Let's hope for no more of this. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Maryland is 2-0. Improbably, implausibly - hell, close to impossibly - a team that took dozens and dozens of hits over the offseason has somehow already matched their win total from last year. The fact that they've been doing it with a true freshman quarterback is notable (and two true freshman running backs in the rotation), but one aspect has been partially overlooked - a true freshman strong safety.
As Ben said earlier today, Sean Davis has been mostly serviceable in his two games as a starter, but he was badly fooled on a play-action in the Temple game that resulted in a touchdown. A freshman mistake, and one he will learn from, but a mistake that cost the Terps seven points.
Throughout this little "winning streak", two problems have remained constant for Maryland - a ton of turnovers and a terrible secondary. Thankfully, one of those two appears to be getting better, as Matt Robinson and Isaac Goins will be back (or in the case of Goins, ready to make his debut) for this weekend's contest against Connecticut. More could be on the way, as we await news on A.J. Hendy and Kenny Tate, but these two returns are huge.
The stats don't exactly tell the story - Maryland is actually third in the conference in passing defense, giving up 151.5 yards per game. The Terps have been fine in general against the pass, there have just been a number of mistakes in each of the first few games that were either extremely costly or could have been (see the William & Mary game, where a dropped pass on the way to the end zone could have been the difference in the game).
The problem stems from a lack of depth and experience - a problem that still exists but is mitigated by these two returns. Without Robinson and Goins, Maryland had Davis starting, former walk-on Clarence Claiborne as a back-up at strong safety, and Makinton Dorleant on the two-deep. Now, the Terps have a solid starting duo at safety in Robinson and Franklin with three reliable options at corner (assuming Dexter McDougle continues to get his game back together).
The problem still isn't completely gone - all four back-ups on the two-deep are newcomers, including three true freshmen - but there's less of a reliance on unproven young players like Davis and Anthony Nixon, who were both exposed against the Owls.
Robinson's obviously the bigger return, and Maryland fans should be familiar with his background. A lightly recruited tight end-ish athlete out of Atholton, the Terps were the only FBS program to offer him a scholarship - and many thought that was only because he played for Maryland alum Kyle Schmitt and alongside Kalvin Seamonson, son of then-linebackers coach Al. He came out of nowhere to be a big contributor in his true freshman season, playing in all thirteen games (with one start) and recording 29 tackles, and followed that up with 36 tackles in three games as a starter last year before succumbing to a shoulder injury.
Robinson is ultra-productive and supremely talented, but he also possesses perhaps the most important attribute of them all: a strong rapport with Eric Franklin, who will be starting alongside him in the secondary. The two work extremely well off of each other - Franklin is better in coverage and is a ball hawk, while Robinson is a devastatingly hard hitter. Both produce beaucoup turnovers - Franklin with interceptions (three in 2010) and Robinson with fumbles (four forced in 16 games as a Terp).
Goins is more of an unknown for Maryland fans - and rightly so, since he hasn't played a game as a Terrapin yet. From California, he went the JuCo route, playing for two years at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, and was an all-conference selection after his final season. That year, he picked off six passes, and compiled an impressive highlight tape in the process.
With Maryland's secondary struggles this year, Goins could honestly be the team's number one corner in a few weeks. Either way, the trio of McDougle, Jeremiah Johnson, and Goins is much-improved from that of a week ago.
Maryland still has serious troubles - they're still turning the ball over way too much and the offense tends to be more anemic than productive - but bringing back Robinson and Goins helps alleviate one of the major ones.