Progress Report: Maryland Terrapins 1/3 Through Season


Celebrate good times. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

We’re about a third of the way through the college football season, which means it’s progress report time for the Maryland Terrapins.No, this isn’t high school anymore. Your parents aren’t going to unplug your Xbox and (if you’re an older reader) your teachers won’t rap your knuckles with a ruler ’till they’re hot white. But it’s time to get a gauge on how these Terps have done so far before we move onto the second leg of the season.

For our scale, we’ll be grading on the Miley Cyrus twerk scale, one through five. If it’s really “twerking” out for the team, they’ll get five Miley’s. If not, they’ll just be getting one.

Overall Record: 4-0-0

Biggest win: 37-0 vs West Virginia Mountaineers

Closest Game: 32-21 at Connecticut

Next Four Games:

October 5th @ Florida State

October 12th vs Virginia

October 19th @ Wake Forest

October 26th vs Clemson

The Defense: No need to tweak, because it just twerks

Miley Scale of Twerk:

Key statistics:

1st nationally in sacks + sack yards per game: 4.25/game

3rd nationally in tackles for loss: 35.0

5th nationally in interceptions: 8 INTs

7th nationally in fumbles forced: 6

9th nationally in total defense: 263.8 YPG

9th nationally in scoring defense: 10.3 points against/game

It’s one thing to say that a team has been dominant in one aspect of the defensive game; some teams are prolific on defense through pass rush, others are great at forcing turnovers. It’s an entirely different matter to say that a defense has been pummeling opponents in all those categories. Enter the Maryland Terrapins 2013 defense.

It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific player on the defense that has been phenomenal, because as a unit they have been nearly flawless thus far. But even when you watch the team, it’s apparent where their real strength lies: the defensive line. Marcus Whitfield and Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil are both in the top twenty in sacks, and the two combined are what have allowed this defense to be so prolific.

No quarterback the Terps have faced thus far has had an easy go of things in the pocket. Or out of the pocket. Or even on the sidelines, where they’ve been hanging out a lot because they certainly aren’t on the field for long. The pass rush has forced quarterbacks into incredibly uncomfortable positions. Whitfield and Yannick are both lightning bolts off the snap, and unless your offensive line is veteran, they’re likely to be porous against these two athletes. Meanwhile, Darius Kilgo fits the same mold, as he is more than capable of relieving double-teams by using his God-given talents to rush the ball.

Even running backs have struggled. With such great line penetration, Maryland has been taking down backs before they even get past the line of scrimmage. When they finally do get through a hole, it’s only a matter of time before they get taken down (around two yards later, statistically). The defensive front line has given Maryland the flexibility to employ numerous packages without having to sacrifice another man up front to ensure line penetration.

Even after suffering injuries to two of their best corners (Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson), Maryland has had no issues bouncing back from that because of the sheer depth on defense. A.J. Hendy is starting to look like he could easily be a starter for years to come, and freshman phenom Will Likely will likely go down as one of the better Terps on defense.

Bottom line, the defense wasn’t supposed to be this good after all their losses, but defensive coordinator Brian Stewart is clearly working magic with the team, and it’s paying dividends thus far.

The Offense: Problems are lurking, but otherwise? Twerking.

Miley Scale of Twerk:

Key Statistics

1st + 26th nationally in field goals attempted and made %: 11 attempts, 90% made

1st nationally in plays of 20 or more yards: 35

3rd nationally in rushing plays of 10+ yards: 38

5th nationally in long scrimmage plays (plays of 10 or more yards): 79

21st nationally in total offense: 498.5 yards/game

43rd nationally in first downs per game: 23.0

67th nationally in third down conversions: 40%

Before the season began everyone knew this offense would be pretty good (Stefon Diggs with most any quarterback will do that automatically). Not everyone knew they were going to be a Mentos and Coke explosion the likes of which would make Chip Kelly a proud man. Maryland’s switch to the zone read offense has gone, well, incredibly well. There are no adjectives that can describe how well this transition has gone for the Terps.

When we say that an offense is explosive, it was tough to quantify years ago. But now that everything is well documented, it’s gotten a lot easier to do. The Terps are (as mentioned above) first nationally in plays of twenty or more yards. In every long yardage statistic you want to throw at this Maryland offense, they class in the upper echelon along with Oregon, Baylor, Ohio State, and Texas Tech. Who were some of the teams in the top ten in that stat last year? Baylor, Oklahoma (Landy Jones edition), Florida State, Oregon (Chip Kelly again), Georgia, and even Texas A&M. Wow.

Yes, through four games Maryland’s offense is in great shape, and a ton of that credit goes to both the offensive line and QB1 C.J. Brown. The schedule that gifted Maryland win numerous Dunkin Donuts cream-filled pastries for the first two games has allowed Brown to shake off any rust he may have had after missing all of last season. How good has he been? He’s 16th nationally in total offense at 331.5 yards per game. He’s also ninth in scoring touchdowns (with nine), and is the only quarterback in the top ten.

And yet, the offensive line (supposedly a weakness) has been elite enough, sacrificing only 5 sacks per game, good for 44th nationally. It should be noted that they’re tied with a plethora of other elite teams in that area. Despite somewhat complex blocking schemes that come along with the zone read offense, the line has gelled in a short amount of time. As a result, Brown has more time to let plays develop, hence the explosive factor in Maryland’s offense.

Everyone knows how good Diggs and Deon Long have been, and we’ll get into them later, but not everyone has been throwing appreciation at Brandon Ross. The redshirt sophomore most definitely has his flaws (he isn’t the most patient back), but his solid play has allowed Maryland to have a multifaceted attack. His five yards per carry ensures that the Terps aren’t sacrificing much explosiveness by running the ball, either. He looks like a different back from last year, and one that appears more patient hitting the line. It’s apparent that he benefits greatly from the zone read and C.J. Brown’s ability to open up space for him thanks to misdirection.

What prevents them from five Miley heads? Well, they settle for field goals more than any of the other high octane offenses listed and their third down percentage could still be higher. These are two areas which, mark these words, could come back to haunt the Terps. The biggest weird statistic that determines how good a team can truly be is how little they settle for field goals. The truly great teams almost never settle; they punch the ball in, and convert their third downs. Do that in the second half of the season, and they’ll get five twerks.

Special Teams: They’ve been twerking hard lately

Miley Scale of Twerk:

Key Statistics:

1st nationally in long kick return plays: 5 kick returns of 30 or more yards

22nd nationally in kick return average: 26.33 yards per return

1st + 26th nationally in field goals attempted and made %: 11 attempts, 90% made

Not much more needs to be said here other than Brad Craddock has followed the transformation that most kickers in their second year as a starter do (I graphed it earlier this year). That progression has allowed Maryland to thrive and not express concern over whether a thirty-yarder will sail wide of the Gossett Field House.

And Craddock has gotten a lot of work, too, since the offense hasn’t been extremely prolific at putting in touchdowns. He has still missed an extra point and a field goal, so I’ll be deducting points from him for that. But make no mistake about it: the kicking game has been a major strength for this team

On the kick returning side of things, there’s a noticeable drop off from last year, as Stefon Diggs is returning fewer and fewer kicks. While that’s unfortunate, it doesn’t mean all is lost. William Likely and Diggs have both allowed the Terps to remain in the top 25 in return yards, which means they are still doing great things.

Top Performers

Stefon Diggs:

C.J. Brown:

Deon Long:

Will Likely:

Albert Reid:

———— Part II, which discusses what needs tweaking, will come later this week.