The University of Maryland Terrapins football team kicked off the 2012 season last Saturday with a 7-6 win over the Tribe of William & Mary. As we will do here at Terrapin Station MD after every Terrapins game, we will break down each position and give them a grade based on their performance. Now that we have had a few days to let last Saturday’s game sink in lets dive right into it. Without further ado let me present “Grading the Terrapins”.
Quarterback: Perry Hills certainly went through some growing pains in his first collegiate start last weekend. While there were positives that you could take away from his performance there were plenty of freshman mistakes that were made that left Terps fans scratching their heads. Completing two-thirds of his pass attempts is without a doubt something to build off of going into this weekend’s tilt with Temple. The three interceptions, two of which were the result of some terrible decisions by Hills, need to be addressed in a major way for the Terrapins to be competitive against other FBS and ACC programs. No one is asking Perry Hills to go out and do everything necessary for the Terrapins to win on Saturday, we just want him to take care of the football and move the chains.
Grade: A very generous C-
Running Back: The running back tandem of Justus Pickett and Albert Reid proved to be enough to get the job done in the Terrapins home opener. Pickett, this week’s starter, proved to be the most effective runner for the Terps totaling 45 yards and Maryland’s only touchdown on 11 carries. Perry Hills showed why he is a threat with his legs as well by amassing 20 yards rushing on five carries. It will be interesting to see how Coach Edsall delegates the number of carries this weekend against Temple; I would not be surprised to see Pickett get 20+ touches.
Wide Receiver: While Perry Hills was unable to connect with his wide outs on many big plays down the field against the Tribe last Saturday, there were some nice plays made by the skill position players on the outside. Marcus Leak had two of the Terps bigger plays of the day through the air grabbing receptions of 20 and 15 yards respectively. Highly touted freshman Stefon Diggs also registered three catches for a total of 30 yards in his Maryland debut. In a setting where there aren’t many plays being made down the field it is tough to really judge the performance of the wide receivers as a group, however, one thing that stood out was that there weren’t a high number of dropped balls. If the wideouts were able to get their hands on a pass more times than not it was being reeled in, that is without a doubt something to build off of moving forward.
Offensive Line: Saturday’s performance left a lot to be desired from the Maryland offensive line. Despite going up against a much smaller defensive front for William & Mary the Terrapins struggled to get much of a push against them all afternoon long and Perry Hills was under duress much more than I’m sure he and Coach Edsall would have liked. While this is a youthful group of starters the O-Line was a major concern coming out of preseason camp and the play in week one against a much lesser opponent proved that those worried were legitimate. This group needs to really grow and gel together fast or it will be a long season for Hills and the Maryland running backs.
Defensive Line: The defensive front seven shined the brightest among the Maryland roster against William & Mary. The front four in particular were impressive clogging up any and all holes the Tribe offensive line tried to open drastically hampering the W&M running game to the tune of 2.5 yards per carry. Standout Terrapin Joe Vellano had the type of performance fans are used to racking up 11 total tackles, two for a loss, and an interception. Perhaps the most important play made by the defensive front was the last one. Jeremiah Johnson busted through the Tribe O-Line and sacked W&M QB Raphael Ortiz forcing a fumble that was recovered by none other than the active ACC leader in tackles Demetrius Hartsfield, icing the victory for the Terps.
Linebackers: Demetrius Hartsfield and the rest of this unit showed up big for the Terrapins last Saturday, this should come as no surprise as they are without a doubt the most solid of any of Maryland’s position groupings. While Hartsfield and his 13 tackles and game sealing fumble recovery were the talk of the defense the rest of the group had stellar performances as well. Darin Drakeford had six tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a half a sack. Cole Farrand chipped in another six tackles including two for a loss and Alex Twine contributed with 5 tackles, four of which were unassisted. All in all this unit was one that the Terrapins can feel good about heading into this weekend’s battle with Temple.
Defensive Backs: It was a long, long, loooooong afternoon for the Terrapins secondary, specifically starting CB Dexter McDougle. If there was ever a performance that McDougle wished he could bottle up and get rid of forever it would have been last Saturday’s game against William & Mary. I am not one to pile on any player for a single game but the fact of the matter is McDougle is being depended on to solidify the back four for the Terps and if I am being honest he was the worst player in the secondary against the Tribe. Three pass interference calls, one of which was questionable, went against McDougle. He also blew two coverages for the Terps one resulting in a crucial first down conversion for W&M and the other luckily didn’t go for a touchdown. As he is the most crucial part of the secondary for the Terps defense we need for McDougle to bounce back in a major way against Temple this weekend or they could be in for yet another long day at the office this weekend.
Special Teams: Brad Craddock had a tough go of it kicking wise. None of his kickoffs reached the endzone despite the additional five yards of room kickers have been given this year. He also missed on a chip shot 25 yard field goal after the Terrapins had finally gotten enough momentum going on offense to drive the ball down the field. With the news that Nick Ferrara will be back this weekend Terps fans can hope for some better play out of their kicking game.
The punting game on the other hand was very solid. Nathan Renfroe averaged 53 yards per punt on his four attempts pinning the Tribe inside their 20 yard line once. It is never a good feeling when your punter had one of the better days of anyone on the team but by Renfroe allowing the Terrapins to win the field position battle Maryland was able to eventually overcome their early ineptitude on offense and be in a position to win the game with Pickett’s lone TD run.
Coaching: Mike Locksley’s play calling appears to be an early candidate for “Thing that will irritate me the most about the Terrapins football season”. While the argument can be made that the lack of execution was far more hampering than the play calling itself, there were many instances on Saturday where I was simply left scratching my head in the stands at Byrd Stadium.
Perry Hills attempted a total of 24 passes, yet of those 24 throws the Terps had double-digit “bubble screen” calls. While I agree that the bubble screen is a nice change of pace play to catch a secondary off guard, I fail to see how it can be successful if it is being called that regularly. Also, the sheer lack of times that the zone-read was called when it clearly is something that our starting QB is comfortable doing was confusing. We have been sold on the idea that Hills is a true dual-threat quarterback so, unless that package is not in the playbook all together, why not put Hills in a position where he could ultimately be successful?
Locksley was starting an all-freshman backfield with Hills and Albert Reid so I can understand how the game plan might have been more vanilla than normal in order to keep the play calling to things the newcomers could handle. However, going against a Temple team that looks to be the top collegiate program in the state of Pennsylvania (that was weird to type) the Terps will need to open things up a bit in order to have better success on offense.