Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Maryland Football: Is it Too Soon to Panic?

My first instinct is to say no. However, I think that there might be legitimate reason for Terps fans to be worried that this year will be one of the worst in recent Maryland history. I say this not because they gave up 540+ yards to the Cal offense-- California looks like it might just be a top-tier team this year, so there's no shame in that (well maybe a little). Nor do I say this because I have so little faith in Chris Turner.

Rather, the reason to worry is the offensive line. Friedgen's squad entered the Cal game with two walk-ons manning the entire right side of the line, and it showed. Whenever the Terps had rhythm, the Cal defensive front was able to easily overwhelm the Terps line and waltz right into the sack. To make matters worse, arguably the best lineman the Terps have in left tackle Bruce Campbell suffered turf toe during the game. Now he will be replaced by redshirt freshman Paul Pinegar. The Terps' offensive tackles now have a combined playing time experience of one game. With this offensive line, how can Maryland expect to compete down the stretch? They should take care of their next two games, that's true. And Virginia and Duke should be wins (though nothing is certain, particularly against the University of Virginia). But aside from those four games, which others can Maryland legitimately be favored in? I'd be hard pressed to think of any.

So what does this come back to? Recruiting. For the past couple years, Ralph Friedgen and his staff have pursued running backs and wide receivers with immense vigor, and seem to have neglected the offensive line in the process. When Friedgen first arrived he commented on the dearth of talent on the offensive line (or at least lack of depth), and began rebuilding it to the point that Maryland had a consistently deep and talented line. Not elite, but Maryland was more than respectable up front. Despite this, he has let that problem come back. Maybe the staff have simply been unable to seal the deal on some top linemen, but I doubt that Maryland would have that much difficulty convincing a lineman to join the school considering the amount of skill position talent around. Misappropriation of recruiting time and resources is a severe problem, and now Maryland fans are going to see the results.

As always, I hope that I'm wrong. But based on how this offensive line is shaking out, I don't think I am.

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