23 Til Kickoff: Terps' Potential Breakout Candidates

It seems that every year, Maryland has one or two players that come out of nowhere to have fantastic seasons. Torrey Smith and Demetrius Hartsfield last year. Davin Meggett and Moise Fokou the year before that. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Kevin Barnes the year before that.

Okay, so maybe "nowhere" is generous. But regardless, Maryland - like almost every other team in the nation - always has a breakout player that stakes his claim to maybe being a star player. While no one can really predict who that will be, I do have a few guesses and names to watch.

Offense

D.J. Adams, RB: Why Adams entered Maryland's program, he was certainly celebrated as a highly-touted recruit. But he couldn't stand up to Caleb Porzel in terms of excitement; the shifty Porzel was seen as the next game-changing talent for Maryland. Adams would be the thunder to Porzel's lightning, play a supporting role, so to speak.

But now Porzel's gone, and it might've been Adams that fans should've been excited about the whole time. He was a star in spring ball, was arguably the best player in the spring game, and seriously emerged as a candidate for playing time. Entering practice this year, he's jumped Gary Douglas on the depth chart and moved into the #3 spot for running backs.

The two players ahead of him, Davin Meggett and Da'Rel Scott, are both coming off of poor seasons, and Friedgen showed that he wasn't afraid to use a quick hook on Scott after he fumbled several times. I'd be surprised if Adams doesn't get a shot to be a feature back, even if only in reserve, and he looks like he might seize that chance. Even he doesn't get that chance, he'll be a touchdown vulture and goal-line back, ensuring an early start to stat-padding.

A big, strong back standing at 5-10, 220, he'd provide a physicality that is lacking from the speedy Scott and diminutive Meggett. In fact, Maryland's lacked a back like him since Lance Ball.

Ronnie Tyler, WR: There's not a lot of balls to go around for Maryland's wide receivers. Not only is there one of the most talented wide receivers and the most explosive player on the team, Torrey Smith, but Adrian Cannon, an experienced, consistent senior, also calls WR home. With an inexperienced QB, there figures to only be so many catches available.

But don't be surprised to see Tyler to grab an increasingly large share of them. Maryland's resident slot receiver and only a junior, Tyler has been on the scene since his redshirt freshman year, which consisted of a bevy of ridiculous grabs. Last year, when he took on a larger role, his flaws became more evident: occasionally poor route running, plays taken off, and - most damning of all - dropped passes that were supposed to be easy. As a result, he only snagged 28 catches and 1 TD; that's just eight more catches and the same number of TDs, despite holding an exponentially larger role in the offense.

According to Ralph, though, the nuances of being a starting receiver have started to click. If practice is to believed, his routes have improved and he's not as inconsistent mentally. If that's true, few receivers in the ACC - and perhaps one on Maryland - can match Tyler in terms of skill level. If he only grabs the easy ones, there's no reason not to throw to him when he catch ones like these, too.

Will Yeatman, TE: Out of all the interesting storylines on Maryland's team, Will Yeatman has one of the most interesting. A Californian lacrosse player that was originally at Notre Dame...suffice it to say he's a tad unusual.

Yeatman was both a star lacrosse player and a star tight end in high school, and Maryland was one of several schools to recruit him on the first go-around. He was just a three-star TE, but had plenty of high-major offers, and ended up at Notre Dame. He saw playing time as a true freshman and started three games as a sophomore, but decided to give up football to play lacrosse full-time.

Shortly after making that decision, he transferred to Maryland, where he was eligible to play lacrosse immediately but had to sit out a season for football. After being non-committal about football, he joined the team over the summer, and he'll have one season of eligibility left.

Obviously, Yeatman has a lot of work to do. He's, for all intents and purposes, a redshirt senior, and hasn't played football since his true sophomore year. He's very rusty and still needs to learn the offense. That said, he was good enough to get serious playing time at Notre Dame as a true freshman, has stayed fit, and comes into an offense that's not afraid to use two tight ends.

And while there's some talent at Maryland's tight end spots, neither Devonte Campbell nor Lansford Watson have done enough to lock down a spot. And that means that he's got a chance to work his way up the depth chart and into some playing time. No TE has better size or, arguably, athletic ability.

He won't be able to go until around the 4th game against Florida International thanks to his new injury, but once he gets back he'll have 8 games to make his presence felt.

Defense

Drew Gloster, DE: In some ways, Gloster is the Yeatman of the defense. Originally a highly-recruited TE from powerhouse Good Counsel, Gloster chose Maryland at the height of its recruiting power: he turned down offers from Georgia, Miami, Penn State, Oklahoma, and Virginia Tech. After redshirting his first year, he saw very little time as a reserve TE in his redshirt freshman season.

Gloster seemed to be primed for a larger role his sophomore season before being ruled ineligible at the start of the season. That threw a wrench in the plans of Gloster's progression, and he ended up switching to linebacker for his junior year. He saw time only as a reserve, and notched just six tackles.

So he made another position switch, along the lines of Don Brown's Miami-esque, speed-dominated defense: defensive end. Moving players down a position - linebackers to end, end to tackle, safety to linebacker - seems to be Brown's MO, because he's already done it on multiple occasions with DeOnte Arnett, Masengo Kabongo, and Gloster himself. The point? To get the most athletic players into the positions where they can wreak the most havoc.

Though Gloster stands at just 6-2, 255, he's an athletic freak and surprisingly strong, which makes him perfect for Brown's scheme. He says he finally feels at home and is ready to contribute immediately. Now the fifth-year senior has a real chance to - finally - start. He's currently listed as the starter ahead of last year's starter, Derek Drummond.

No one really knows what Gloster is capable of. All we know is that he's athletic, very fast, and very strong. He's experienced and knows the routine. I have no idea what type of season to expect from him, but with his athleticism and how quickly he moved up the depth chart, I have no doubt he's entirely capable of being a pass-rushing force.

Joe Vellano, DT: Vellano's the closest thing to a no-brainer on this list. A lightly-recruited lineman from New York and son of former Terp (and All-American) Paul Vellano, Joe took an unassuming route to where he stands now. After signing, he greyshirted, the ultimate indication of coaching staff indifference; then he redshirted; then he broke his foot and missed the first six games of the season. He finally saw a little bit of playing time toward the end of the year, but Maryland burnt a lot of redshirts on the line and intended to get them some playing time.

But Vellano, who was somewhat buried on the depth chart, wouldn't go away. Despite his lack of track record and middling athleticism, he made a name for himself in spring practice as a quick-off-the-snap defensive tackle who played harder than everyone else and was always around the ball. To put it simply, those types of guys can only be good.

And so Vellano became a coaches' - and media - darling. He was a one-man wrecking crew and the most impressive player of the spring; it was unsurprising to see him atop the defensive tackle depth chart next to A.J. Francis in the preseason depth chart.

No one knows how much of Vellano's success can be attributed to a poor offensive line or just fluky play. But any gritty, quick linemen that play to the whistle will be successful, especially in an defense where they're surrounded by athletes and speed.

Kenny Tate, S: A lot of names came up for this final spot, including Cameron Chism, Dexter McDougle, Demetrius Hartsfield, and, above all, Travis Hawkins, but I ended up settling on the dynamic, if inconsistent, Tate.

No one's ever denied that Tate has ridiculous talent and physical gifts. Originally a WR at DeMatha with offers from Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State, Tate ended up surprising most by picking Maryland. But instead of playing at the crowded WR position, as originally planned, he switched over to safety, which was in dire need of players.

At first, safety seemed a logical position for Tate. He's surprisingly strong, ridiculously fast for his size, and packs a ridiculous punch when he hits. But there were some minor concerns about his ability to adapt to the position after being recruited by every team as a wide receiver.

He saw a little bit of playing time his freshman year, and moving back to wide receiver was considered but turned down. After a sensational spring, he was singled out as a future star of the defense going into his sophomore year. But an early injury suffered by Jamari McCollough moved Tate out of his original position - a linebacker/safety hybrid that consisted of him wreaking havoc - and back to the more traditional strong safety spot.

Unfortunately, that showcased his weaknesses in reactions, instincts, and pass coverage more than his athletic strengths. And even though he had some high moments after McCollough returned - crushing Kyle Parker, anyone? - he wasn't really the same.

That set off some doubting of Tate, and an unavoidable reaction that he failed to live up to Ralph's extraordinary expectations.

But with another year under his belt, no one in front of him, and more knowledge on Don Brown's defense, it's finally Tate's time to shine (or, if he can't, find a new position on defense). Something tells me that, now that the hype has died down and Tate has been a full-time safety for two seasons, he just might do it.

*Bonus: Travis Hawkins, S: Hawkins will be the third safety and potentially nickel back this year in the secondary. It might be a year too early for him to really be considered a breakout star, but keep your eye on him regardless. I have a feeling he'll come up with a few  big plays and fans will be more than comfortable having him as a starter next year. 

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