• The University of Maryland football team kicks off the 2012 season against William & Mary Saturday at 3 p.m. inside Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins, under the direction of second-year head coach Randy Edsall, are opening football season No. 120. Saturday’s game will be streamed live on ESPN3, as well as being broadcast on the Terrapin Sports Radio Network.
• Maryland headed into preseason camp with 15 returning offensive and defensive starters from a year ago, including 10 on defense. Senior defensive lineman Joe Vellano, a 2011 second team All-American, and linebackers Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakefordheadline the 10 starters back on defense. Vellano led the FBS last season in tackles by a defensive lineman (7.8 per game), Hartsfield was an honorable mention All-ACC pick and Drakeford had a league-high tying four forced fumbles.
• The offense was set to return five starters, including three of its top four receivers from last season in wideouts Kevin Dorsey and Kerry Boykins, and tight end Matt Furstenburg. Junior C.J. Brown, who started five games in 2011 and set the Maryland single-season rushing yards record by a quarterback, was set to assume No. 1 quarterback duties. Injuries, however, took their toll in August. On Aug. 14, Brown suffered a torn ACL in a non-contact drill and will be out for the season. Less than a week later, 2011 freshman All-America defensive lineman Andre Monroe suffered a season-ending knee injury. In all, Maryland will have a total of 10 potential starters out in week one vs. William & Mary (see note page 2).
• Still, Maryland hopes a number of key returnees, combined with a highly touted 2012 recruiting class, will help it reach postseason play for the ninth time in the last 12 years. In addition to Vellano, Hartsfield and Drakefield, several playmakers are back on defense. In the secondary, Eric Franklin and Dexter McDougle have plenty of experience, having both started every game last year. Franklin, a senior who has played in 28 career games, led the team in solo tackles (64), ranked second in total tackles (106) and tied for second on the team with four pass breakups. McDougle, meanwhile, led the team with six pass breakups and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. The Terps also welcome back linebacker Alex Twine and defensive lineman A.J. Francis, both of whom have starting experience. As a true freshman last year, Twine ended the season as the starter at Will linebacker and averaged 9.8 tackles in his four starts. Francis, who will play defensive end in coordinator Brian Stewart’s 3-4 scheme, has played in each of the last 37 games and has 23 career starts.
• The Terps will look to true freshman quarterback Perry Hills to direct the offense. Hills won the job in preseason camp after Brown’s injury and impressed his teammates and coaches with his poise and ability to manage the offense. Maryland will be under the direction of coordinator Mike Locksley, who has installed a pro-style offense with spread principles. That will be well-suited for Hills, who has the ability to make plays with his arm and his legs. Maryland will have a young, talented group of running backs that has impressed the coaching staff in the preseason. Redshirt freshman Brandon Ross enters week one as the starter, with sophomore Justus Pickett listed as his backup. Pickett is the lone running back on the roster with game experience.
• On special teams, Maryland will look to several young players. Freshman Stefon Diggs will be the kickoff and punt returner, freshman Brad Craddock will handle the place-kicking duties in week one, and Craddock or Nathan Renfro will handle the punts.
• The five Maryland players who received 2011 postseason recognition return to the squad this year – DL Keith Bowers(freshman All-ACC), LB Lorne Goree (freshman All-ACC), LBDemetrius Hartsfield (honorable mention All-ACC), DL Andre Monroe (freshman All-American) and DL Joe Vellano (second team All-American; first team All-ACC).
• Maryland was hit hard by injuries in the preseason. The team’s first depth chart was absent of 10 potential starters, including seven on the defensive side of the ball, due to various injuries and ailments: defensive linemen Keith Bowers, Isaiah Ross andAndre Monroe; defensive backs Isaac Goins, A.J. Hendy andMatt Robinson; linebacker Kenneth Tate; quarterback C.J. Brownand offensive lineman Josh Cary; and place-kicker/punter Nick Ferrara.
• Perry Hills is expected to become the first true freshman starter at quarterback for Maryland since Latrez Harrison in 1999. He’ll also be the first freshman to start a season opener since redshirt freshman Calvin McCall on Sept. 2, 1999, in a 6-0 win over Temple.
• The Terrapins return 75 percent of the offensive and defensive two-deep from the end of last season. There are 17 of the 22 offensive players back and 16 of 22 defenders. In addition, eight of the 12 members of the final special teams two-deep is back in 2012.
• Maryland had 15 seniors on the 2011 roster, but just 12 of those players were listed on the two-deep at some point during the year. There are 17 seniors listed on the 2012 roster.
• Eleven of the top 13 tacklers from 2011 are back this season, including Hartsfield, who had a team-high 108 stops, and safety Eric Franklin, who was second with 106.
• Six of the top seven sack producers from 2011 are back this season, though leading sack producer Monroe, who had 5.0, is out for the season after suffering a knee injury in preseason camp. With Monroe’s absence, the top returning sack producer is L.A Goree, who had 3.5 last season.
• Three Terps ended 2011 ranked among the top 12 in the ACC in tackles. Hartsfield was second at 12.0 per game and Franklin was sixth at 8.8. Vellano was 12th with 7.8 per contest.
• There are just two returning starters (Bennett Fulper and Justin Gilbert) on Maryland’s offensive line, but six players have started in their careers. De’Onte Arnett, Josh Cary, Sal Conaboy and Peter White have also started on the o-line.
• Nine bowl teams from last year appear on Maryland’s 2012 schedule: Temple (Gildan New Mexico Bowl), West Virginia (Discover Orange Bowl), Wake Forest (Franklin American Mortgage Music City), Virginia (Chick-fil-A Bowl), NC State (Belk Bowl), Georgia Tech (Hyundai Sun Bowl), Clemson (Discover Orange Bowl), Florida State (Champs Sports Bowl) and UNC (AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl).
Byrd Gets a Facelift…
• Maryland in August finished the installation of a brand new FieldTurf Revolution surface at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. The privately funded $3 million project resulted in the “coolest” synthetic turf field in the nation and was completed in time for preseason camp. In order to enhance playability for all sports expected to use the facility, and after various tests and discussions, it was decided the playing surface would be a traditional green in color. The end zones for football will have a design reminiscent of the Maryland state flag and reinforcing the “Maryland Pride” theme of Maryland Athletics. The project at Maryland is the first of its kind in the United States and features exclusive new heat-reducing technology – CoolPlay – which, coupled with the patented silica sand and cryogenic rubber infill, will provide the facility with the “coolest” infill technology. FieldTurf has done extensive temperature testing which shows that CoolPlay infill provides for a difference of up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit versus traditional rubber infill systems. The many benefits of the new field include protecting the health of the student-athletes, improved playability in inclement weather, annual savings on field maintenance, a fantastic recruiting tool and tremendous revenue-generating opportunities through events such as concerts, high school games and other outside athletic events.
Openings at the Skill Positions…
With the loss of its top tailback and second-leading receiver, the Terps have openings at a couple of key skill positions.Davin Meggett ended his career seventh on the Maryland career rushing list and Quintin McCree was productive over the last half of his senior season, posting 31 of his 40 catches in the final six games. But seniors Kevin Dorsey and Kerry Boykins are expected to lead a young, but talented group of wide receivers. Dorsey led the team in receptions (45), receiving yards (573) and touchdown receptions (three) last year, while Boykins was third in both catches (37) and receiving yards (430). Sophomore Marcus Leak will look to build upon the experience of his freshman season in expanded roles this year. Leak, a speedy and physical player, saw extensive action in the first half of 2011. He ended up posting 12 catches for 85 yards as a true freshman. Sophomore Nigel King and redshirt freshman Tyrek Cheeseboroshould also be fighting for time. King is a another big, physical presence who joined the team in spring 2011, but was unable to practice with the Terps in the fall due to an NCAA eligibility issue. Cheeseboro was one of the team’s better special teams players last season before his true freshman campaign was cut short with a knee injury. Levern Jacobsjoined the program this semester after spending the fall at Milford Academy and figures to push for time. The addition of freshmen Stefon Diggs, Malcolm Culmer and Amba Etta-Tawo will add competitiveness to the position. Diggs has impressed in preseason camp and is listed second on the depth chart at the slot receiver behind Boykins. The Terps will be young at tailback, but look to have plenty of depth at the position. Justus Pickett saw considerable time last season as a true freshman. The shifty back ranked third on the team in both carries (74) and rushing yards (274). He also caught 10 passes out of the backfield. Brandon Ross, though, has earned the starting job for week one. The redshirt freshman will be backed up by Pickett, and freshmen Wes Brown and Albert Reid will also battle for time. Maryland also returns it’s No. 1 fullback in sophomore Tyler Cierski who is a bruiser at 255 pounds. He played in all 12 games in 2011, seeing time on special teams as well. Senior Jeff Hernandez and freshman Kenneth Goins will back up Cierski.
Stability at Tight End…
• Tight end is one of the most experienced positions on the team with all four players back this season. Senior Matt Furstenburg has started the last two years and has become one of the top tight ends in the ACC. A member of the 2011 John Mackey Award midseason watch list and the preseason watch list this fall, he ranked third in the conference among tight ends in both receptions (2.6 pg) and receiving yards (29.0 pg). He has a capable backup in Devonte Campbell, who had a pair of touchdown catches last season. The senior is a strong, athletic presence who should see plenty of action in the team’s two tight-end sets. Campbell has played in 17 games over the last two years. Senior Ryan Schlothauer served as the No. 3 tight end a year ago, seeing most of his time on special teams. The wild card at the position is Dave Stinebaugh who has been relegated to the sidelines most of the last two years due to knee and shoulder injuries. The junior is healthy now though and ready to contribute after a productive preseason.
Replacements on the O-line…
• The Terps will have to replace three starters on the offensive line, though six players who have started are returning.Bennett Fulper, Justin Gilbert, Pete White and Josh Cary have the most experienced among the returners, while De’Onte Arnett and Sal Conaboy have also started. Fulper, a two-time Academic All-ACC choice, has started the last two seasons at center, but has also played guard and is slotted at the left guard spot, with Conaboy taking over at center. Gilbert was the starting left tackle in 2010 before two knee injuries sidelined him until the second half of last season. He slides over to right tackle to start this season, and will be backed up by redshirt freshman Ryan Doyle. Arnett, a junior and a converted defensive lineman, earned the starting spot at right guard. He started the final game of 2011 at left guard and played in five games total. With Josh Cary injured, Arnett will be backed up by promising redshirt freshman Andrew Zeller. Klemm is penciled in at left tackle after playing in six games as a reserve right tackle last season. Highly-touted freshman Mike Madaras will back Klemm up.
Depth on the D-line…
• With all four starters back and the shift to a 3-4 defense, Maryland entered preseason camp with plenty of depth along the defensive line. The d-line was hit hardest by the injury bug in August, though, as Andre Monroe suffered a season-ending injury, and Isaiah Ross and Keith Bowers are both out for week one. Still, the Terps have talent and depth. All-American Joe Vellano will lead this group for the third straight season. Vellano, who led the FBS last season in tackles by a lineman (7.8 per game), will move from tackle to end in new coordinator Brian Stewart’s scheme. Vellano is a two-time All-ACC performer and a two-time team captain. Senior A.J. Francis is slated to be the other end, and sophomore Darius Kilgo is slated as the starter at nose tackle. A big, athletic presence, Francis has plenty of experience. He has played in each of the last 37 games, with 23 starts to his credit. Like Francis, Kilgo is a 300-pounder, though he does not have the same level of experience. He played in just five games last season as a reserve. Among the backups, only Justin Anderson, who is behind Francis at one of the ends, has experience. Anderson started all 13 games at anchor (hybrid defensive end position) in 2010 before being sidelined with an injury early last season and eventually serving a redshirt year. Defensive line coach Greg Gattuso says Anderson has the prototypical measurables to play end in Stewart’s scheme. True freshman Quinton Jefferson is listed as the backup to Vellano. Jefferson joined the program in the spring semester after signing in 2011 and sitting out the fall due to a medical issue. Sophomore Alex Walker will backup Kilgo at nose tackle.
Core of Linebackers Return…
• The Terps have a number of productive linebackers returning to the team this season, as well as an influx of four talented freshmen. Maryland is in possession of the leading returning tackler in the ACC and top forced-fumble producer in the league. Demetrius Hartsfield ranked second in the conference last season in tackles (12.0 per game), while Darin Drakeford tied for the ACC lead in forced fumbles (four) despite missing four games due to injury. Those two seniors will lead an experienced, but still young group. Hartsfield and Drakeford are penciled into the Mo (inside) and Will (outside) positions, respectively, in Brian Stewart’s defense. Alex Twine, Cole Farrand and L.A Goree all had significant reps last season as freshmen. Twine took over as the starter at Will at the end of last season. He averaged 9.8 tackles in his four starts and is penciled into the Sam (outside) spot. Farrand won the starting job over Goree at the Mike (inside). Goree was an honorable mention freshman All-America pick last season after averaging 5.0 tackles per game (fourth in the ACC among freshmen). Farrand saw most of his time on special teams. He has readied himself to play inside by bulking up to 245 pounds in the offseason. Marcus Whitfield took over as one of the starting defensive ends in the second half of last season. He has been moved to the Will position where he will back up Drakeford. Bradley Johnson will serve as the No. 2 Mo behind Hartsfield. The freshmen will have to work to crack the two-deep, but all four have solid pedigrees. Abner Logan is the most highly decorated of the four linebackers who joined the team in the preseason. Logan was a four-star selection by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com. All-state performers Brock Dean, Shawn Petty and Avery Thompson join Logan. With Kenny Tate’s injury, Thompson will serve as the backup at Sam.
• The Terps lost a pair of cornerbacks with extensive starting experience, but return one starter at that position and will have three safeties with starting experience on the 2012 roster. Dexter McDougle started all 12 games last season at cornerback, leading the team with six pass breakups and tying for the team lead with three interceptions. The Terps will go with Jeremiah Johnson opposite McDougle. Johnson saw most of his time on special teams in 2011, but he did serve as the No. 4 cornerback for much of the season. Isaac Goins was added to the roster in December, joining the team from Contra Costa College where he was a 2011 first team All-Bay Valley Conference choice after posting six interceptions. Goins, though, is out for the opener with mono. Redshirt freshman Makinton Dorleant and true freshman Alvin Hill will provide depth at cornerback. Eric Franklin is penciled in at one safety position. He led the team in solo tackles (64), ranked second in total tackles (106) and tied for second on the team with four pass breakups. He ranked sixth in the ACC in tackles (8.8 pg). With Matt Robinson out for the opener, true freshman Sean Davis will start opposite of Franklin. Robinson was expected to be one of the key contributors on defense. When he had season-ending shoulder surgery he ranked second in the ACC and tied for seventh nationally in tackles per game (12.0).
Special Teams Makeover…
• Maryland will have a number of new faces on special teams this season. The lone returnee is Nick Ferrara, though he is listed as day-to-day and could be out for the William & Mary game. Ferrara, who handed all three phases of the kicking game last season, ranks in the top 10 in career made field goals at Maryland. Should he miss Saturday’s game, true freshman Brad Craddock, a native of Adelaide, Australia, will handle the place-kicking duties. Craddock and redshirt freshman Nathan Renfro are both listed atop the depth chart at punter, and junior Greg Parcher takes over long-snapping duties for four-year starter Tim Downs, who graduated. The Terps will look to true freshman Stefon Diggs in the return game. Diggs, a five-star prospect out of Good Counsel High School in Gaithersburg, Md., impressed in the team’s open scrimmage by returning a kick 98 yards for a touchdown and a punt 69 yards for a touchdown.