Takeaway: seriously worrying, but a win's still a win.
Justus Pickett: He was probably the brightest spot for the entire offense, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and picking up the only touchdown. He looked the part of an old-school running back, rocking #44, no gloves, and a neck roll, and started to play a bit like one, too. He constantly fought for yardage, falling forward every time he went down and trying to push the pile. He's not a strong guy, but he fought hard. The bigger note for me is that he made the first guy miss on at least three occasions, which was his big strength in high school that we didn't see last season. Throw in the touchdown run - which was simple, but showcased how he better he's become at finding a hole and hitting it - and you have a performance which should give him the starting job next week. Based on the little we've seen of the backs, I'd guess he's probably the most complete option of the four.
And that doesn't even take into account his above-average pass-blocking or how great his four-four touchdown celebration is.
Marcus Leak, Kevin Dorsey, and Kerry Boykins: Combined for six receptions and 80 yards, each of them taking a screen pass and making something out of nothing. Leak was probably the best of the three, with a nice downfield catch and a touchdown- (and, looking back on it, game-) saving tackle on the second interception. Dorsey's run on the screen pass that set up the touchdown, however, was fantastic. As expected, the receivers will be a strength this year.
Stefon Diggs: Three receptions, 30 yards, three punt returns, 50 yards. Not astoundingly good numbers, but he was without a doubt the most exciting and electric player on either side of the ball for Maryland. Every time he touches it, you feel like he's going to make something spectacular happen. Showcased good hands, to boot. Needs to get the ball more, but a promising start to what's hopefully a very successful career in College Park.
Joe Vellano: Exactly what we've come to expect from Big Joe. 11 tackles, 2 for loss, and an interception on a tipped pass to boot. Can't ask for more.
The Linebacker Corps: No surprise here; this is probably Maryland's strongest unit, without a real weak link. Demetrius Hartsfield had a game-high 13 tackles, plus the fumble recovery that sealed the game. Darin Drakeford was fantastic rushing off the edge, absolutely crushing Brent Caprio (actually forcing him out of the game) and getting just enough on the receiver to set up Vellano's interception. Cole Farrand had a huge stop on a William and Mary third-down and should hold onto his starting spot. And of course there's Alex Twine, who had four solo tackles and made a few big statements throughout the game.
Add Kenny Tate in a few weeks, rotating in Twine situationally, and this bunch stacks up with any in the conference.
Nathan Renfro: What a leg. Averaged 53 yards a punt, including a wonderful 60-yard boomer and a 57-yarder that was downed at the W&M 2. Maryland's found a punter. May not seem like a big deal, but it's actually a huge one. Because when you throw in Diggs as a return man, Maryland should be able to consistently flip field position all year long.
Jerseys: So, so much better with names and no gradients.
Perry Hills: A lot of people will scoff at Hills not being in Stock Down - the kid threw three interceptions, after all, and against William and Mary that isn't good enough. You'll get no arguments from me.
But keep in mind the situation, with a true freshman making his first ever start and the rest of the offense trying to work in a new scheme to boot. With that in mind he was, strangely enough, quite promising outside of those three picks. No bust-ups in the huddle. No embarrassing mistakes on the snap. Intermediate routes were often on target and delivered crisply and on time. He looked composed when he had time. Given the circumstances, it really wasn't an awful showing, certainly not as awful as the three interceptions will look on the statline. Far from a good one, mind you, but there's plenty to build upon here.
And take a look at his three interceptions. The first was a tipped pass that arguably should've been caught anyway. The second was getting left out to dry by the coaching staff, as there were four deep routes and no check-down on a third down, with W&M bringing a big-time blitz. Maybe he should've audibled (though I doubt the staff is willing to give him that freedom just yet) and he certainly should've taken the sack, but he's a freshman and will learn. And while the third pass looked terrible, it appeared that Kevin Dorsey cut short his route. Maybe it was a miscommunication, maybe Hills was wrong. But it wasn't as bad as it looked at first glance.
Many of you will say this is polishing a really poor performance. But there was no guarantee that Maryland would leave this game with Hills still entrenched as a starter heading into Temple. That he is strikes me as at the very least a minor victory. Let's see how he grows over the course of the season.
Wes Brown: On the down side: no touches at all, all game. Didn't get in once on offense that I saw. The upshot for him: the Wes Brown Mafia, complete with FREE WES t-shirts, should be up and running within the week.
Albert Reid: Bit harsh on the freshman, perhaps, but he seemed a little nervous and didn't look great in his debut. Finished with only 29 yards despite getting the majority of carries, plus had a rough fumble that killed a promising Maryland drive. He'll still factor in every game - especially due to his above-average receiving ability - but Maryland cannot afford simple mistakes like that. Compared to Pickett, he has some catching-up to do.
Offensive Line: Not a particularly good showing from the OL, as they generally struggled to get a push against a smaller W&M front and put Hills under pressure more than once. It wasn't a total loss of a performance - both guards. De'Onte Arnett and Bennett Fulper, had some great downfield blocks - but against a much smaller defensive line, Maryland needed them to assert their will more. They're a young bunch, still trying to figure out who should play where let alone get an actual chemistry amongst each other. But at first glance, the preseason worries seemed justified.
However Maryland Was Trying to Get the Ball to Stefon Diggs: Apparently the staff wanted to get him ten touches. He got eight. And that's only if you count punt returns, which really shouldn't be counted because teams will start to kick the ball away from him consistently. The two end-arounds were alright, but nothing came of them and they hardly need to do that multiple times a game. Diggs is a feature receiver with glue for hands, he's not Jacquizz Rodgers. Get him the ball in space and look for him in intermediate routes. That's where he'll get yards, and it's Maryland's best shot at a dangerous offense.
Ditto Wes Brown: Look, I'm sure there are perfectly good reasons he's not on the field. (Pass-blocking, if I had to guess.) But for an offense that looked as dysfunctional as Maryland's, can you really have someone as talented as Brown being a complete non-factor? The redshirt is gone; might as well put him in every once in awhile. In the future, Maryland needs to have more than five touches between Brown and Diggs on offense.
Dexter McDougle: Not much you can say to save this performance. Three flags on him, one of them slightly questionable but the others legit, plus a blown coverage that resulted in a first down and another that should've been a touchdown. It looked even worse than it sounds.
McDougle was being counted upon to be Maryland's rock in the secondary; instead, he was their weak link. The good news is that I don't see him getting much worse than this, and he clearly is a better player than he showed. Hopefully he'll rebound and be his old self against Temple. If not, it'll be a loooooong season.
Brad Craddock: Didn't get to chant "Aussie Aussie Aussie," but still got the "Oi Oi Oi." Chip shot 25-yard field goals have to go in, tight angle or not. Kickoffs weren't promising either; neither were touchbacks, despite the extra five yards. Hope he settles in quickly, or Nick Ferrara gets healthy fast.
Mike Locksley: His hands were tied somewhat due to having a true freshman backfield, and he got unlucky with a few calls. But calling two pass plays to start the game? Double-digit bubble screens? Almost no read option when you have a quarterback dangerous with his legs? Going four-wide with everyone on a deep route? Some weird, weird calls.
That said, the execution let Maryland down more than playcalling. As that improves, I expect we'll look upon Locks in a better light.
New Helmets: Just me? Didn't think they looked good. Looked cartoony instead of last year's understated cool, and way too much white space. Bring back the shellmet or the all black Ninja Turtle.
- Nathan Renfro: MVPunter.
- Justus Pickett: Because someone on the offense has to get one.
- Joe Vellano: Fat guy interceptions are bested only by fat guy touchdowns. Shame he couldn't break that one open.
- Jeremiah Johnson: Edges out Hartsfield. He missed a few coverages, but gets credit for the game-sealing sack fumble.