COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2011 PRESEASON TOP 25
ACC Atlantic PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Randy Edsall, 2-10 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Locksley | DEF. COORDINATOR: Brian Stewart
Randy Edsall looks to start over again in second season at Maryland with two new coordinators.
Coach Randy Edsall has only one experienced quarterback, C.J. Brown, after the face of the team, Danny O’Brien, took his diploma and bolted for greener pastures at Wisconsin. Not as talented a passer as O’Brien, Brown is a better runner. The junior saw action in 10 games, starting five, and rushed for 574 yards, the single-season school record for a quarterback.
Running back Justus Pickett is intent on being more aggressive, but the sophomore faces competition from stockier Brandon Ross, a redshirt freshman, and touted freshmen Wes Brown, a pass-catching threat, and shifty Albert Reid.
The receiving corps includes capable senior leaders Kevin Dorsey, who led the team in receptions, and Kerry Boykins, a third down weapon. And returning two-year starter Matt Furstenburg makes tight end a strength. But the X-factor is how quickly true freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the school’s first 5-star recruit in five years, is able to make an impact.
The line showed signs of progress last season only to see two starting tackles transfer. That left only two returning starters — Bennett Fulper and Josh Cary — and plenty of questions.
A defense that allowed more than 34 points per game returns seven starters, but players must adapt to an attacking 3-4 scheme installed by new coordinator Brian Stewart, a former coordinator with the University of Houston and the Dallas Cowboys.
Second-team All-American Joe Vellano, who led the FBS in tackles by a lineman (7.8 per game), could dominate in an end slot. Maryland has two promising ends in Keith Bowers, a Freshman All-ACC performer, and Andre Monroe, a Freshman All-American who, despite being undersized, collected a team-high five sacks in nine games. And with Isaiah Ross back from injury, depth is no issue.
Among the only positives that emerged from the defense’s injury-ravaged season were that a slew of freshmen saw significant action and linebacker Kenny Tate was granted a medical redshirt to return for a final season following a knee injury. A converted safety, Tate has the speed to play in the backfield and the size to play linebacker. How Stewart uses his most versatile, disruptive player looms as one of the most intriguing questions.
The secondary will be better off with safety Matt Robinson back on the field after he suffered an early-season shoulder injury.
Of all of Maryland’s disappointments, special teams ranked at the top. Nick Ferrara, a 2009 Freshman All-American, took the offseason to recover from a hip injury that hampered his 2011 performance. It remains to be seen if Ferrara, who ranks ninth in school history in made field goals, will handle all three kicking roles again. Putting Diggs back on kickoffs is one option in the return game, which needs to improve significantly.
Edsall spent the offseason trying to wash away memories of one of the worst first seasons of any college coach in recent memory. His decision to replace both coordinators was met with applause from a frustrated fan base. He brought a familiar face back to College Park in offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who installed a pro-style offense and helped Edsall haul in a sterling recruiting class. And Maryland attempted to recast Edsall’s image amid the steady stream of negative media.
Now comes the hardest part: winning. Edsall likely will need to lean on promising freshman playmakers to navigate a daunting schedule and win back the fan base during a critical second season.