Taking A Step Back – Re-Evaluating Maryland’s Season
Image Credit: Baltimore Sun
After the first five weeks of the season, the Maryland Terrapins were sitting pretty at 4-0 and had gained the #25 spot in the latest AP poll. They were heading into Tallahassee for a game against Florida State, and felt as if they could really give the Seminoles a run for their money. But things took a turn in Florida that day. The Terps lost 63-0, crushing their confidence. They also lost QB C.J. Brown to a concussion, and would be without him for their next game against Virginia. Caleb Rowe kept the ship afloat by leading the Terps to a win over the Cavaliers, and the Terps were feeling better at 5-1, with a 1-1 conference record.
(Discuss this article on the BSL Message Board here.)
Maryland got C.J. Brown back for their next game against Wake Forest, and things started off badly right off the bat. Demon Deacons DT Nikita Whitlock wreaked havoc on the Terps’ backfield from the very first snap, and slowed down any hopes of a rejuvenated offense. But the real blow came after the game, when it was announced that Deon Long and Stefon Diggs, the team’s best two wide receivers, would be out for the remainder of the season due to broken legs. This obviously leaves question marks on the board for the remainder of the season. We’ll take a look at those here, along with a few other topics. We’ll also look at who will be replacing the two star wideouts down the stretch, and what to expect from this team in general.
It wasn’t long ago that we weren’t talking about this Maryland team winning 8-10 games this season. Now it’s looking more likely that they find a win somewhere in their last few games and limp into a bowl game. Let’s take a look at the rest of the schedule, and re-evaluate the Terps’ chances in each of those games.
vs. Clemson - This week’s game against Clemson could get a bit ugly. The Tigers are coming off of an embarrassing loss to Florida State, and will be looking for a bounce-back win against an injury-laden Terps squad. This one looks like a loss, which would send Maryland to 5-3 (1-3 ACC) on the season.
vs. Syracuse - The game next week against ACC-newcomer Syracuse looks to be a bit more winnable. The Orange currently sit at 3-4 on the year, with their only wins coming against Howard, Tulane, and a surprise win against North Carolina State. This is a game the Terps could win even without some of their key players, and could push them into bowl eligibility.
at Virginia Tech - A few weeks ago, this was looking like a big game on the Terps’ schedule. A late-season trip to a hostile environment to face a borderline Top 25 squad in Virginia Tech. It looked like as even a matchup as the team would get this season, but now it looks more likely that it will end up as a loss. The Hokies have climbed to #16 in the country, and that number will likely only get higher after they play Duke this weekend. This one looks like a loss for the Terps. So if they beat the Orange, they’d sit at 6-4 (2-4 ACC) after this game.
vs. Boston College - This matchup, like the one against Syracuse, is one the Terps can still win despite being down some key players. The Eagles have played tough against the powers in the ACC, Florida State and Clemson. Their next few games against North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina State will tell us a lot about what type of team they really are. The Terps can certainly win this matchup, but it will be a bit even. I would say, for prediction purposes, that they would win one of the two games against either Syracuse or Boston College, which would put them at 6-5 (2-5 ACC) after this game.
at North Carolina State - The Wolfpack are always a very tough team to read. They tend to have one signature upset win each season, but tank down the stretch and make it into a mediocre bowl game. That signature win is typically against Florida State, which is who they play this weekend. They have already lost to Syracuse and Wake Forest, but played a very close game against Clemson early in the season. I wouldn’t expect the Terps to win this game, so I’d stick them at 6-6 (2-6 ACC) after this game.
I do think the Terps can win one more game this season. I think it will be one of the three games against either Syracuse, Boston College, or North Carolina State. If they could win more than one, that would be a big win for this team. But without the star power of Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, I can’t see C.J. Brown and/or Caleb Rowe leading this team to any big victories through the air. And until we see more from the running game, it’s tough to believe that it can carry this team to wins.
Talking About Edsall:
This past week, there was a heated debate occurring on the BSL Message Boards about Maryland head football coach Randy Edsall. I wanted to take a bit of time to discuss this here, and take a look at the facts surrounding the controversial head coach.
(You can read and participate in the debate here.)
Randy Edsall came to College Park in 2011. He inherited a Ralph Friedgen team that went 9-4 (5-3 ACC) and finished at #23 in the post-season AP poll. Firing Friedgen was not a fan-friendly move. Many people had grown to love him over the years, and his dismissal came at a surprising time. But athletic director Kevin Anderson wanted fresh blood to fill the stands and breathe new life into the program. Though everyone loved Friedgen, the empty stands were saying otherwise. The program had been linked to Mike Leach for awhile, but eventually settled on Randy Edsall, who was just coming off of a Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma with his UConn team that he had built from the ground up.
Edsall’s first season at Maryland was rocky. He saw over 20 players leave the program under his watch, and only won two games that season. He fired his offensive and defensive coordinators after the 2-10 year. Edsall brought on Mike Locksley to be his offensive coordinator, and his presence was immediately felt by the commitments of Wes Brown and Stefon Diggs. Brian Stewart was brought in to coach the defense, and moved to an NFL-style 3-4 scheme.
2012 started off well, with the Terps beating Virginia in their second ACC game and moving to 4-2 on the year. It looked like they were headed to a bowl game until the injuries started piling up. After losing all 3 remaining quarterbacks in 2 weeks, the Terps moved to a linebacker under center and never won another game. 2013 started off even better, as Maryland started off 4-0 on the year. But injuries have again begun to pile up, and many people are calling for Edsall to be fired.
Normally, I would agree with those who say that injuries are no excuse for losing. Most of the time, losing one player on either side of the ball shouldn’t affect your season that much. But in this case, I disagree. I have heard many people say over the past week that Randy Edsall will get a “pass” this season due to the number of injuries. I’m not saying that won’t be true, but I think he should.
The Terps are the most injured team in college football right now. They have lost their best two cornerbacks and wide receivers for the majority of the season. They have also lost a starting linebacker, a key reserve linebacker, a starting fullback, and a key reserve offensive lineman for a large amount of time. That is in addition to the large number of players who would not have seen much of the field anyway who are injured. Can you really expect a coach to keep his team playing at the same level when so many key players are injured?
Now, a legitimate argument that can be made is whether Randy Edsall prepares this team well enough for games. I have seen his conference road record tossed around a few times, and that is a much more legitimate concern than injuries giving him a “pass”. Winning on the road is tough. It’s even tougher when your team is riddled with injuries. And having a young team makes it tougher still. Below is a list of the Terps’ starters this season and their year.
QB – C.J. Brown (Sr.)
RB – Brandon Ross (So.), Albert Reid (So.)
FB – Kenneth Goins (Fr.)
WR – Stefon Diggs (So.), Deon Long (Jr.), Nigel King (So.)
TE – Dave Stinebaugh (Sr.)
LT – Mike Madaras (So.)
LG – De’Onte Arnett (Sr.)
C – Sal Conaboy (Jr.)
RG – Michael Dunn (Fr.)
RT – Ryan Doyle (So.)
Offensive Roundup: 3 Seniors, 2 Juniors, 6 Sophomores, 2 Freshmen
SDE – Quinton Jefferson (So.)
NT – Darius Kilgo (Jr.)
WDE – Keith Bowers (Jr.)
SLB – Marcus Whitfield (Sr.)
MLB – Cole Farrand (Jr.), L.A. Goree (Jr.)
WLB – Matt Robinson (Jr.)
CB – Dexter McDougle (Sr.), Jeremiah Johnson (Jr.), Isaac Goins (Sr.)
FS - Anthony Nixon (So.)
SS – Sean Davis (So.)
Defensive Roundup: 3 Seniors, 6 Juniors, 3 Sophomores, 0 Freshmen
K – Brad Craddock (So.)
P – Nathan Renfro (So.)
KR/PR – William Likely (Fr.)
Special Teams Roundup: 0 Seniors, 0 Juniors, 2 Sophomores, 1 Freshman
Total: 6 Seniors, 8 Juniors, 11 Sophomores, 3 Freshmen
Now, you’ll notice I was a bit more unforgiving as I could have been. I included Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson in the tally, even though they were both gone by the 3rd week of the season. As you can see, the majority of the starters on this year’s team are sophomores. Last season, a lot of those same players were starting games as freshmen (Ross, Reid, Diggs, Madaras, Nixon, Davis). It’s tough to win on the road, especially when your team is still so young. I have no doubts that next season’s team full of juniors will be better prepared when they go on the road.
I still think that Randy Edsall is the right coach for this Maryland football program. He has found two coordinators who work well with him and with the players, and his teams continue to get better and better every year both on the field and on the recruiting trail. I will have a recruiting roundup post up in the next few weeks, but the Terps are still very much in the mix for some extremely talented recruits. Before this season, many people were saying that, in order for him to keep his job, Randy Edsall would need to get this team to a bowl game. Well, even without his top two cornerbacks and wide receivers, he is one win away from that goal with 5 games to go.
With Stefon Diggs and Deon Long out for the season, the Terps will have to turn to a group of unproven, but still talented receivers to carry the load for the remainder of the year. Let’s take a look at who they are, where they came from, and how they’ll fit into Mike Locksley’s offense.
Amba Etta-Tawo - This speedy redshirt freshman from Georgia will be taking Deon Long’s spot on the field across from Stefon Diggs. He was a 3-star recruit out of Georgia in 2012, and has been clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. So far this season, he has 8 catches for 87 yards.
Levern Jacobs - The elder of the two Jacobs brothers on the Maryland roster will be taking Stefon Diggs’ spot in the slot for the rest of the season. He has gotten a decent amount of playing time already this season, and has 13 catches for 245 yards and a touchdown.
Malcolm Culmer - The only receiver spot that will be unchanged with the recent injuries will be co-occupied by Culmer and Nigel King, who have shared the spot all season long. Culmer is a redshirt freshman from New Jersey who wasn’t expected to start this season. Tyrek Cheeseboro was set to backup Nigel King before his injury, and King’s lingering injuries have forced Culmer into a starting job. He has 3 catches for 47 yards so far this season.
Nigel King - The other co-starter with Malcolm Culmer is sophomore Nigel King. He got a good amount of playing time last season after injuries to Kerry Boykins and Kevin Dorsey, and has proven to be a good red-zone target for Maryland quarterbacks. The 6-3 receiver has recorded 8 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown so far this season.