Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pregame Thoughts: MD-Delaware

Before we take on some notes for today's season opener for the Maryland Terrapins, there is an important announcement:

Our very own Falco of Around the Harbor will be a sideline reporter for the ESPN broadcast of MD-Delaware today at 3:45.
Tune in to see the Terps kick off and one of our own to make his ESPN debut! Knock em dead, Falco!

And now onto the game; certainly not a marquee matchup, but like all season openers there are a number of questions that we'll be looking to start to answer. In particular this Maryland season more than any in recent memory has a number of unknowns. There's a new offensive coordinator, questions at quarterback, turnover on defense, a raw offensive line, a new stable of running backs; how this team comes together will make the difference from the Terps struggling for a mediocre bowl or making a run at the ACC crown.

In that spirit, here's what to watch for in today's game:
1. Will this be a new Jordan Steffy? Jordan Steffy's season last year, prior to injury, was marked by an inability to make the big play. He would repeatedly check down and fail to take advantage of the deep threats in the receiving corps. With Heyward-Bey anchoring the wide receiver corps flanked by some star freshmen, Steffy has the weapons to make the big play. If the Terps are to make a run, he'll have to be able to take advantage of that, and certainly he must be capable of executing against an inferior Delaware defense.

2. Can the young offensive line come together as a unit? The Terps offensive line is marked by inexperience save for the senior Edwin Williams. Friedgen has expressed some concern with the lack of consistency blocking for the new young running backs in Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett. If this line cannot consistently open up holes for these backs against Delaware it could be cause for significant concern for the Terps in the future. These backs have explosive ability, and the potential to surpass the production of departing seniors Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore.

3. How will the defense react to the loss of Erin Henderson? In Erin Henderson's departure the Terps both lost a tremendous linebacker and a leader of the defense. Who fills that void in leadership on and off the field could dictate what sort of unit the Terps bring to the table. Historically the Terrapins have suffered from a lack of overall speed in the linebacking corps outside of a few notable stars, so it will be important to see how quickly the front seven can swarm to the ball this afternoon. Other important defensive issues include (1) Kenny Tate's transition to safety, (2) the performance of heralded free safety transfer Antwine Perez, and (3) whether or not the Terps can develop a consistent pass rush which has been lacking in recent seasons.

4. How will the players adjust to Franklin's new offense? James Franklin comes back to College Park, taking over as offensive coordinator for the Terrapins. His west coast offfense heavily utilizes the crossing routes and getting the tight end out in space. Franklin is aggressive and is looking to utilize his exceptional talent at the skill positions. So far reports have been good regarding Steffy's knowledge of the offense, but whenever the offensive system changes from one season to the next there are questions of adjustment. College Park fans will be looking for a reinvigorated offense which, by many accounts, underachieved last season.

This Maryland team is filled with unknowns from quarterback on down, which has made projecting this season a near impossibility. Hopefully this game can shed some light on what sort of team Maryland fans will be watching this season.

Game projection: 34-14 Terrapins -- Go Terps!

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