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Preseason ACC Blogger Roundtable

The good folks over at Tomahawk Nation (Bud, specifically) are hosting the first iteration of another thing you'll have to deal with every week: the ACC Blogger Roundtable. Every team will be represented in the roundtable (minus Duke, because they're awful) by some blog or another, answering questions that will usually be about their teams. The preseason edition is below. The questions are in bold, the answers are normal and unexciting:

Will your team be better than last year, why or why not? Will it show in the record, why or why not?

Short version: They'll be better, but the record won't be.

There's a lot to like about Maryland this year - a game-seasoned, fifth-year senior QB; a deep, talented stable of RBs with a frontline All-ACC starter; nine (yes, nine) game-ready WRs; a likely improved secondary; and leaders returning from the linebacking corps. The new defense, instilled by former UMass head coach Don Brown, has been getting rave reviews and has torn through the offense without fail so far, utilizing surprise blitzes and press coverage. While the defensive line has been getting a bad rap in the media, the new scheme will take a lot of pressure off them, and the projected starters all either have experience or were highly touted out of HS. There's only
one problem, but it's a sizable one: the offensive line. The group is talented, but very, very young, which could render all those skill players moot, particularly early on as they adapt to playing when it counts.

By the end of the year, I'm fairly confident that the line will have gelled together and the weak spots will have been shored up, meaning this team will be a bear to play late in the season. At that point, there's no doubt in my mind this year's Maryland will be better than last year's. They might even be better already. But last year's Maryland overachieved a little, winning in spite of a constant prevent defense; so while they may win head-to-head, besting 8 wins may be tough to do, especially in an improved ACC.

The ACC has been racked hard by injuries in the off-season, which guys did your team lose and how will you replace them if you can? On the flip side, who are the newcomers expected to step up, if any?

Injuries have been quiet in College Park this off-season. The only major player lost was probable starting DT Dion Armstrong. He left the team due to academic ineligibility and fitness problems, but no one was really counting on his presence come September (these issues had been known for awhile). He'll be replaced by redshirt freshman A.J. Francis and true freshman Zach Kerr. Both should be able to do an adequate job in filling that hole - both are as talented as Armstrong, and very underrated.

There are a few other newcomers who could contribute, notably PK Nick Ferrara, G Pete White, LBs Darin Drakeford and Avery Murray, and RBs Caleb Porzel and D.J. Adams. Ferrara is a scholarship kicker, so you'd expect him to be the starter. White is a massive, talented guard, a position that doesn't have a lot of depth. Both Drakeford and Murray
enrolled in the spring to get a head start, and, because there's not a lot of depth at LB, could find themselves backups. Neither Porzel nor Adams are needed, but they're two of the most skilled and athletic players Maryland's brought in a long time, and have been impressing Ralph Friedgen in practice. Friedgen's known to be quick to burn RB redshirts, so the best of the two may see the field.

Which existing player (or group of players) must step their game up in order for your team to over-achieve?

Unquestionably, the offensive line. As I've already said, they're the one huge weakness. If they can show that they're better than what people are saying, even if that only ends up being average, I'll be very confident about this team. If I had to single out one guy, I'd say LG Lamar Young - he's very talented, but reportedly has some issues with attitude, an issue a group this young doesn't need to deal with.