Maryland begins the season against IAA (excuse me, FCS) powerhouse Delaware. They are coached by KC Keeler, who’s been at the helm of the Blue Hens for the past six years, with a 52-26 record. The Hens made it to the FCS championship game last year and faced off against Appalachian State, who did beat Michigan, remember.
This Delaware team, however, is not at all up to par with the team of last year. Last year the Hens were led by QB Joe Flacco, who was a first round draft pick, and RB Omar Cuff, who is on the Titans’ practice squad. Now that both are gone, the Blue Hens’ offense will have to find a new source of firepower.
Replacing Flacco will likely be Rob Schoenhoft, a highly ranked QB out of high school who originally committed to Ohio State. Schoenhoft transferred in January after not receiving enough playing time from the Buckeyes, and has been entrenched in a position battle with Sean Scanlon and Lou Ritacco from day one. Schoenhoft has all the natural talent of Flacco, but is inexperienced in this system and with this playbook. Keeler hasn’t decided yet whether Schoenhoft or redshirt freshman Ritacco will end up as the starter come game day. That, combined with it being whoever starts’ first game in the blue and gold of Delaware is a good sign for UMD.
Cuff will seemingly be replaced by a multitude of players at running back. Running back by committee sometimes works, but sometimes doesn’t. There’s a good chance that Keeler hasn’t yet ironed out the kinks in the set up. Jerry Butler, Phillip Thaxton, and Jonathan Smith will all get playing time. Junior Jabbie would as well, but he’s been injured lately. None of them have the talent of productivity of the two-time All-American Cuff.
The defense of Delaware, however, is a completely different story. Matt Marcorelle is a preseason All-American (granted, it’s for the FCS), and opposite him is Ronald Talley, a Notre Dame transfer, who is obviously talented. They did lose both defensive tackles, though, meaning that there may be running holes through the middle. They return two of three linebackers, including Erik Johnson, who made 122 tackles last year. The secondary is likely their biggest strength, with all four starters returning.
What does all this mean? Maryland won’t find easy yards through the air, for one, at least, not as easy as you’d expect. The offensive tackles may also be challenged. The running game, however, should have success. The defense should have a pretty easy task in front of them, as Delaware will likely be somewhat out of synch with a new QB and new RB. As long as the offense isn’t completely anemic (which they may be; remember the FIU game with Steffy last year), the Terps should win. Really, everyone should be more confident in this game than I am, and I would be if Chris Turner was at the helm, but with Jordan Steffy, nothing is guaranteed.
Cliff Notes Version
Players to Watch For: QB Rob Schoenhoft (or QB Lou Ritacco), TE Robbie Agnone, DE Matt Marcorelle, DE Ronald Talley, ILB Erik Johnson
Strength: Pass defense
Weakness: Offensive inexperience at key positions
Maryland Will Win If: They can simply move the ball consistently. Delaware’s offense simply doesn’t have the firepower.
Maryland May Lose If: Jordan Steffy mails in another performance like he did against Florida International last year.
Prediction: Maryland by 17, 24-7