|Linebacker Kenny Tate :: Mitch Stringer/US PRESSWIRE|
At first glance the Maryland Terrapins don't look like a preseason Top 25 team. They lost key offensive weapons, receiver Torrey Smith and running back Da'Rel Scott, to the NFL and only have 10 scholarship seniors heading into the season. With this lack of depth comes a laundry list of question marks, especially on the flanks and in the defensive backfield. So why is new coach Randy Edsall so confident?
"We have a lot of experienced players returning across the board," Edsall said in an interview with SI. "Our depth is a concern, but we have a veteran offensive line, a quarterback who's played really well and a defense that also returns a lot."
Danny O'Brien, the quarterback Edsall is describing, is a rising star in college football. The 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year passed for nearly 2,500 yards last year despite not starting until the fourth game of the year. O'Brien is also more than capable of beating defenses with his legs, something he will have to do often this year as his receiving core is young and untested.Despite the loss of Scott, the Terps will be well-stocked in the backfield. Senior back Davin Meggett averaged 55.4 yards per game last year, a number which should jump in 2011. He'll be joined by D.J. Adams, who led the team in touchdowns in 2010. Even without standout lineman Justin Lewis (kicked off team), the Terrapins running game should be solid. Defense was a strength for Maryland last year, and the unit could be even stingier in 2011. One of Edsall's first decisions was to turn first team all-ACC safety Kenny Tate into a hybrid "Star" outside linebacker. "With our personnel the staff decided that Kenny could help us more there," Edsall said. "He was lined up like a linebacker about 75 percent of the time last year anyways so it shouldn't be a big transition."Tate will be joined at linebacker by Demetrius Hartsfield, a breakout performer in a limited role last year who's now being asked to man the middle of the Maryland D. Massive defensive tackle Joe Vellano should have his way with opposing centers again this year.With added expectations comes a higher profile schedule for the Terps, including nonconference matchups with West Virginia and Notre Dame and an opening-night showdown in College Park with the University of Miami. But with stars like O'Brien and Tate, Maryland has the talent to make Edsall's first season a memorable one.
Can Maryland find a new deep threat to emerge for Danny O'Brien now that Torrey Smith is in the NFL?
22 -- The number of touchdown passes quarterback Danny O'Brien's threw last year, good for 30th in the country even though he played in four fewer games than most of his competition.
Danny O'Brien, QB, So. -- Maryland's 2011 fate ultimately rests on the right arm of the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year. If O'Brien hits a sophomore slump, look for Maryland to struggle while its other unproven offensive weapons look to find their groove. Andrew Gonnella, LT, Sr. -- The gargantuan left tackle is the leader of the Terp's offensive line. If Gonnella and the men in the trenches can open holes for Meggett, O'Brien will have more room to operate. Joe Vellano, DT, Jr. -- A 2011 preseason first-team All-ACC selection, this tough defensive tackle was a major reason why Maryland had the third best run defensive in the conference last season.Kenny Tate, LB, Sr. -- One of Edsall's first moves as Maryland coach was moving the talented Tate from safety to "Star" linebacker. Tate was one of the best tackling safeties in the country last year and will be counted on to lead the Terrapin's defense in 2011.
Kerry Boykins, WR, Jr. -- The speedy wideout will be asked to pick up where Smith left off, no small task. For Maryland to replicate the passing production it posted in 2010, Boykins will need to step up.
Tyler Cierski, FB, Fr. -- Maryland's recruiting class suffered a bit from the coaching turnover, but the Terps still managed to land Cierski, one of the top fullbacks in the nation. The 6-foot, 255-pounder from Georgia should play immediately.