Love it or hate it, it's Randy Edsall’s team now. The decision to let Ralph Freidgen go last season was definitely one that came with controversy. Freidgen was a Maryland guy, incredibly successful, and took Maryland to a seven bowl games in 10 seasons.
But what’s done is done, and there is no denying that Edsall is a guy that is perfectly capable of running a very successful program. In his first head coaching job, Edsall guided the UConn Huskies from Division I-AA to the big time and made them a perennial bowl team, making it to five in seven seasons with the Big East, including four-straight from 2007 to 2010.
Edsall is going to have a bigger challenge to success at Maryland than he had at UConn; the ACC is a far superior conference than the Big East but with many teams in the conference losing a lot of key players a championship is far from out of reach.
Maryland did lose several key players, including their top two wide receivers (Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon) and starting running back Da’Rel Scott. But all that means is the team is now in the hands of sophomore quarterback Danny O’Brien.
Last year as a redshirt freshman, O’Brien emerged as a top signal-caller, starting 10 of 13 games and throwing for 2,438 yards with 22 touchdowns while throwing only eight picks on his way to being named a freshman All-American.
In a year where many of the conference’s top quarterbacks are gone, like Tyrod Taylor, Christian Ponder, Russell Wilson, and T.J. Yates, 2011 could be the season that O’Brien breaks out and emerges as one of the best in the ACC.
O’Brien was very good under pressure last season, led the Terps to a bowl game victory, completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and had a 134.5 passer rating. Even if he doesn’t get any better and just stays the same, he should still be one of the ACC’s best. But as the year went on, O’Brien showed a lot of promise that he could lead the Terps to a championship or two, or maybe even three.
The backfield won’t have too much of a problem finding a replacement for Scott either. Scott started 13 games and rushed for 708 yards and five touchdowns but Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams are both returning and should make for a remarkable duo.
Meggett led the Terps with 720 yards on 126 carries last season, averaging an incredible 5.7 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Adams’ 11 touchdowns tied for second in the ACC last season. That duo has true thunder and lightning capability.
Coming into the season Meggett is a Doak Walker Award Candidate and a preseason All-ACC selection. Adams, whose 11 scores set a single-season school record for rushing touchdowns by a freshman, should move into a much bigger role after finishing his redshirt freshman campaign with 239 yards.
Making things even better the offensive line returns returns with a lot of experience. Senior Andrew Gonnella started all 13 games last season and is set to do so again at left guard while R.J. Dill is also coming into the season after starting all 13 games last season. Dill started 10 games at left tackle a year ago but is expected to shift over to right tackle, where he made three starts in 2010, this year. The reason for that move is because of the progression the super talented Max Garica has made. Garcia started only two games last season but at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds the sophomore has plenty of size to hold off pass rushers.
Garcia has wowed the coaches so far in spring and training camp after an opportunity was created when Justin Gilbert injured his knee. Gilbert is expected to miss over a month this season but could return by October.
Elsewhere on the offensive line, Bennett Fulper and Josh Cary may be the most inexperienced guys expected to start, but the sophomores should be up to the task. Fulper started seven games last season and has the ability to play all three positions on the interior offensive line while Cary made five appearances last season and has offensive tackle size to go with the quickness and agility needed at guard.
The only real question on offense is who O’Brien is going to throw to. Smith, the Terps’ big playmaker, left school early and was selected in the second round of the NFL draft. Smith was the Terps leader in all-puropse yards and really their only threat in the passing game, catching 67 passes for 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns. The next best receiver was Cannon, who caught 36 passes for only 324 yards and a single touchdown but he’s gone too, as is LaQuan Williams, who caught two touchdowns as a senior.
In order for O’Brien to develop into one of the conference’s top quarterbacks he’s going to need his receivers to step up. Right now it’s a position open to anybody but Quintin McCree, who finished third on the team last year with 16 catches for 188 yards and a score, Kevin Dorsey, who finished with 15 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and Ronnie Tyler, who had 13 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown, are going to be looked at early to fill in.
Freshman Adrian Coxson, who is eligible this season after transferring from Florida, is a tall, speedy receiver that could pop up and become a guy that could break open the offense too.
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