Terrapins seek identity with heavy dose of ACC awaiting

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Four games are complete. Three ranked opponents loom in succession. Two wins were earned over the past month. And one question hangs over the Maryland football program.

Just where are the Terrapins headed after a decidedly uneven four games to commence coach Randy Edsall’s first year in College Park?

The answer probably will be connected to how quickly Maryland’s offense can settle itself in the next three weeks.

The Terps (2-2) scored three offensive touchdowns in the first half of its first four games, the sort of sputtering they can overcome against the likes of Towson. It won’t work out quite so well against No. 13 Georgia Tech, No. 8 Clemson and No. 23 Florida State as Maryland delves back into conference play.

Much of the Terps’ problems stem from wasting opportunities, especially in a 38-7 loss to Temple on Sept. 24 and Saturday’s 28-3 defeat of Towson. Maryland ran a combined 54 plays in the first half of those games; it had 49 offensive snaps before the break in their Labor Day opener against Miami.

“It was kind of the same deal as last week,” quarterback Danny O'Brien said. “If you go three-and-out in this offense that fast and don’t get the ball back for a while, you’ve got to get that train rolling again. It felt like we didn’t play in the first half. You have to have the ball, and a lot of that’s on us.”

There are plenty of areas where the Terps could afford some self-reflection. Some of the offensive issues stem from personnel flux, namely the suspensions senior wideouts Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler served last month. Both returned Saturday to start against Towson.

Handing O'Brien a full complement of receivers should eventually help narrow the direction of an offense that’s shown a bit of everything - spread zone reads, pro sets, play action, power running - but not played nearly as well as it did against a suspension-addled Miami defense to start the season.

There’s also the matter of pace, one of the few hints about the massive on-field makeover of the Terps that Edsall was willing to drop before the season. It’s tough to dictate such matters when a team rarely has the ball; Maryland’s combined time of possession the past two weeks was 43 minutes, 20 seconds. The Terps also were understandably more methodical once they built a bigger lead Saturday.

That was one extra look for a team with no shortage of styles and schemes at its disposal. The trouble is finding what will work over the next eight weeks.

“Going forward, we’ll be who we really want to be based on our personnel,” Edsall said. “We’ve gotten a chance to see our personnel and see it live against other people. You know what you have to do and how you have to go about it, and that’s what we plan to do.”

Just what that plan is remains to be seen. Backup quarterback C.J. Brown was inserted for a series in the third quarter in what Edsall said was a pre-planned move. Edsall declined to say if he would continue to juggle quarterbacks.

Maryland prioritized two tailbacks Saturday, almost evenly splitting carries between Davin Meggett (16) and Justus Pickett (14) while minimizing the role of red zone back D.J. Adams. The addition of McCree and Tyler means a cascade effect of changing roles in the receiver corps, with Kerry Boykins and Tony Logan sliding back into reserve roles.

Changes could soon follow, as they have throughout the past month. Or perhaps the Terps finally will settle on the version of themselves, whatever exactly it is.

“I’m not positive who we are, honestly,” O'Brien said. “Obviously, we’ll see more next week in ACC play what we have to do to win games. We’re good at a lot of things, and we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to be great at - a smaller amount that we’re going to condense and focus in on and be great at. I don’t know who we’re going to be yet, but we have the potential to go a lot of directions.”

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