2010 Football Season Outlook - Part I
Aug. 8, 2010
The following is the first in a three-part series previewing the 2010 Maryland football team. The Terrapins, who return 52 letterwinners from last year, open fall practice on Tuesday in preparation for their season opener on Monday, Sept. 6 (4 p.m.) vs. Navy in Baltimore.
Today's portion of the season preview takes an overall look at the team before focusing on special teams.
Outlook Schedule on umterps.com: Offense Monday, Aug. 9 Defense Tuesday, Aug. 10
Overall Season OutlookThe Maryland Terrapins hope the misfortune of last season which featured a number of heartbreaking losses and injuries to key players will help fuel a resurgence in 2010.
"We've got a lot of good kids who are tired of losing," said head coach Ralph Friedgen, who is entering his 10th season in College Park.
Last season was not the norm for the Terps. Friedgen, the fourth-winningest coach in school history, has taken Maryland to six bowls in his tenure, including three straight trips prior to last season.
Maryland hopes the return of a number of key performers from last season will help it battle for the ACC Atlantic Division crown and reach postseason play again.
The Terrapins return 52 letterwinners, including 12 offensive and defensive starters, all four special teams performers and eight players who have earned all-conference and/or All-America honors.
The Terps had just 14 seniors on last season's squad so a number of youngsters were thrust into action. In fact, 24 freshmen got on the field, including 10 true freshmen.
Even though the Terps have just 16 seniors on this season's roster, the experience earned by the younger players last season should pay dividends in 2010.
Smith and Scott have a solid pedigree as All-ACC performers. Smith was a second-team choice as a receiver and return specialist last season, and Scott was a first teamer in 2008 when he rushed for 1,133 yards, the seventh-highest total in school history.
Smith did everything for the Terps last season, leading them in receptions (61), receiving yards (824), touchdown catches (5) and kick returns (51 for 1,309). He also returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns. Smith ranked sixth nationally in all-purpose yards (182.7 per game) and his season total of 2,192 ranks second in ACC history.
Senior wide receiver Adrian Cannon is also back, along with a host of talented backups. He had a breakout 2009 campaign, posting career highs in receptions (41), receiving yards (468) and TDs (4).
The offensive line, which gradually improved last season, will be a key to the Terps' success.
"We need to be more consistent in the running game and passing game," Friedgen said. "I thought our pass protection improved quite a bit in the spring."
The Terps will have to replace three-year starting quarterback Chris Turner, though they will do so with a more mobile signal-caller.
Junior Jamarr Robinson had a pair of starts in place of an injured Turner in 2009 and will enter the preseason atop the depth chart.
Robinson has demonstrated his elusiveness. He ended up being the third-leading ground gainer for the Terps last season.
He also did not throw an interception. The Terps were snakebit by turnovers last year and realize that's another key to success.
"The No. 1 thing we have to do is hold onto the ball," Friedgen said. "We can't turn it over like we did early last year."
Robinson's shiftiness or that of one of the other quarterbacks should assist the offensive line.
"We need to give up fewer sacks and with more mobility at quarterback that should help," Friedgen said.
As well as putting more points on the board, Friedgen is hoping for improvement from the defense under second-year coordinator Don Brown, who employs an attacking style.
"We need to eliminate big plays," Friedgen said. "That's what really hurt us last year. I'd like to see more turnovers and see us pursue the ball better. If we do the latter, we'll get more turnovers and give up fewer big plays."
A two-time All-ACC performer, senior linebacker Alex Wujciak headlines a defense which returns eight of its top 10 tacklers from last season. Wujciak tallied 131 tackles in 2009, ranking eighth nationally in that category (10.9 per game).
Adrian Moten, one of four team captains as a junior last season, has been a playmaker throughout his career. He led the team in tackles for loss (9.0) and sacks (6.0) last year.
Demetrius Hartsfield had a solid season as well, earning freshman All-ACC honors from his linebacker spot.
A.J. Francis, a 2009 freshman All-America choice, is the lone returning starter on the line, but nine other letterwinners are back up front.
Special teams should be a strength with all the top performers back.
Tony Logan is back as the No. 1 punt returner as is long snapper Tim Downs. The coaching staff, which remained intact for the second straight year, began grooming the roster in the spring and that process continues on Aug. 10 when preseason practice opens in preparation for the season opener against Navy (Sept. 6).
"The first game is important for us," Friedgen said. "The talent is here, we just need to gain some confidence."
Team and Individual Notes: The Terrapins return nearly 75 percent of the offensive and defensive two-deep from the end of 2009. There are 17 of 22 offensive players back and 15 of 22 defenders. In addition, all six special teams starters (KR, PR, PK, P, LS, H) are back in the fall.
The Terps have 26 offensive and defensive players on the current roster who have started at least once in their career.
Maryland played 24 freshmen (10 true/14 redshirts) last season, which was the most during Ralph Friedgen's first nine seasons. The Terps played 20 freshmen in both the 2001 and 2004 seasons.
The 52 returning letterwinners are the second most in Friedgen's tenure. Entering 2003, Maryland had 55 letterwinners back from the previous year.
Despite the large number of returning letterwinners this season, the preseason two-deep features just nine seniors on offense (4) and defense (5).
Not only does the defense return eight of its top 10 tacklers from last year, but also three of its top four sack producers and its top two interception leaders. Alex Wujciak was the second-leading tackler in the ACC last season, Adrian Moten's team-high six sacks in 2009 rank third among returning players in the league and only five returning players in the ACC had more interceptions than Cameron Chism (4) last season.
There are six bowl teams from last year which appear on the Terps' 2010 schedule: Navy (Texas Bowl), West Virginia (Konica Minolta Gator Bowl), Clemson (Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl), Boston College (Emerald Bowl), Miami (Champs Sports Bowl), and Florida State (Konica Minolta Gator Bowl).
Despite the 2-10 finish last year, Maryland was in nearly every game to the last possession. In seven of the losses, the Terps were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. They lost four games by four points or less and the last two by a combined five points. In the loss to Florida State on Nov. 21, Maryland took the lead twice in the final quarter vs the Seminoles, only to lose on a touchdown with 32 seconds left.
Maryland struggled in the turnover department overall in 2009, but improved during the latter half of the year. The Terps were tied for 97th in the nation in turnover margin (-0.55 per game), but were +7.0 over the last five games. The defense forced 10 turnovers in the last five games (also one on special teams vs. NC State) after inducing seven in the first seven contests.
Alex Wujciak is averaging 10.6 tackles per game in his career, which ranks first nationally among active players. Wujciak is one of only two players in the nation (also Nick Bellore, CMU) to post 130 or more tackles each of the last two seasons.
Torrey Smith has a school-record three career kickoff returns for touchdowns. T.J. Graham of NC State (2) is the only other active ACC player with more than one.
Maryland has not had a punt blocked in the last 123 games (third game of the 1999 season), the longest streak in the nation.
The Terps had 31 players active in the NFL at the end of the 2009 season. That mark ranked third among ACC schools, trailing just Miami and Florida State. Bruce Campbell (Oakland) and Nolan Carroll (Miami) were selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, while Phil Costa (Dallas), Travis Ivey (Miami), Cory Jackson (San Diego) and Terrell Skinner (Minnesota) signed free-agent deals. The Terps have had 22 players drafted during Ralph Friedgen's tenure as head coach. There have also been 51 players either drafted or signed as free agents over the last six seasons.
Ralph Friedgen enters the season as the 19th-winningest coach (by percentage) in ACC history. He has a record of 66-46 (.589) in nine seasons.
James Franklin was named the eventual successor to Friedgen in February, 2009. Franklin, 38, has spent the better part of this decade on the Maryland staff. He served as the wide receivers coach from 2000 to 2004, which spanned Friedgen's first four seasons. During that time, Franklin established himself as one of the nation's top recruiters. Rivals.com ranked Franklin as one of the nation's top 25 recruiters for two of those first four years and tapped him again last season.
Don Brown is in his second year as defensive coordinator. Brown served as head coach of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst the previous five years which included a trip to the 2006 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) title game. During his tenure, UMass maintained one of the top defensive units in the nation. The Minutemen finished among the top 20 in total defense in three of his five seasons (third in 2005; 20th in 2006; 14th in 2007).
The Terps have a full complement of special teams performers back from last season, including three who have earned postseason accolades.
"We should be better on special teams," Friedgen said. "We have kickers, returners and snappers back, plus we have a lot of linebacker types who can run."
Junior Torrey Smith demonstrated he was one of the top kickoff return men in the nation last season by snapping the ACC single-season return yards mark and returning two for touchdowns.
Smith holds the Maryland career kickoff return yards record and is third in league history. He earned second team All-ACC honors as a returner last season.
Maryland also has one of the best kicking tandems in the league.
Senior Travis Baltz was a first team All-ACC punter in 2008 before suffering through an injury-plagued 2009. Baltz, one of nine punters on the preseason watch list for the 2009 Ray Guy Award, should again vie for postseason honors.
His career average of 40.9 yards per punt ranks fifth in school history.
He's complemented by sophomore Nick Ferrara, who filled a vital role last season.
Ferrara earned freshman All-America honors at place-kicker after ranking fourth in the ACC in field goals made (1.50 per game).
But he also subbed for Baltz during his five-game injury absence and averaged 39.8 yards per punt.
Ferrara hit on 72 percent of his field goals last season, a mark that ranks seventh on the Maryland career list.
Ferrara will be backed up by Baltz, who has not attempted a field goal while at Maryland, but served as the No. 2 place-kicker in 2007.
Senior Ted Townsley is the No. 2 punter on the depth chart. Townsley saw his first-career action last season. Ferrara could also see action as the punter again this season.
Tim Downs was steady in his first season as the long snapper, keeping his name off the stat sheet. He helped continue Maryland's streak of 123 games without a punt being blocked, the longest streak in the country.
Greg Parcher, who redshirted last season, enters the fall as Downs' backup.
Junior Tony Logan will get first crack as the No. 1 punt returner.
The shifty Logan was injured early last season, so the punt return unit took a while to get going. He did set up the winning score against Clemson with a 43-yard return.
Despite the success last season, Friedgen is hoping for improvement in all phases of special teams.
"Torrey had a couple of big returns, but we weren't as consistent as we wanted to be," Friedgen said. "We'll try to do a better job at blocking so our returners can get going. We can make the first guy miss but we need to have the other guys covered."