-legged sophomore Obi Egekeze is finally starting to come around in the consistency department. His confidence seems to be growing each day, Even if Ekegeze doesn’t win the starting job over senior Dan Ennis, it’ll mean Ennis is kicking well.
4. Attitude adjustment
Friedgen has implied that attitude was the biggest detriment to the teams that went 5-6 each of the past two years – it wasn’t good. The coaching staff’s hard-line approach toward player discipline and the emphasis placed on recruiting more consistent, strong-character players have helped to build a roster packed with hard-working, smart players. Better consistency seems like a given at this point.
3. Quarterback problems could be over.
Senior QB Sam Hollenbach knows more of Friedgen’s ultra-complex offense than any Terps QB under Friedgen. Hollenbach has earned near-constant praise from Friedgen for his improved decision making and grasp of the offense. Hollenbach has matured, and spent all offseason working on bettering his decision-making.
2. This defense is for real.
For a defense without a proven star, the ’06 Terps sure seem promising. The linebacking corps, bolstered in depth by transfers Moses Fokou and Rick Costa, has size, speed and is loaded with playmakers. The defensive backfield appears solid, with CB Josh Wilson and FS Christian Varner looking like possible All-ACC caliber performers. The defensive line’s lack of depth is a concern, but the defensive tackles have made huge strides and tough-as-nails sophomore defensive end Jeremy Navarre is poised for an excellent season.
1. The running game.
At the start of camp it was presumed that junior Lance Ball would share some carries with senior Josh Allen, who is returning from serious knee injuries, and the rest of the RBs would be thrown a scrap once in a while. But that was before junior Keon Lattimore began his renaissance. With Ball’s power running and shiftiness, Lattimore’s big-play ability and Allen’s toughness and experience, the running game could become dominant.
5. Can the staff top off its recruiting class with a few more stars?
Maryland has accepted 14 verbal commitments for next year’s freshman class, most of them promising prospects without elite pedigrees. The staff now appears to be limiting its interest to a group of about a dozen prep stars who are being courted by top programs. The hope is that a strong start – and a strong overall season, for that matter – will bring in several of them, most notably local stars Arrelious Benn and Marvin Austin. What appears to be a deep class needs couple more big-timers.
4. Will Friedgen be spread too thin?
Friedgen has taken full control of the offensive playcalling, which is a good thing in that he’s a renowned offensive mastermind, but also a concern in that he already has a hand in everything else. Though he does delegate responsibilities to assistants, Friedgen stays very involved across the board. He also takes failure and imperfection extremely hard. It’s a make-or-break season for the Terps, and the coach won’t rest a bit until it’s over.
3. Is age nothing but a number?
For being a very young team, Maryland has a good deal of players with game experience. Still, Friedgen is concerned about how players will react to playing prominent roles during various stressful situations for the first time. It will be up to senior leaders like Hollenbach, Allen and Wilson to keep the team’s collective attitude positive and productive at all times. The grueling ACC schedule mandates a quick boys-to-men transformation.
2. Again, Quarterback problems [i]could[/i] be over.
Hollenbach has had a lot more good days than bad so far, and Friedgen has been very complimentary … but the same things were said of Joel Statham in the past. Now, Hollenbach clearly is a better quarterback than Statham was, but there are no guarantees here. For his part, Friedgen says he’d be shocked if the senior didn’t have a very good season. As long as an offensive line slowed by injuries and suspensions comes together, he’ll have a great opportunity to thrive.
1. Who will catch the ball?
The Terps look great at running back and tight end, but the wide receivers are a huge question mark. Friedgen is happy to have by far the best athletes he’s ever had at the position, but who will step up? Senior Drew Weatherly will need to lead the way, while redshirt freshman speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey was improving rapidly before hurting his shoulder. Sophomore Danny Oqueno will need to provide consistency from a group of talented youngsters whose progress Friedgen has questioned.