On Labor Day, we’ll get our first look at the Maryland Terrapins’ football team this year when they take on Navy at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. As we unfortunately remember, the Terps posted their worst finish under Ralph Friedgen in 2009 with a 2-10 record. However it is worth noting that quarterback Chris Turner was injured towards the end of the season, but also suffered injury problems through most of the year. As is the case with any football team at any level, it all begins and ends with the quarterback position. Much like a lead off hitter in baseball, a quarterback streamlines the entire offense and in many cases the entire team. This year junior Jamarr Robinson will be the starting quarterback for Maryland, who we saw fill in for the injured Turner in the final two games of last season.
So given that the Maryland offense struggled for most of the year in 2009, what makes anyone think that won’t be the status quo in 2010? First off, there’s a big difference in terms of preparation between being the starting quarterback and being a backup. Friedgen is on record as saying that he’s seen a sizable change in Robinson in terms of being a vocal team leader, as well as improving upon his reads and timing with his receivers. At the wideout position Robinson will be complimented on either side by Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon, both of whom figured into the offense last season. The offensive line will return three of five starters, and Robinson will also have tailbacks Davin Meggett and Da’Rel Scott at his disposal. However as I said, everything begins and ends with the quarterback position in football; the success or failure in Maryland’s season will bank on the play of Robinson. From what Coach Friedgen has said, Robinson appears ready to take the reins as the Terps’ next quarterback. I suppose you could look at Robinson’s two starts at the tail end of last season (both losses) similar to preseason games in the NFL. Luckily for him he was able to gain some in-game experience under center, and now he needs to build upon that going into 2010.
On the defensive side of the ball the Terps are only returning five players from last year’s group, however one of them is (linebacker) All-American candidate Alex Wujciak. The defense struggled last season in that they couldn’t make key stops in a lot of close games, and in a few others they allowed Maryland to simply be blown out (the loss to Va Tech comes to mind). So in that sense perhaps heavy turnover isn’t such a bad thing, however the starting defense will be very young this season. In Maryland’s final seven games of the season (all losses), four of them were by seven points or less. Many of those games featured Maryland having the lead, and having the opposing team drive down the field at the end of the game for a winning score. Consistency on the defensive side of the football might well be as important to this team as the play of Jamarr Robinson on offense.
As is the case every year, the schedule itself will play into how Maryland finishes the year. The Terps start things off with the above-mentioned game against Navy in Baltimore. That should be a great day for local college football fans, with the best of the Old Line State on display in the heart and soul of the state of Maryland, the city of Baltimore. Maryland then heads to Byrd Stadium in week two for it’s official home opener, before hitting the road for a tough game at West Virginia in week three. Speaking for myself, I don’t get into the whole thing of teasing WVU fans about burning sofas and so forth, however…can I just state my complete and utter disdain for the West Virginia Mountaineers?! Throw the Virginia Tech Hokies into that mix as well. Maryland will also host Florida International in week four prior to starting the ACC schedule, which will ultimately tell the tale of the season. The Terps went 1-7 in conference play last year, so in my opinion a reasonable goal would be to go .500 in 2010. While this was a very bad team last year, keep in mind that you only need six wins to in theory qualify for a bowl game. So that makes the WVU game that much bigger seeing that if the Terps finish the year at 6-6, they’d be on the bubble in theory. A big win at a quality opponent always looks good. That aside, this team lost a lot of close games last season, so perhaps given those experiences the contingent of players that remain from that injury-plauged roster can help them to win some close ones in 2010.