Previewing Maryland-Miami


Image from pressboxonline.com.

It’s finally here. Gameday. Maryland-Miami. College Football Live Crew. Project 54K. The Beginning of the Edsall Era. However you want to phrase it, the wait is over.

At eight o’clock tonight, Maryland’s season will have finally started. Let’s run down the game, unit-by-unit, after the jump.

Maryland Passing Offense vs. Miami Passing Defense:

Let’s get the defensive players missing the game out of the way here. Starting defensive linemen Olivier Vernon, Adewale Ojomo and Marcus Forston, backup defensive linemen Curt Porter and Luther Robinson, starting linebackers Sean Spence and Kelvin Cain, backup linebacker Shayon Green, starting safety Ray-Ray Armstrong and backup cornerback Keion Payne will all miss the game either due to suspension or injury.

Last season, Miami had the eighth best passing defense in the country by S&P+ rank, and was third in passing yards allowed per game (with just over 150). Essentially, the Hurricanes’ past defense last season was outstanding. With five of their top defensive linemen and one of the best safeties and one of the best linebackers in the country missing out on the game, however, that is going to be a depleted defense Maryland is facing.

The Hurricanes still have two seniors starting at end in Marcus Robinson and Andrew Smith. Both were former part-time starters at one point in their career, and Robinson has been the far more successful of the two, with 20 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks in 35 games (11 starts).

Besides suspensions, Miami’s biggest issue can be found at cornerback. Three of their top four cornerbacks from last year graduated, leaving Brandon McGee and Wake Forest transfer Mike Williams as the only corners with real game-time experience. After that, a converted running back in Lee Chambers and a host of freshmen make up the corner depth.

At safety, even with Ray-Ray suspended, two returning starters will take the field with the Canes. JoJo Nicolas and Vaughn Telemaque return for Miami, and they are both good, but not great.

For Maryland, they of course return quarterback and reigning ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien and three returning starters on the offensive line in left guard Andrew Gonnella, center Bennett Fulper, and right tackle R.J. Dill. Rounding out the line are left tackle and hyped sophomore Max Garcia and walk-on right guard Josh Cary.

The Terps’ biggest concern comes at receiver, where they have no proven players. The two starters are Kevin Dorsey and Quintin McCree, with Ronnie Tyler, Kerry Boykins, Adrian Coxson, and a host of others available as well. There are talented options for Maryland, but none have a significant amount of in-game experience.

Maryland’s best option might in fact be Matt Furstenburg, the tight end. Because of the lack of proven options and due to the fact that the Hurricanes still have two returning starters at safety and some talent at end, Miami gets the advantage.

Maryland Rushing Offense vs. Miami Rushing Defense:

Even with all of those suspensions, Miami still has a monster up the middle in senior defensive tackle Micanor Regis. Regis had eight tackles for a loss and three sacks last season. With Spence out, the only returning starting linebacker is Ramon Buchanan (54 tackles, eight TFL last season).

The other two starting linebackers will be sophomore James Gaines and former blue-chip prospect Jordan Futch, neither of whom have had incredibly productive Miami careers (although Gaines has only played one season with the Canes). Last season, Miami’s rush defense was 19th in S&P+ ranking but 84th in rushing defense yardage.

For the Terps, Davin Meggett is the starting back, but without D.J. Adams as the short-yardage back, the running game takes a big blow. Freshmen Jeremiah Wilson and Justus Pickett will be asked to pick up a good amount of the slack, but most of the pressure will be on Meggett to succeed. Again, thanks to the suspensions, Maryland gets the advantage.

Miami Passing Offense vs. Maryland Passing Defense:

As many have pointed out, the suspension of quarterback Jacory Harris may actually help the Canes, but the loss of star receiver Travis Benjamin certainly does not. Stephen Morris, who will start tonight, got his first career win against Maryland last year, and arguably had a better year than Harris last year (although he too struggled with interceptions).

His main targets will be senior LaRon Byrd (441 yards, 10.8 per catch, 67% catch rate, 1 TD), a possession receiver, and Allen Hurns, who did not record a catch last season.

Maryland is breaking in two new ends in David Mackall and Isaiah Ross, but Mackall will be facing off against the notably slow-of-foot Joel Figueroa at left tackle, in for the suspended Seantrel Henderson. That matchup will be crucial for the success of either team.

In the secondary, Cameron Chism returns for yet another year as a starter, with Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson splitting time on the opposite side. Returning starter Trenton Hughes will come off the bench. At safety, Matt Robinson and Eric Franklin are both new starters who played well in reserve roles last season.

Like Maryland, Miami does not have much in terms of proven receiving options. Unlike Maryland, Miami has a quarterback with accuracy issues and a left tackle with many question marks. Maryland gets the advantage.

Miami Rushing Offense vs. Maryland Rushing Defense:

Last season, Miami’s rushing offense was better than their air game. Damien Berry, Lamar Miller and Mike James formed a potent three-headed combo that made them the third-best rushing attack in the conference. This year, both Miller and James return, with the addition of sophomore Maurice Hagens.

Thankfully for Miami, they’re not hit too hard on the offensive line. Left guard Harland Gunn, center Tyler Horn, and right tackle Brandon Washington all return as starters, as Figueroa at left tackle and Brandon Linder at right guard round out the line. However, the loss of Henderson hurts, and Maryland’s rush defense is quite strong.

Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis make up one of the best interior lines in the conference (and possibly the country), and the linebacking corps of Kenny Tate, Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford is very, very good. Because of that, Maryland gets the advantage again.

Final Prediction:

We’ve got a very good feeling about this one. Miami has had to deal with a lot over the past few weeks, and they’ve lost a lot of key contributors. They still have a solid offensive line, but they’ve lost their top receiver and their two best players on defense, not to mention their starting left tackle. Maryland has a lot to prove in their first game under Randy Edsall, but so does Miami under Al Golden. Even with the disparity in recruiting classes as of late, we honestly believe the team Maryland fields today is superior to the one Miami fields. Maryland wins, 31-20.

Follow this writer on Twitter @Pete_Volk.

Tags: Miamihurricanes Previews