For the upcoming Maryland football season, I will look at five things to watch for each week on the offensive end. Like anything else I write on this site, I am always open to discussion and ideas. As the season progresses, feel free to post any thoughts or comments you have on an upcoming opponent or Maryland.
Week one is finally upon us, and I know I am not the only person who is excited for the upcoming season. Maryland returns the most electrifying playmaker they have had in years in wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The sophomore wideout will be joined by JUCO transfer wideout, Deon Long, in what should be one of the best receiving corps in the conference. Running the show this year will be quarterback C.J. Brown. After a strong sophomore season, in which he surpassed ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien for the starting job, Brown went down with an ACL tear last August. He is back to 100 percent and ready to lead the Maryland offense.
What should we be watching for, heading into Week 1:
1) C.J. Brown – Coach Randy Edsall has made note of Brown’s progress since tearing his ACL in August 2012. There are still the questions about how Brown will react in his first game back. He has plenty of weapons on offense, and has worked with the staff for two years now, but there are still the mental hurdles of overcoming an injury. The Pennsylvania native is one of the few seniors starting this year, and is at arguably the most important position on the field. How does he react to the pressure of his role on the team? How will he react in the game to pressure from the other team? Does his injury worry him about scrambling out, or making cuts up field? Will he feel pressured or rushed with decision making, especially when running the hurry-up offense? These are all things to take note of as the game progresses. There will still be doubts, but it will be important to take note of how he handles his first game back. Hopefully for Brown’s sake, he comes out and leads Maryland down the field on a well orchestrated first drive. Nothing quells any doubt, and builds confidence, like moving the ball down the field and grabbing seven early points.
2) Brandon Ross Vs Albert Reid – Edsall released the depth chart, and sophomore Brandon Ross was listed as the number one running back, earlier this week. At media day, many reporters noted that Edsall, Ross, and Reid spoke about the two backs splitting carries. While this is great for both players confidence and development, the hope is that one of the two of them separates themselves as the primary ball carrier. As the season progresses, Maryland will need one of these two players to become the number one guy at running back. Maryland struggled to run the ball effectively last year, and part of it could be due to the youth of the backs, and the lack of primary running back. Holding on to leads late in games more often then not, comes down to running the ball effectively. I don’t think we will have an answer to the question on Saturday, but it is a storyline to follow this season.
3) The Offensive Line – The Maryland offense features many great weapons this year, but if C.J. Brown can’t stay upright, then the Terps will have difficulty taking advantage of all the weapons. In the recent scrimmage, Maryland’s backup quarterbacks faced pressure the entire day from the defense. The Terp’s defense isn’t among the conference’s best, which made it alarming to see how many sacks they were able to get. Sure, C.J. Brown, Deon Long, and Stefon Diggs, didn’t play in the scrimmage, but none the less, it’s an area of concern moving forward. Florida International doesn’t present Maryland with the toughest challenge of the year, but with two potential NFL players on their defensive line, Marylalines offensive line will be tested. We will learn a lot on Saturday about the unit as a whole.
4) Stefon Diggs – I can’t believe I made it this far without focusing on the sophomore wideout. For those who didn’t follow recruiting and high school football heavily, then Diggs came as a huge surprise last year. Before last season, I knew that Diggs was going to be a big part of the team, and how great it was to have a five-star player of his caliber. But I never expected Diggs’ freshman year to have so many highlight reel plays. Some players experience a sophomore slump, but Maryland fans might be in store for the opposite. Edsall has raved about Diggs’ work ethic since day one, and this summer was no different. On top of his work ethic, Diggs is just a tough player to game plan around. There are few players who can consistently make defenders miss. It was often last year, that Diggs was able to elude defenders in the middle of the field, and turn short yardage plays into huge gains. Once he got going last year, he put defenders on their back and fans at the edge of their seat. FIU’s secondary is thin and young, a combination that should make Diggs well worth the price of admission Saturday afternoon.
5) The Effects Of The Kicking Game On Decision Making – This is something we will track throughout the season. The struggles of Maryland’s placekicker Brad Craddock are well noted. After going 0-3 in the scrimmage a few weeks ago, I don’t think he gave himself and the fans much confidence heading into week one. Edsall can talk all he wants about the progress that Craddock has made, but at the end of the day, it will be interesting to see his decision making in-game. What will the coaching staff do, when facing fourth and two from the opponents 20 yard line? How about the 25? What about fourth and five or greater? This game hopefully won’t come down to the field goal, but once Maryland gets into ACC play, especially against teams like Syracuse, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest, a field goal could be the difference between gaining an edge over those teams, or dropping in the standings.
With FIU losing players daily to academic suspensions, and arrest, this week shouldn’t be overly difficult for the Terps. We wouldn’t get the answers to all of five of these questions, but they are the bigger ones to track. As the season progresses, Maryland will look to make a run to a bowl game or even the ACC championship and will need these areas figured out in order to do so.