As the season draws yet closer, anticipation is mounting for football season. We’re now less than one month away, so what better time to start a preview? In a five part series through the coming weeks, we’ll examine the Terps’ offense, defense, special teams, and coaching staff. This will be the most complete preview of the season you’ll be able to find.
Where better to start off than with the offense? The Terps have relied upon their running game for the past few years, especially with the prolific combo of Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore. The proven theory was to get a QB who wouldn’t make mistakes, was efficient, and was smart, and then run the ball down the defense’s throat. The plan worked at times last year, but neither Chris Turner nor Jordan Steffy could entirely avoid mistakes at quarterback. Granted, neither had played much before the season, so this maybe should've been expected. Anyway, the plan ran into some major trouble at times, like against Clemson, West Virginia, and Florida State.
The plan will be slightly altered in 2008. For one, Ball and Lattimore are no longer in the program; both have graduated. Chris Turner, the likely starter at QB, will actually have some experience – expect fewer mistakes, more consistency. Darrius Heyward-Bey leads one of the best wide receiving corps in the nation. And finally, James Franklin, Kansas State’s offensive coordinator last year, will take the reins of the offensive from Ralph Friedgen. So, what will this vastly different offense look like? Here’s a depth chart:
QB – Chris Turner / Jordan Steffy / Josh Portis / Jamarr Robinson
RB – Da’Rel Scott / Morgan Green / Rashad Henry / Dan Bonato
FB – Corey Jackson / Haroon Brown
WR X – Isaiah Williams / LaQuan Williams / Torrey Smith / Adrian Cannon
WR Y – Danny Oquendo / Emani Lee-Odai / Tony Logan
WR Z – Darrius Heyward-Bey / Ronnie Tyler / Quinton McCree
TE – Dan Gronkowski / Drew Gloster / Lansford Watson / Devonte Campbell
LT – Scott Burley / Bruce Campbell / Paul Pinegar
RT – Dane Randolph / Bearthur Johnson
RG – Phil Costa / Jack Griffin / Lee Oliver
LG – Jaimie Thomas / Maurice Hampton / Joe Faiella
C – Edwin Williams / Danny Edwards
Of course, this is subject to change by the time the season starts. Some positions, such as RB, WRX, and TE are really crapshoots.
Simply having starting experience at quarterback will be invaluable. Not to mention the incredible team speed that James Franklin must love. All spring long, he's been harping on the fact the team has a bunch of players that run under a 4.5 40. That will likely be the biggest boon for the Terps all year. If all else fails, outsprint them.
No position in this offense can be called weak. The line, while not as good as it normally is, is solid. Edwin Williams will likely be the rock of the line, as a senior with starting experience. Scott Burley will be the other anchor, also in his final year. Burley has underperformed throughout his career, but he's never been bad. Expect Bruce Campbell and Jack Griffin to get a lot of playing time as reserves. The weakest point is likely Phil Costa, but he did very admirably filling in for Andrew Crummey last year.
The wide receivers are loaded. Heyward-Bey, of course, is likely an All-American. Isaiah Williams appears ready to step into the #2 spot. He has an incredible amount of talent, but before, he's been having trouble mentally. And Danny Oquendo is his consistent, solid self. LaQuan Williams came up big in some key plays last year, as did Emani Lee-Odai; both will get PT. Ronnie Tyler did extremely well in spring practice, raising several eyebrows with his athleticism. Tony Logan and Torrey Smith are both talented are pushing for playing time. This is where most of the speed in the offense is located. They'll be charged with making big plays out of slants, but if anyone can do it, it's these guys.
That is, unless these guys screw it up. Not a jab, but no one should have more than a little confidence in any of the quarterbacks. Despite Turner’s occasional brilliance, he consistently had mental lapses. Jordan Steffy seems overmatched playing against ACC competition. And Josh Portis has never taken an ACC snap. So, we’re left with a very unreliable trio of possible QBs. Hopefully, Turner's experience will help with the inconsistency.
And finally, the running backs. Morgan Green, remember him? The guy UMD "passed on Steve Slaton for" (which really is another whole issue)? Well, he actually is very talented. He’s had his fair share of injuries, but he’s a classic workhorse back. He should expect a lot of touches this year. Da’Rel Scott showed his incredible quickness last year, particularly against Rutgers and Boston College. He's the homerun threat. It’s classic lightning and thunder.
As for the new scheme? This is the beauty of the unreliable quarterbacks. Franklin’s scheme is designed around it, almost. QBs do not need to be great – the offense is based on runs, screens, and short passes. Turner does not need to be spectacular, only to make 5-10 yard throws consistently, and let the rest of the guys do the work. Honestly, Franklin’s scheme could not fit with a better team. This guy made Jordy Nelson and Josh Freeman look good – he should have a field day with Heyward-Bey and Turner. It was designed to be a high-scoring offense. Franklin has said the team would put up 40 to 50 points consistently. When the team loses, it won’t be because of the offense.
Heyward-Bey photo from Baltimore Sun