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Maryland predictions revisited

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You’ll have to take my word for it that I – and not Philip Nichols – posted 10 predictions about Maryland’s season roughly three hours before the Aug. 30 opener.

Then again, since some of them turned out to be quite wrong, I’m sure Nichols – whoever he is, though I doubt it’s the associate judge of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court – wouldn’t want to be associated with some of these forecasts.

Let’s go:

1. Multiple quarterbacks will start multiple games. Both Jordan Steffy and Chris Turner will have their turn to be the starter. It wouldn’t be surprising if Maryland trotted out Josh Portis for the first snap or series at least once. Just accept it. Everyone will get their turn on this team to play QB.

INCORRECT. Steffy fractured his right thumb in the season opener, and Turner started the next 12 games. Close, but not quite.

2. Da’Rel Scott will rush for 1,000 yards. The offensive line is built to run. Scott probably has three or four 50-yard scampers in him. Maryland will probably play 13 games. The No. 2 running back still has the sort of weaknesses you’d expect a freshman to have after less than a month of camp. That leaves Scott, who will squeak over the 1,000-yard mark either late in the regular season or in the Terps’ bowl game.

CORRECT. Right down to the anticipation of Scott sliding over the 1,000-yard plateau very late in the season. Scott ran for 1,131 yards, including 174 in the Humanitarian Bowl.

3. The greatest worry spot will be defensive line. The second one more defensive lineman goes down to injury, Maryland is going to have to worry a little bit. The Terps made it through camp with the loss of one guy likely to play (Travis Ivey) and one guy likely to redshirt (Carl Russell), and both should return in the second half of this month. But the likes of Jeremy Navarre, Mack Frost, Bemi Otulaja … they need to be on the field. Maryland is in trouble if they are sidelined.

BASICALLY, CORRECT. No defensive lineman had more than 2.5 sacks, the unit was never a consistent strength and Maryland needed to reshuffle things in November. There were other trouble spots – offensive line and cornerback spring to mind – but the Terps were undersized and often undermanned on the defensive front this season.

4. A Maryland linebacker will rank in the top three in the ACC in tackles. The leading candidate is Alex Wujciak, but Dave Philistin might wind up playing enough to pull it off himself. Either way, a tackling machine will emerge for the Terps.

CORRECT. Wujciak ranked second in the league in tackles per game, rolling up 133 total hits as a sophomore. He enjoyed one of his best games in the Humanitarian Bowl, notching 12 tackles (and 1.5 sacks) against Nevada.

5. The Terps will struggle in their showcase road games. Two games that just don’t look good for Maryland are at Clemson and at Virginia Tech. Even though the Tigers are the more talented of the two teams, Maryland will stay closer in Death Valley than they do in a Thursday night affair in Blacksburg – which is a well-tested kryptonite for opponents not named Matt Ryan.

CORRECT. Consider this three-quarters correct, which basically counts. Maryland was terrible in the first half at Clemson and was handled up front at Virginia Tech. The Terps’ defense played well after the break at Clemson, but “struggle” is a fair way to sum up a good chunk of that game.

6. At season’s end, Maryland will not have more than two players on the all-ACC first team. This is going to remain a fairly anonymous bunch, even if the Terps do roll up eight or nine wins. The pieces are there for a push toward a conference title, but chances are Maryland will do it quietly rather than with much pizzazz.

INCORRECT. The Terps placed three players – punter Travis Baltz, tailback Da’Rel Scott and center Edwin Williams – on the all-conference first team.

7. Darrius Heyward-Bey will come close to securing Maryland’s second 1,000-yard receiving season. Only Marcus Badgett (1992) has pulled this one off, but Heyward-Bey has a chance if he can roll up some numbers early. In a system reliant on short patterns, yards after catch will be crucial for the junior.

INCORRECT. Heyward-Bey’s team-leading 609 yards were the lowest total to top the Terps since Derrick Fenner had 430 yards in 2004.

8. Dan Gronkowski will match his career receptions total (11) by the end of September. Gronkowski is a big target and Joey Haynos graduated. With Steffy at quarterback to begin the season, expect Gronkowski to become a reliable target.

INCORRECT, but barely. Gronkowski caught 10 passes in September, then hauled in only 19 receptions over the final eight games.

9. Maryland’s TD passes and interceptions will both increase. If new offensive coordinator James Franklin is serious about being aggressive, those numbers will almost have to go up. The Terps threw only nine TDs (against 11 picks) last year. Expect the TDs somewhere around 20, the picks a bit lower than that.

CORRECT. Maryland threw 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, both increases over 2007.

10. Maryland will either go 8-4 or 7-5 and land in the Music City Bowl. The Sept. 13 meeting with California is the swing game. Win that, and Maryland could be bowl eligible by mid-October. Lose the one marquee nonconference game on the schedule and it might seem like more of the same only three weeks into the season.

HALF CORRECT. The range for the record was spot-on. But with both Boston College and Georgia Tech better than expected and geographic proximity so important this year, Maryland fell to the Humanitarian Bowl.

So that’s 5.5 correct and 4.5 incorrect, which isn’t a terribly good record. However, if Steffy didn’t get hurt and Gronkowski made one extra catch in September, things would have looked a lot better.

Patrick Stevens

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