Class of 2014: Where Are They Now?

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Image Credit: UMTerps

With the 2014 season at the halfway mark, it’s time to take a quick look at the Maryland Terrapins football team’s Class of 2014. In this article, we’ll look at where each member of the class is right now, and where they’ll be in 2015. The Terps have had some key contributions by some true freshmen this season, and have some very talented players waiting in the wings.

(Discuss this article on the BSL Message Board here.)

Damian Prince, OL - The biggest recruit for Randy Edsall’s staff since Stefon Diggs committed to play his college football in College Park was Damian Prince. Prince was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school, and was the crown jewel of the 2014 recruiting class. He is currently the third-string left guard for the Terps, and will redshirt this season. He will be fully immersed in the starting left tackle competition for the 2015 season.

Jesse Aniebonam, LB - Another of the highly-ranked players to come out of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, MD, Jesse Aniebonam has made an immediate impact for Brian Stewart’s defense. He has received significant snaps all season long, and has proven how good a pass-rusher he is. His coverage skills need to improve, but his role in the Terps’ third-down defense has been crucial this season. He will likely be starting across from Yannick Ngakoue at outside linebacker in 2015.

Derwin Gray, OL - The Terps thought they’d be getting Derwin Gray in 2013, but his poor grades forced him to attend Fork Union Military Academy for a year before coming to College Park. He enrolled at the University of Maryland in January, and was eligible for spring practice. However, he suffered an injury and was unable to get onto the practice field before the summer. He is currently the Terps’ backup right tackle, and will be given a chance to compete for the job again in 2015. He may also slide inside to one of the guard spots if necessary.

Juwann Winfree, WR - One of the more underrated Terps’ recruits from 2014 is Juwann Winfree. Though he was listed as a 4-star recruit, many analysts seemed to overlook how much talent he brings to College Park. He has received some snaps so far this season, and is best suited for the split end position. He will be given a chance to win that job in 2015 after Deon Long has graduated.

Tyler Burke, LB - One of three linebacker recruits for the Terps in their 2014 class, Tyler Burke is a talented inside linebacker from Coatesville, PA. He is a bit buried on the team’s depth chart this season behind Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree, Abner Logan, and Jermaine Carter, but should receive plenty of opportunities next season. He’ll redshirt this year and compete for a starting job with Logan and Carter next season.

Nnamdi Egbuaba, LB - Another of the three linebacker recruits for the Terps in 2014, Nnamdi Egbuaba suffered a season-ending shoulder injury before the year began. He wasn’t expected to get any playing time, and will likely slot in at the weak-side linebacker spot when he gets healthy. He will use his redshirt season in 2014 and compete with Cavon Walker for the backup job behind Jesse Aniebonam in 2015.

Andrew Gray, TE - One of my favorite recruits in 2014 due to his sheer toughness, Andrew Gray was the only tight end recruited by Randy Edsall and his staff last season. He hails from Chardon, OH, part of the area that the Maryland staff has been breaking into due to their new Big Ten membership. He will redshirt in 2014, as he is behind P.J. Gallo and Derrick Hayward on the depth chart. He’ll likely compete with those guys for the backup job behind Andrew Isaacs next season.

Brett Kulka, DE - One of the two defensive line recruits in the Terps’ class of 2014, Brett Kulka was a 3-star recruit from Edinboro, PA. He is best suited for the strong-side defensive end spot, and will spend this season bulking up for the position. He’ll redshirt this year before competing for the backup job behind Roman Braglio next season.

Brendan Moore, OL - The Terps put an emphasis on the offensive line in their 2014 class, and Brendan Moore is one of four offensive linemen in the class. He will likely see most of his future playing time at one of the offensive guard spots, but will spend 2014 redshirting. He will be given a chance to earn a backup guard job next season.

David Shaw, DT - Darius Kilgo is an extremely talented nose tackle for Brian Stewart, but he will need to be replaced after this season. David Shaw has earned the backup nose tackle job in his true freshman season, and looks to be the favorite to replace Kilgo next season. He will need to continue to bulk up, but has proven to be a very effective run-stopper when he’s received snaps this season.

William Ulmer, ATH - While he came to Maryland as a quarterback, William Ulmer was moved to wide receiver before the season began. He will be working with Keenan McCardell and developing his skills as a slot receiver. He’ll redshirt the 2014 season and may get some snaps next season, especially if Stefon Diggs elects to forgo his senior season and head to the NFL.

Josh Woods, DB - The young man hailing from my hometown (Owings Mills, MD) is one of the more underrated prospects for the Maryland Terrapins. He has moved his way up the depth chart this season, and is currently the team’s #4 cornerback. He has a great build, standing 6-foot-2, and has very good speed. He will likely spend 2015 as a backup to William Likely again, seeing occasional snaps in nickel and dime packages.

Nate Adams, LS - It’s one of those positions that everyone forgets about: the long snapper. Nate Adams is a good one, and will spend 2014 redshirting while serving as Christian Carpenter’s backup. He may get the chance to compete with Carpenter for the starting job next season.

Antwaine Carter, DB - After missing out on Jalen Tabor, Randy Edsall and his staff made it a priority to grab a few cornerbacks. Antwaine Carter was one of those pickups. While only a 2-star recruit, he provides solid depth for a position that was previously very thin. He’ll spend 2014 redshirting, and will likely be given a chance to compete for a backup job next season with Josh Woods and Jarrett Ross.

Sean Christie, OL - The first player to suffer a season-ending injury this season was true freshman offensive lineman Sean Christie. While he wasn’t expected to see the field in 2014, the injury will likely set him back from the ability to compete for a backup lineman spot next season. Regardless, he’ll spend 2014 redshirting and recovering from his injury while preparing to compete for a backup guard or tackle spot next season.

Daniel Ezeagwu, ATH - Another of the cornerbacks that Randy Edsall and his staff picked up after missing out on Jalen Tabor. He, like Carter and Woods, stands 6-foot-2, and signals a possible preference by Brian Stewart to have some taller defensive backs. He is a bit underrated as a 2-star recruit, and will spend 2014 redshirting. He, like Carter, will compete for a backup job next season. Had knee surgery this past week.

Denzel Conyers, DB - A very late sign by Randy Edsall and his staff, Denzel Conyers transferred to Maryland from Butte Community College, but is ineligible to play this season. Also recently had ankle surgery. He will be able to compete for a backup job next season.

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Bengals Offense Different From Week One

When the Ravens travel to Cincinnati on Sunday, they should be prepared for a drastically different Bengals offense than the one they faced in Baltimore back in week one. The Bengals have been without star receiver A.J. Green for the past two weeks, while explosive running back Giovani Bernard has been limited in practice after picking up an injury last week. Cincinnati’s week one offense worked through those two players. Green runs excellent routes to create separation, but also posses great speed to be a constant deep threat.

(Discuss this post on the BSL forums here)

It was Green’s deep threat that separated the two sides in the season opener.

 Green TD 1a

Green gets matched up against corner Chykie Brown. He runs a go route aimed at Brown before working inside him.

 Green TD 1b

Green runs right past Brown and quarterback Andy Dalton has an easy throw.

 Green TD 1c

Green pulls in the catch after a couple of grabs at it. The bobbles allow safety Darian Stewart to catch up, but Green puts a move on him and walks into the end zone for a touchdown.

When Dalton wasn’t looking for Green, he went to his running back Bernard. The Bengals do an excellent job moving Bernard around and finding different ways to get him touches.

 Bernard slot screen 1a

Baltimore saw this creative screen play designed for Bernard. He lines up in the slot and fakes running an out route before cutting back towards the ball. Meanwhile, the left guard and center get out from the line of scrimmage and try to block for Bernard.

 Bernard slot screen 1b

As Bernard catches the ball, the Bengals have the play set up well. Bernard has two blockers to try and get behind, with just one Ravens defender to beat.

 Bernard slot screen 1c

Fortunately, the Bengals lineman struggle to maintain the block and Bernard is tackled, but not before he picks up 16 yards on the screen.

But both these two key components remain injury doubts. Both could miss the game, both might make it but could still be limited in production. Should they be restricted or ruled out altogether, the Bengals will then turn to receiver Mohamed Sanu and tight end Jermaine Gresham as their main threats.

In the past two games, 29 of Dalton’s 51 completed passes have gone to either Gresham or Sanu, while the pair account for 270 (60%) of Dalton’s 449 passing yards. Sanu has done a good job stepping up in Green’s absence, offering a deep threat to keep the defense honest.

 TD Sanu 1a

Here, Sanu runs a go route up the sideline.

 TD Sanu 1b

His speed gets him a step ahead of the defender and Dalton pulls the trigger.

 TD Sanu 1c

But Dalton’s pass is underthrown. Sanu is forced to make and adjustment and work back towards the ball. He does an excellent job with his body control to go up and get the catch over the top of the defender before crossing the goal line for a touchdown.

Sanu is a shifty receiver. On top of the deeper routes, the Bengals will move him around and throw quick screens to him.

 Sanu screen 1a

Here, Sanu starts outside the numbers to Dalton’s right. He motions all the way down to the numbers on Dalton’s left.

 Sanu screen 1b

The ball is snapped the moment Sanu resets. He runs a quick tunnel screen, faking up field before working back towards the ball.

 Sanu screen 1c

Sanu gets help from an offensive lineman that comes across to block off the defensive backs. Sanu works in behind that block and gets up field.

 Sanu screen 1d

The Carolina defense hustles over to make the tackle, but Sanu is easily able to pick up the first down and more.

Gresham, on the other hand, overs a threat over the middle. Cincinnati haven’t moved him around as much the past few weeks as they have in the past, but he’s been effective lining up as a conventional in-line tight end.

 Gresham zone 1a

Here, Gresham runs a simple “Y-Stick” concept.

 Gresham zone 1b

Gresham is very adept at finding a hole in the zone coverage and sitting down in it to give his quarterback a target. This is an easy five yard completion for Dalton.

 Gresham zone 1c

But Gresham is a big, athletic tight end. Instead of being content with an easy five yards, Gresham turns up field and runs through the first two tacklers.

 Gresham zone 1d

The third tackler manages to bring him down, but Gresham picks up 12 yards in the process.

Back in week one, the Bengals worked through Green and Bernard. If both are unavailable or restricted, Cincinnati have other options in Sanu and Gresham that offer different threats to the Baltimore defense.

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Examining The Evan Smotrycz Injury

(Discuss the article here on the forums)

The Maryland Terrapins got some terrible news when it was reported that Evan Smotrycz had broken his fifth metatarsal and would be out six-to-eight weeks to start the season. The six-to-eight week estimate some doctors estimate may be on the longer end of things.

Smotrycz represented one of the Terps two senior starters and figured to play a much larger role this season as he prepped for more playing time. By most accounts, he was in shape and going to have his best year yet as the Terps unquestioned starting power forward. This would also be one of the few seasons Maryland would be getting a fully healthy team to start the year (last year it was Seth Allen’s foot). Not so, it seems.

For a Terps front court that already lost one potential player in Trayvon Reed before the season, the Terps losing Smotrycz is a particularly difficult pill to swallow. Maryland has used the majority of their contingency plans to this point, and this is one that has a pretty fair chance of hurting depending on how long Smotrycz is out for.

But is an injury like this going to entirely derail Maryland’s chances at the postseason? Did the injury come at the best possible time? Let’s dig into some of those factors:

1.) The schedule makes this injury barely sustainable

Even a pessimist can look at Maryland’s schedule and at least moderately agree that the Terps won’t need Smotrycz in (if we’re counting exhibition games) ten of their first 13 games. SF State, Bowie State, Wagner, Central Connecticut, Fordham, Monmouth, VMI, Winthrop, N.C. Central, and USC Upstate are all winnable games that are played before a December 21 matchup with Oklahoma State.

Arizona State, Alabama/Iowa State, and Virginia are considered tough matchups, but even those games are potentially winnable on talent alone (which Maryland has an abundance of). UVA isn’t the same team as they were last year, and that should work to Maryland’s advantage here.

Of course, Smotrycz really needs to be back in time for Oklahoma State on December 21, and he’s really got to be back in time for Michigan State on December 30. Those two games are necessary early season wins that Maryland has got to have if they want to be in the NCAA tournament. That is, unless they roll off a ton of victories in Big Ten play.

Another unspoken result of this is that Smotrycz played a decent amount of minutes last year and completely broke down. His bum back was one of the biggest reasons why Maryland lost to Florida State in the ACC tournament. Their front court got eaten alive. Perhaps taking a few games off Smotrycz schedule will leave him fresher down the road. Rushing him back is a bad idea, but having him slightly more nimble to end the year could help a late run.

2.) Maryland’s versatility will help here big time

Let’s be honest, Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz aren’t that far from one another in terms of playing style. Layman might be slightly shorter and weigh a bit less, but he’s also a stretch four or a slower three; those are realistically the two positions that Layman can play. His length alone will allow you to play him at the four, and he’s an adept help defender and blocker when playing that role too.

Maryland may not have one single perfect solution, but it’s got some pretty good options. Layman slides over to the four and Maryland plays with two stretch guys as Cekovsky or Dodd starts, Wells plays small forward, Pack starts at shooting guard, and Trimble starts at point. That lineup right there is very good, very adept, and defensively not incredibly weak. There really aren’t a ton of dominant, back-to-the-basket guys anymore and Maryland will benefit from that. What they lack in size, they make up for in sheer athleticism on the court.

3.) Maryland is going to know what they have from their young guys very quickly, which should work out minutes by itself.

Injuries are never wished for, but sometimes I find myself in awe at the chain reactions that result from them. For some paper tiger teams, an injury to a key player collapses their entire season in one fell swoop. For those squads, it was just bound to happen eventually.

But then some teams – good, deep teams – use it as an example to prove they’re truly a resilient team, and use it as a great opportunity to showcase some younger talent they’ve got waiting in the firing bay. I suspect the Terps could be the latter here, this year more than most.

Smotrycz going out is going to open up a lot of minutes for Dodd, Cekovsky, Nickens, and Wiley against some pretty easy competition. The benefit is that Maryland’s staff can evaluate what these young guns can do against inferior talent. If they can’t do it against the creampuffs on the schedule, at least the Terps know not to rely on them too much against the tougher opponents.

Dodd is going to need to prove he is the guy early on, otherwise Maryland might be better served looking elsewhere. Nickens and Wiley are going to have to prove they can hit the few shots they get as well, and I think at least one of these guys may surprise everyone with their play.

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