MARYLAND FOOTBALL 2007
Maryland”s first pivotal moment is Sept. 13, when West Virginia comes to Byrd Stadium. Although a rerun of last year”s bludgeoning in Morgantown would not be fun for the Terrapins, it”s how they do the following two weeks at Wake Forest and Rutgers that will have a greater role in establishing the direction of the season. A split probably would leave Maryland at 3-2 with the bulk of ACC play remaining.
KINGS OF SWING
In the ACC — in which the league”s overly lauded parity means a bustling population of 8-4 and 7-5 teams — there is no shortage of swing games. Maryland gets nearly all of its toss-up games at home, with Georgia Tech, Virginia, Clemson and Boston College all visiting in a span of 36 days. If the Terps can poach three of those, another bowl berth seems likely.
PLAYER ON THE SPOT
6-1, 209, quarterback
It”s finally Steffy”s turn to run the show, and no one is precisely sure how he will handle the starting gig after comfortably fending off Josh Portis and Chris Turner. Coach Ralph Friedgen emphasized Steffy”s decision-making throughout camp, and the onus will be on him to avoid turnovers and take advantage of two veteran tailbacks (Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore) and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
THE THIN RED LINE
The season could collapse in a hurry if there are any substantial injuries on the offensive line. The Terps have seven veteran linemen as well as physical freshman tackle Bruce Campbell. Center Edwin Williams and right guard Andrew Crummey should be among the ACC”s best. But if there is significant in-season attrition, it won”t matter who the quarterback is; the Terps” offense will struggle to score.
ISN”T THAT SPECIAL?
The last time Maryland broke in a new kicker and new punter in the same season was 1993, but the Terps have little choice this year. Obi Egekeze won the field goal kicking duties after losing camp competitions the last two years to Dan Ennis, while true freshman Travis Baltz will succeed four-year starter Adam Podlesh. Usually a strength for Maryland, special teams is a relative unknown on the eve of the season.
PRESSURE FOR PRESSURE
The Terps managed only 20 sacks last year, No. 94 nationally and fewer than everyone in the ACC except Duke. Two line starters plus Maryland”s linebacker-end hybrid are back, and there will be a need to harass the quarterback more — especially with a revamped secondary that graduated star cornerback Josh Wilson.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Maryland scored the same number of points as its opponents last year (284), surrendered 600 more yards than it gained and somehow went 9-4. That simply isn”t supposed to happen, and chances are a statistical rerun would produce far more middling results. If the two lines hold up and Steffy proves a capable successor for Sam Hollenbach, these Terps might be a shade better — and still wind up with between six and eight victories.
— Patrick Stevens