Maryland’s road to success wasn’t exactly six lanes wide to begin with when preseason camp started a little more than two weeks ago.
Perhaps some especially optimistic Terrapins fans would have disagreed with that assessment. But just about anyone could have looked at a roster with 79 scholarship players (just 76 if the three New Mexico transfers who have to sit out this season are taken out of the equation) and understood one truth.
Namely, Maryland needed to stay healthy, especially at a handful of positions where there was a notable lack of depth —- namely quarterback and defensive back.
So sure enough, it’s now 10 days and counting before Maryland opens its schedule against William & Mary and tries to turn the page on a miserable 2-10 season, and a bunch of injuries have already popped up.
The three most affected units: Quarterback, defensive back and defensive line.
Tuesday, it turned out, proved to be an inopportune day to not be at practice. Coach Randy Edsall‘s quote sheet includes an epic rundown of who’s ailing on Maryland’s roster. It’s a long list.
Rather than simply regurgitate all the updates from the absence, here’s a position-by-position look from where Maryland can go from here after a plethora of injuries
Redshirt freshman Brandon Ross and freshman Albert Reid are dealing with some injury issues, though Edsall said it doesn’t appear to be serious. Ultimately, the Terps have restored some depth at tailback through recruiting, bringing in four scholarship running backs to complement Ross and Justus Pickett.
While running backs can be a finite resource (just ask Iowa), Maryland doesn’t look like it’s in any great danger at the position at the moment. Perhaps there would be reason to worry if a couple guys went down, but if Edsall’s correct and Ross in particular returns later this week, running back will not be near the top of the Terps’ list of concerns.
So far, Maryland’s offensive line has made it through camp with “just” a knee injury expected to keep Josh Cary out for three weeks. That isn’t good for Cary, of course, and the upshot is it likely means junior De’Onte Arnett starts early in the season.
Nonetheless, the Terps’ anticipated starting offensive line has worked together throughout camp. Depth is a bit of a concern, if only because there are a bunch of redshirt freshmen who could easily land in the two-deep for the opener. But Edsall seemed pleased with the likes of Andrew Zeller and Ryan Doyle during their redshirt seasons. Cary’s absence doesn’t help, but the offensive line has not been devastated like some other units this month.
This is the headliner still, even if it happened a week ago. Projected starting quarterback C.J. Brown is done for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Credit to Edsall for sorting out a less-than-ideal situation about as quickly as he could. Freshman Perry Hills will start. Freshman Caleb Rowe will be the backup. QB-turned-wideout-turned-QB Devin Burns will be the No. 3 option under center. It’s a group with zero combined college snaps as quarterbacks, but at least the Terps got to know the score at the crucial position as soon as possible after Brown’s injury.
Edsall says senior Nick Ferrara is “day-to-day” and is no longer a part of the punting competition. It’s probably for the best Ferrara isn’t asked to handle punting, placekicking and kickoffs again this year; the chance to concentrate of kickoffs, extra points and field goals should decrease the chances of overuse.
One of the best parts of Maryland’s switch to a 3-4 defense is that a position where the numbers were previously OK became an unquestioned position of strength.
Well, at least until this month’s attrition.
Sophomore Andre Monroe has a season-ending knee injury. Keith Bowers is out two or three weeks. Isaiah Ross is day-to-day. That wonderful depth on the d-line has, to some degree, eroded.
With Monroe gone and Ian Evans leaving the program early in camp, Maryland is down to eight or nine scholarship defensive linemen (it’s nine if you count freshman Roman Braglio, who Edsall said has moved from outside linebacker to defensive end). Maryland defensive line coach Greg Gattuso hoped to employ a seven-man rotation; what once looked like a conundrum might be a matter of simply using who is available in the season’s early stages.
The noteworthy linebacker injury during camp is Kenny Tate‘s. The fifth-year senior has an upcoming doctor’s visit; this after missing the final eight games last season with a knee injury.
Here’s the thing: Of all the linebackers, Tate might have the most capable backup. He definitely has the most tested backup. Alex Twine played a significant role a season ago as a 17-year-old freshman, even starting four games. If Tate has to miss extended time, Maryland loses some wiggle room among its reserves. And while Tate’s all-encompassing football knowledge would be missed, Twine is arguably one of Maryland’s top reserves.
Back in February, Edsall laid out an ideal allocation of scholarships for all positions. In the secondary, there would theoretically be seven safeties and seven cornerbacks.
Well, the Terps opened camp with 12 scholarship defensive backs (six safeties and six corners), though New Mexico transfer Zach Dancel must sit out this year.
Thanks to injuries to Matt Robinson (shoulder) and A.J. Hendy (ankle) and an illness for Isaac Goins (mono) expected to keep each out at least three weeks, Maryland will probably have eight scholarship defensive backs available for the opener.
That group includes three true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen, along with tentative starters Eric Franklin, Jeremiah Johnson and Dexter McDougle.
For as solid as the front seven looked on defense, there weren’t many tested options in the secondary coming into camp. Even fewer exist now. While Edsall’s timetables suggest Goins, Hendy and Robinson will all return eventually (and perhaps even fairly quickly), the secondary could be especially vulnerable to either strong passing games or injury in the season’s opening weeks.
Looking for a slight bit of hope? William & Mary dealt with inconsistent quarterback play last year, and neither Connecticut (84th nationally in passing offense last year) nor Temple (116th) has much of an established passing attack. That’s not to say they won’t pose headaches, but the secondary’s big early test comes Sept. 22 at West Virginia (sixth nationally in passing last season).
The Terps could use some guys back in the mix, not to mention a halt on the run of defensive back injuries, by the time they trek to Morgantown.
—- Patrick Stevens