Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD
August 30, 3:45 pm, ESPN, ESPNU
Delaware Blue Hens
Head Coach: K.C. Keeler (52-26 in 7th season at Delaware)
Conference: Colonial Athletic Conference
2007 Record: 11-4
Series History: Delaware leads 5-3-1
Last Maryland win: 1948 (21-0)
Last Season: The Blue Hens finished with an 11-4 record, losing in the FCS championship game to the Appalachian State team which knocked off Michigan in Ann Arbor earlier in the season. Delaware returns 14 starters from that team.
Delaware Offense: The key loss for the Blue Hens is of course QB Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens first round pick and potential opening day starter. Replacing Flacco's 4263 passing yards and 23 TDs (to only 5 INTs) will fall in the hands of either Ohio State transfer Robby Schoenhoft or redshirt freshman Lou Ritacco.
Keeler has yet to name his starter and said he may wait until game day to do so. If history is any indicator, Schoenhoft may be the one to watch for as Keeler has started three former division-1 transfers at QB in his 6 years at Delaware, including Flacco (Pitt). The 6-6, 250 lb. Schoenhoft has the edge in game experience, having completed 17 of 25 passes last year for Ohio State.
Flacco isn't the only huge loss in Delaware's backfield, however. Running back Omar Cuff capped off a stellar career by rushing for 1945 yards and 35 TDs last season and added 55 receptions for 554 yards to boot. Sophomore Phillip Thaxton is their leading returning back statistically, running for 390 yards and 3 TDs last season. Other backs who could vie for time are a pair of former transfers in Jerry Butler (Wisconsin) and Johnathon Smith (Connecticut). Thaxton and Butler are smaller backs with speed while Smith is a big bruiser at 6-3 who converted from linebacker.
Where the strength of the Delaware offense will lie is the WR position. The Blue Hens return their top three receivers including senior leader Aaron Love who hauled in 73 passes for 1009 yards and 3 TDs last season. In addition to Love, junior Mark Duncan caught 70 passes for 916 yards and 6 TDs and senior Kervin Michaud added 52 receptions, 682 yards and 3 TDs in 2007. All three receivers are 5-11 or smaller. Tight End Robbie Agnone provides the team with a big, 6-6 target in the passing game.
Meanwhile, the offensive line is led by senior center Kheon Hendricks who has been named on numerous preseason watch lists. The other returning full-time starter is LT Corey Nicholson. Both RT Kevin Uhll and LG Jon Herrman were reserves last season but both have numerous starts in their careers. Starting RG Shane Smith played defensive tackle last season as a reserve.
Delaware Defense: Junior DE Matt Marcorelle could be Delaware's star defensive player this season. After being injured for most of 2006, Marcorelle returned last season to lead the team in sacks (8), tackles for loss (14) and set the school record for forced fumbles with 5. At tackle, senior Julian James made his mark as well last year, recording 5.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.
The linebacking corps is led by senior MLB Erik Johnson who last season amassed 122 tackles, including 11 for losses. Next to Johnson on the weak side will be returning starter Walter Blair who accounted for 95 tackles last year. On the strong side, Brian Brown will start after playing as a reserve in all 15 games last season. Brown started nine games in 2006.
The Delaware secondary is a group loaded with experience. The four starters combined to start 55 games last season with corners Fred Andrew and Anthony Walters both starting all 15 of their team's games. Strong safety Anthony Bratton led the secondary with 105 tackles while Walters led the unit with 5 interceptions.
Delaware Special Teams: Kicker Striefsky is as solid as they come. Last season the junior hit on 64 of his 67 PAT attempts and 21 of 24 of his FG attempts with a long of 47. Michaud will handle the kick return duties as he did last season when he returned 39 for 806 yards (20.7 avg.) while Love will serve as the team's primary punt returner. Last season Love returned 17 punts for 122 yards (7.2 avg.)
Prediction: This game one year ago would likely have been a battle for both teams. But this season Delaware has too much inexperience and too many holes to fill in the backfield. The Blue Hens will score, but not nearly enough to keep up with the Terps.
Final Score: Maryland 38, Delaware 17