With students moving in and the band tuning up their instruments, the football season is finally upon us. With just one day until the 3:30 kickoff against James Madison, we wanted to give fans a focus on a three key matchups that could change the outcome of the game.
Maryland's linebackers vs. Vad Lee
Just when Maryland thought they were escaping the unmentionable conference, former Georgia Tech starting quarterback Vad Lee transferred to JMU and is set to start against his former foe. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 1,516 yards and 11 touchdowns but only managed to complete 45 percent of his passes. He has great open field speed and lateral quickness, but he ran more often than necessary last season and found himself only advancing 2.8 yards per carry. I'm assuming Randy Edsall has done his homework on what thwarted his rushing success last season, and will have linebackers spying on Lee's antics. Cole Farrand and L.A. Goree are likely candidates to be the quarterback spy, just for precautionary measures, because Lee simply won't beat Maryland through the air.
Maryland's O-line vs. Gage Steele and Brandon Lee
James Madison graduated two of their better defensive players in tackling machine Stephon Robinson and quarterback eater Jordan Stanton. They are returning redshirt sophomore Gage Steele, who last season recorded 106 tackles including three sacks. Brandon Lee is the leader on the defensive line and brings back his 6.5 sacks last season, pinning the quarterback backward 63 yards from those sacks. I'm interested to see how Maryland manages to mitigate their efforts on defense. I'm very interested to see how comfortable Ryan Doyle is now that he knows Derwin Gray is sitting behind him patiently waiting for his opportunity. And I'm interested to see how Gray seizes or spoils that opportunity when Steele and Lee are coming full speed in his face.
Maryland's receiving corps vs. Madison's secondary
It wouldn't be fair for me to single out Stefon Diggs and not mention the likes of Deon Long, Taivon Jacobs or Marcus Leak. Maryland's receiving corps is easily one of the most recognizable in the country and with 6th year quarterback C.J. Brown tossing them the ball, not much stands in the way. James Madison's best chance to slow down the dynamic stardom the wide-outs of Maryland bring is at the hands of Dean Marlowe. Marlowe has seen three All-CAA awards in his three seasons at JMU and his odds to sweep and the get the fourth are pretty high. Although Marlowe has the ability to roam around and ball-hawk, one safety in the shadow of three, four, five great receivers isn't very great.