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Testudo Times Staff Roundtable: West Virginia football edition

Our staff gathers to discuss Maryland football's start to the season and the game against West Virginia.

Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE

We'll get it going with this week's TT staff roundtable: Thanks to Pete, Jake, Noah, Todd, Andrew and FlaTerp for their input.

Q. After an underwhelming win in Tampa, how confident do you feel on a scale of 1 to 10 going into the West Virginia game?

Pete: 6. I (and Vegas) still think Maryland should beat West Virginia, but I'm a lot more cautious about that thought after what we've seen through the first two weeks. The Mountaineers had a heck of a game against Alabama and blew out Towson (who is not nearly as strong this season, it must be said), and having Clint Trickett at quarterback should mitigate a lot of the issues West Virginia faced against the Maryland defense last season.

Jake: I'll go with a 6.5-7. The win was as you put it, underwhelming. And WVU is much tougher opposition than what Maryland's seen so far. But it's at home, Maryland's D is still very good, and I think WVU's game vs Alabama is a *bit* of a mirage. Don't get me wrong, they played well. But Alabama's D always has trouble with HUNH offenses. If you're a good offensive mind like Holgo is, and you have a good HUNH offense, it's going to look great vs Alabama. WVU is a lot better, but I'm not sure they're as good as they showed vs Bama.

Noah: 5. Don't judge a team solely based on their best game or their worst game. We saw Maryland's best against James Madison. WVU may have just played their best game, beating Towson 54-0 last week. Clint Trickett is the real deal. C.J. Brown is not and Stefon Diggs isn't playing the way we all expected him to. WVU remembers last year's 37-0 drubbing in Baltimore and they will look to repay the favor. Luckily for Terp fans, Maryland wasn't as bad as that game against South Florida suggests. I disagree with Pete (and Vegas) and I think West Viriginia is the better team going into this match-up. I think they should beat Maryland on Saturday. But that's why they play the game.

Todd: I'm coming in at about a 5.5. I'm worried about play calling. I think Maryland needs to be more creative in getting the ball to Diggs especially in space where he can be the playmaker we know he is. I'm concerned about the offensive line - not so much in the 3 sacks (though CJ was under some pressure on other plays) but in the inability to punch the ball in from first and goal inside the two. If, as Noah says, Trickett is the real deal, we can't feel great about the holes in Maryland's secondary and minimal pressure against the quarterback. I'm also nervous about the quarterback position. I'm not calling for a change (the most popular player on a team when the starting QB isn't playing well is always the backup QB and that usually lasts until he gets in the game) but if CJ is the best we have... On the other hand, Maryland did bounce back from the 0-63 debacle at FSU last year by coming home and pounding UVA 27-26 as I recall.

Andrew K: 7, because it's at Byrd.  I look at last week's win from a glass half-full perspective. The field temperature was draining and probably had some impact on how the Terps performed. The fact that they committed six turnovers on the road and never threw in the towel speaks volumes about this team's character. Just as important, the Terps have played WVU tough during the Edsall era, including last year's blow-out.

FlaTerp: 7. I like Maryland in this game. We'll call last week a one-off for now.

Q. Given Brandon Ross's fumbling problems to date, should Maryland move to a new starting tailback?

Pete: Yes, but leave Ross as a part of the rotation. I like the 1-2 punch between him and Wes Brown (with a little Albert Reid thrown in on the side), but I've been full #TEAMWESBROWN since he stepped on to campus. He's shown that he's ready for game action, and I think he should carry the load this season.

Jake: Yeah, I'd go with Wes Brown. It's not just the fumbling issues. Brown is just more effective. He just looks so much mor dangerous than Ross. Ross should still get carries, but Brown should be the #1 guy.

Noah: Absolutely. Give Wes Brown the #1 spot and then shift Ross to the #2 spot.

Todd: I'll add my voice to that chorus. Wes needs to be back as the number one guy.

Andrew K: As much as I think Wes Brown is the best of the three-headed monster I don't think a change should be made yet. As some commenters said "Brown is close to 100% acclimated back to the game" after a year off. When he's 100% that's the time to start him.

FlaTerp: I don't really think it matters who starts. Ross was a solid starting RB last year so I think it's too soon to take that away from him, but I do think Brown should see a 50-50 split in carries. I like them as a tandem. Ross can get outside and turn corners, while Brown goes up the gut and busts people up. They both have value and do unique things. It doesn't need to be one or the other.

Q. Marcus Leak had a big day against South Florida. What were your expectations for him coming into the season, and have they changed?

Pete: Before the wide receiving unit got hit with injuries and transfers, I expected Leak to be the fifth-leading receiver on the team. I did not expect him to be so big, or to be such a big touchdown threat. He's a pretty perfect third wide receiver to go with the shiftiness of Stefon Diggs and the straight speed of Deon Long, and I imagine he'll lead the team in receiving touchdowns this season.

Jake: I'm not sure I expected a lot from him. I thought he'd probably give Maryland the production you get from a 4th WR, maybe a little more. But he's shown himself to be a big TD threat, and he can be big for the Terps this year.

Noah: Coming in I thought that he would have production typical of a 3rd or 4th wide receiver and he is 3rd in receiving yards right now. He probably won't beat Diggs or Long for yards but he might have a niche where they use him as a mismatch in the red zone and across the middle of the field. If I had told you that after two weeks Marcus Leak had more TDs than Stefon Diggs and Deon Long put together, what would you have said?

Todd: I'm taking the fifth here. I was too busy prepping to cover the other fall sports to have given this situation much thought. I will use this forum to express my disappointment, however, that with his 2 touchdown catches, I can't remember seeing one "Terps spring Leak" anywhere in the USF game coverage. If I missed it, I'm sorry. If not, shame on you

Andrew K: It's hard to say because JMU and USF are not B1G caliber teams. But based on his 2012 resume I think Leak's upside is high. He's bigger than Diggs and Long, and also possesses a fair amount of speed. Leak's a great complement to Diggs & Long.

FlaTerp: I didn't have high expectations for him, just because of Levern Jacobs filling a similar role effectively last year. Now? Sure, they've changed. He looked fantastic at USF and as long as defenses are hell bent on containing Diggs and Long, Leak should get opportunities in single coverage.

Q. The Terps ran for just a 2.9-yard average against a smallish South Florida front seven, and C.J. Brown was sacked three times. Are you concerned about the play of the offensive line?

Pete: Kind of. The offensive line definitely looked worse against South Florida than they did against James Madison, but that's to be expected. That unit should continue to grow, but the window to do so is getting smaller and smaller as the Terps enter the tougher part of their schedule.

Jake: Sort of. The OL is not great by any means, but it's young, and it's growing. And it looked a lot better in the 2H, when also Wes Brown got more carries. It needs to get better, but I'll put a "wait and see" on it.

Noah: The answer is yes. 2.9 yards per carry is a terrible average to have against anyone and if you think that South Florida knows how to bring pressure, just wait until Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State come to town.

Todd: I think I said as much in my reply to the first question. I wasn't awed by Maryland's running game against JMU. I thought, these back won't break as many tackles against more physical defenses.

Andrew K. : The O-line did a respectable job protecting CJ. Maybe more than other positions the O-line needs time to click and work as a unit. Since they're relatively inexperienced I expect them to gel over the next few games.

FlaTerp: Sure. OL was my biggest concern before the season and it still is. We've added quality recruits and depth, but the main guys are the same main guys who haven't been particularly good the last couple years. I'm hoping they'll make the leap, but we haven't seen the evidence yet. This week will be telling.

Q. Should Maryland emphasize the running game against West Virginia, or should it trust C.J. Brown to turn in a better showing than he has to date and air the ball out?

Pete: Run. The dang. Ball. Give it to Wes Brown, tire out the defense and exploit adjustments by utilizing the play-action to get Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Marcus Leak space.

Jake: Run it. Run the ball. Get 3-4 yards on 1st Down, force the defense to play against it and open space over the middle for Maryland's WR threats. This team needs to start pounding the football and establishing it quickly. Because to be honest, CJ Brown isn't a good QB.

Noah: The Terps have run the ball 90 times in the first two weeks. It seems to be working better than their passing game. West Virginia gave up over 100 yards rushing to two different Alabama running backs (T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry). Maybe Maryland can create some success on the ground and slow down WVU's no huddle spread attack that way.

Todd: I guess run if you can run. Based on what we've seen from CJ, I don't think you want to get into a shootout with WVU.

Andrew K: We need to keep a semblance of a passing threat viable or B1G teams will stack the box against us. If CJ continues to struggle (I don't think he will) then give Rowe more PT. But Diggs needs to have 8-10 touches each game or he's being underused.

FlaTerp: You have to be a balanced offense to beat a good football team. Give CJ another shot to sling it around, then reevaluate after this week if things don't go well (again).

Q. Maryland's defense has (somewhat quietly, I'd argue) allowed 24 points in two games. What has stood out to you in watching Brian Stewart's players so far?

Pete: They just seem more comfortable in the scheme. We saw that last season as well, so it's no surprise the unit continues to grow, but I was very impressed with what I saw against South Florida. There were the same third down concerns we've seen over the past few years, but Maryland's defense was on the field a ton -- six turnovers, remember? -- and still gave up just 17 points.

Jake: They're just a solid unit all around. The DL is the strength of it,

Noah: It's the balance. The run defense has been outstanding but they only allowed 174 passing yards and 83 rushing yards for a total of 257 yards. They only allowed 302 total yards of total offense against JMU. That is a great defensive performance on the road. Maryland's offense did just about everything they could to tire their own defense out with the six turnovers but the D held time and time again when it mattered. They are just very well balanced all over. As Jake said, the DL has been great. The linebackers have been very good and they did a great job wrapping up Marlon Mack last Saturday. The secondary has stopped the big plays down the field thus far. West Virginia will test them all this weekend.

Todd: It's in the question. The points allowed. In addition to the play when USF scored on the fumble, the offense turned the ball over five times and the defense gave up 10 points. That, to me, says a lot. Though the Terps did do a solid job controlling the ball for over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter against USF.

Now I want to ask a question: Why aren't we talking about Maryland's special teams? I'm no football maven but it looks to me like this is the best unit the Terps have put on the field over the first two weeks.

Andrew K: Of the 24 points 14 have come off of turnovers. So the D has been really good, which is what they should be against poor opposition. The front three have done a great job plugging up the A gaps and stuffing the run. L.A. Goree and Yannick Ngakoue have been active, and the safety blitz has been disruptive. While the defense has no star players there are a fair number of very good players. My one concern is how well they'll fare against a team with a potent passing attack.

FlaTerp: Sean Davis has stood out. He's badass.