I wanted to take an early look at the depth charts of the local colleges, so today we will do Maryland and tomorrow will be Virginia Tech. Some may argue it's too early, and if you believe that is true, enjoy watching the last place Nationals. So here goes a way too early look at Maryland with the depth chart released this past Monday, a new one should be out in the following weeks, but there shouldn't be too many changes barring injuries.
One way to describe the Maryland football team is consistently inconsistent. They had the opportunity to win their division with two games left and just had to win one. They ended up being blown out by Florida State at home (The "Blackout" never works at College Park, see here and here ) and then lost to Boston College on the road.
This year Maryland will have a lot of young guys stepping up into starting roles, especially on defense. Most of the offense is in tact, minus the #7 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft (WR Darrius Heyward -Bey). The offensive and defensive line are the two weakest units on the team, and I believe that it could be a long year if they get dominated in the trenches. Maryland does have two preseason All-ACC selections in MLB Alex Wujciak and P Travis Baltz , both juniors. Maryland should have had a third in RB Da'Rel Scott, but everyone is too infatuated with C.J. Spiller of Clemson, and for good reason, but Scott was the one who made First Team All-ACC last season along side the 2008 Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech.
This is Chris Turner's team. No competition with Jordan Steffy . No taking plays off so Josh Portis can run right, and run right some more. Steffy graduated and Portis transferred to a D-II school (California University of Pennsylvania). Turner needs to play every week like he's facing a top 25 team. He's 6-1 in his career against ranked opponents, but he's also had ugly losses to Virginia and Middle Tennessee State on his resume. His backup is Jamarr Robinson, a sophomore, who has never attempted a pass in college and is a virtual unknown. Robinson nearly switched to defense before Portis transferred as he thought he would never see playing time at Quarterback, hopefully he's right, at least for this season. After Robinson the depth chart gets even more dicey (officially no one is listed after Robinson), with local product C.J. Brown out of Seneca Valley (#35 QB in '09 recruiting class) and Danny O'Brien (#109 QB in '09 recruiting class).
This is one of the positions of strength for the Terps as they return their top 3 rushers from last season. It all begins with Junior Da'Rel Scott. He's a very talented back with home-run ability, but can also take it between the tackles. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield. He had 1,304 total yards and averaged about 6 yards per touch. His two backups are pretty good with the ball in their hands as well, Sophomore Davin Meggett and Junior Morgan Green. Both are more than capable backups who combined for 570 yards on the ground and for over 5 yards a carry. If the Offensive Line can play well enough to let this trio loose it could be a great season for Maryland. Maryland is also blessed to have Fullback Cory Jackson back and healthy. Health will always be a concern for Jackson, but when he is in the game it's like an extra offensive lineman, who can make the occasional catch out of the backfield.
On one hand, this unit lost arguably the best player ever at the position (Hey-Bey). On the other, 9 guys were competing for the top spots in spring and the depth, and more importantly, the speed are encouraging. Sophomore Torrey Smith and Ronnie Tyler, barring injury should be the starters. Maryland is very odd with their depth chart, they claim to start 3 WR's , 2 TE's and a FB , add it up, it's not possible. With that in mind the leading candidate for the starting slot receiver is another Sophomore, Tony Logan. Junior Adrian Cannon is a speedster and should see action this year. Redshirt Freshman Kerry Boykins and Kevin Dorsey are also in line for some playing time as well. The dark horse here is Sophomore Quinton McCree who posted the third fastest 40-yard dash time in spring camp. One player who people might be familiar with is Junior Emani Lee-Odai , he's currently sitting third at X receiver, which is a big fall from a guy who was expected to be starting this year.
Tight End has usually been a position of strength for the Terps with four guys (Jeff Dugan , Vernon Davis, Joey Haynos and Dan Gronkowski ) making rosters in the NFL. This year the competition is wide open with three guys competing for playing time. Senior Tommy Galt , Sophomore Lansford Watson and Redshirt Freshman Matt Furstenburg . Watson is the leading returning receiver of the group and should be considered the favorite to lead them again. Galt has primarily been used as a blocking tight end, but will see his role expanded this year. Furstenburg , and fellow Redshirt Freshman Devonte Campbell will have to wait another year to make an impact.
It's not the biggest weakness on the team, but it's the second biggest. The Offensive Line lost 5 of it's top 7 players from last year. The holdovers are Center Phil Costa, a senior, and Left Tackle Bruce Campbell, a junior (not to be confused with this guy , but if he ever said "This is my boom stick", I'd lose my mind.). Costa will be the rock that holds this line together and Campbell is a workout warrior who will take on whomever wants to come get some of Chris Turner. The rest of the line will be up for grabs once summer practices get under way. Left Guard is a dead-heat between Sophomores Lamar Young and Andrew Gonnella , I'd put my money on Young at the moment. Right Guard currently has Redshirt Freshman Justin Lewis at top spot, but I would look out for true Freshman Pete White (#22 OG in '09 recruiting class), a man-child at 6-5 340 lbs and he also happens to be from my Alma Mater, St. John's in DC. Right Tackle is a toss up between Junior Paul Pinegar and Redshirt Freshman R.J. Dill. Dill was on top coming out of spring, but heading in to summer Pinegar is on top.
This is the weakest unit on the team, by far. The most experienced player on the unit is Defensive End Jared Harrell, a senior who saw his first action last fall. Harrell will be counted to lead this unit and try to get to the quarterback, something Maryland hasn't done well in the past. At the other end position is Derek Drummond , a sophomore and converted tight end. He's very fast and will be vying for time at the LEO (hybrid D-End/Linebacker) position. In the middle three guys will be vying for the two positions. Redshirt Freshman A.J. Francis has the advantage at Nose Tackle and Travis Ivey has the lead at D-Tackle. The other player competing for serious time is Zach Kerr (#31 DT in '08 recruiting class, spent a year at prep school), a true freshman from local Quince Orchard High School. The defensive line has a lot of youth, but there is definitely talent there. Whether or not they can put it all together is unclear. The three back up DE's /LEO's are all freshman as well: Redshirt Freshmen Massengo Kabongo and Carl Russell, and true freshman De'Onte Arnett (#53 DE in '09 recruiting class).
Penn State is known as Linebacker U, but maybe people should start looking at Maryland for top LB's . MLB Alex Wujciak is the next great LB to wear a Terps jersey. One of the OLB positions will be manned by Junior Adrian Moten . Moten was a Freshman All-American (Honorable Mention) in 2007 and after a wrist injury limited him last year, he looks to return to all-conference form. Redshirt Freshman Demetrius Hartsfield currently has the lead at the other outisde position, but can also play inside when the Terps go into a 3-4 defense. Darin Drakeford (#41 LB in '09 recruiting class), a true freshman, backs up Moten and could see significant playing time. The sleeper here is Sophomore Ben Pooler , the coaches love him, but he cannot stay healthy. He is big, physical and fast, but has suffered back-to-back season ending knee injuries. If he can stay healthy he could make an impact.
This is, by far, the best unit on the team. There are 7 impact guys in the secondary, which is incredibly exciting to think about, but disappointing knowing at most 5 will be on the field most of the time. At Cornerback Seniors Nolan Carroll and Anthony Wiseman are back and should look to be All-ACC performers. Both Carroll and Wiseman are fast, shut down corners who are both great in run support. Carroll is going to be the leader of the defense and looks to be healthy heading into the summer. Wiseman is a local product from DeMatha High School, which is right down the road from College Park and looks to go out with a bang in his senior season. The Nickel Corner will be a talented, young Sophomore Cam Chism , another local product (Bishop McNamara HS). The Safties will be the strength of the secondary though. Senior Terrell Skinner is the starter at Free Safety and Senior Jamari McCullough is the starter at Strong Safety. Both are physical guys in the secondary, but as scary as it is their backups may be even better than they are. Antwine Perez, a transfer from USC , backs up Skinner and should see a lot of time this year. Sophomore sensation Kenny Tate was given the option to start at Wide Receiver this year, or backup at safety and chose to stay at Safety. He was the gem of the 2008 recruiting class and could eventually take over for McCullough at Strong Safety and put McCullough at Nickel Corner. McCullough can play both positions and his versatility is a huge asset. Tate could also see time at LB should injuries add up.
Kicking has been a problem since Nick Novak left College Park. This year won't change that. Right now the kickers job is up for grabs between two guys with no experience, and one guy who transferred from a D-II school. Sophomore walk-on Mike Barbour is currently leading the three-player race. Sophomore Transfer (from IUP ) Nick Wallace and True Freshman Nick Ferrera (#28 K in the '09 recruiting class) are also competing for the job. Ironically, Barbour and Ferrera graduated from the same high school. Ferrera is the player the fans will want to win the job since he was one of the top kickers coming out of high school last year. Punter is locked up by All-ACC Baltz . The return game is where things get extremely exciting, and record breaking. Torrey Smith set the ACC return record for kick-off returns last year and looks to improve on that number this year. Smith is backed up by Tony Logan, but Logan is the front-runner for punt return duty. Anthony Wiseman and Kenny Tate are also vying for time in the return game. All these guys are burners, regardless who of who is returning kicks, Maryland will have good field position.
Last year only four true freshmen saw playing time. Ferrera should win the kicking job. Drakeford is the backup at Linebacker and should see time immediately. Kerr should see time along the defensive line. Arnett and White could see time if injuries pop up on along the line.
And then there is the sleeper of all sleepers. Now Friedgen has never actually said this player will play, and actually isn't on the 3-deep depth chart, but he is a dynamic player and it will be hard to keep his speed off the field. RB Caleb Porzel of Good Counsel High School is fast. A headline for scout.com reads "Porzel is more than just speed". Yeah, but have you seen his times? He's been clocked at 4.21 and 4.29 in the 40 time, both were official. Meaning he'd be one of the fastest players in the NFL, let alone the NCAA. The fastest 40-yard dash time for a running back in this decade was Chris Johnson out of ECU at 4.24 seconds. This is Johnson's highlight tape which is a YouTube smash hit, most would argue it's because of the amazing clips, I say it's the great rap about ECU in the background. You decide. Regardless, Porzel is a little shorter, but just as fast as Johnson. Now if only he get's that man's bod to go with the speed.
This is a very young roster and they have the ability to surprise the pundits (predicted to finish 5th in the ACC Atlantic) and possibly improve on their 8-5 record from last year.