The lull of the college football offseason is in full swing over the next month. I’ll try to fill that void on the blog by taking a look at all of Virginia Tech’s 2013 opponents and (hopefully) getting some insight from a beat writer who covers each team.
The next team up is Maryland, who Virginia Tech gets one more time before the Terps join the Big Ten. I was a little slow in getting in contact with a Maryland beat writer, who was on vacation by the time I asked for some help, so for now, this will have to suffice for the Terps preview.
Who: Maryland Terrapins
When: Saturday, Nov. 16
Where: Lane Stadium in Blacksburg
Series history: Tied 15-15 (Last meeting: 2009 in College Park, Md., 36-9 Hokies win)
The coach: Randy Edsall, third season, 6-18 at Maryland; 80-88 in 14 years
Last year’s record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC, 5th Atlantic)
How they got there: It’s tough to blame last season on Edsall. His debut year in 2011 was admittedly a disaster, with a near outright revolt from the players and only two wins making Terps fans wonder just who the heck they hired to replace the popular Ralph Friedgen. But last year, when Maryland lost four quarterbacks to season-ending knee injuries and had to start a scout team freshman linebacker under center the final four games, is just an extremely bad run of luck. The Terps were 4-2 at one point but predictably lost six straight to finish the season when their quarterback situation became comical. Only once in those six games did Maryland reach 20 points. Overall, the offense ranked 120th nationally last year while the defense was 21st. It’s clear where the issues originated. Edsall might have been on the hot seat after his rock bottom first year in College Park, but he certainly gets a re-do in Year 2. He might not be the most popular coach in town, but even his harshest critic has to admit he wasn’t quite dealt a fair hand last year.
By the numbers
- Rushing offense: 103.00 ypg (112th nationally, 10th ACC)
- Passing offense: 181.75 ypg (100th, 11th)
- Total offense: 284.75 ypg (120th, 12th)
- Scoring offense: 20.08 ppg (107th, 10th)
- Rushing defense: 129.33 ypg (26th, 2nd)
- Passing defense: 207.50 ypg (30th, 3rd)
- Total defense: 336.83 ypg (21st, 3rd)
- Scoring defense: 27.17 ppg (56th, 6th)
- Turnover margin: -.83 (104th, 11th)
Offensive starters returning/lost: 5/6
Defensive starters returning/lost: 4/7
Biggest loss: DT Joe Vellano. The man in the middle of the defensive line is gone. And he’s a big loss. Vellano’s 61 tackles were fourth on the team, and his 14 tackles for a loss and six sacks led the Terps, numbers all the more impressive considering he was a tackle and not an end. Maryland will miss this All-ACC pick on the line.
Team linchpin: WR Stefon Diggs. The Terps didn’t have much going in their favor on offense last year, but Diggs was an exception. As a true freshman, Diggs lived up to the hype, finishing with the second-most all-purpose yards in school history (1,896). At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, the speedster stood out, despite an anemic passing game. He had 54 catches, 848 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns, the kind of numbers that makes you wonder what he could do with a serviceable quarterback throwing him the ball. Expectations are through the roof for him this year.
Watch out for: QB C.J. Brown. Maryland was extremely excited to see this 6-foot-3, 210-pound dual threat in action last year. Then he tore his ACL in the first week of fall practice. Brown finished 2011 as the starter, throwing seven touchdowns to six interceptions, but it was his 574 rushing yards and five touchdowns that made him such an intriguing player. He was still recovering in the spring — giving way for former Virginia Tech quarterback Ricardo Young to take all the first-team reps — but should enter the fall as the No. 1 option.
The 2013 schedule
- Aug. 31: vs. Florida International
- Sept. 7: vs. Old Dominion
- Sept. 14: at Connecticut
- Sept. 21: vs. West Virginia (in Baltimore)
- Oct. 5: at Florida State
- Oct. 12: vs. Virginia
- Oct. 19: at Wake Forest
- Oct. 26: vs. Clemson
- Nov. 9: vs. Syracuse
- Nov. 16: at Virginia Tech
- Nov. 23: vs. Boston College
- Nov. 30: at N.C. State
The buzz: There are certainly mixed feelings in College Park about Edsall, who hasn’t had much on-field success but, with the help of offensive coordinator and recruiting ace Mike Locksley, has produced top-35 classes in each of the last two seasons. Maryland played 15 true freshmen last year, so there’s plenty of young talent on the roster. It might be enough to get the Terps back into the bowl picture for the first time since Friedgen’s last year, something Maryland seemed on track to do last year before the injury bug eliminated any chance. The schedule is no gimme, with games at Florida State and Virginia Tech, a home game against Clemson and a neutral site contest against West Virginia. Another disappointing season won’t cut it, especially with the Terps bracing for their move to Big Ten before the 2014 season. Competing with FSU and Clemson in the Atlantic is certainly a stretch, but Edsall needs to show some kind of improvement in Year 3 to keep a frustrated fan base at bay.
Why they should be excited: The Terps will have a trained quarterback taking snaps in games, so that’s a positive. It’d be impossible to repeat last year’s luck in terms of signal callers, so whatever they get this year — be it from Brown, Young or sophomores Perry Hills or Caleb Rowe – it has to be better than last year. Whoever is taking snaps will be aided by a decent receiving corps, one led by Diggs but also with Iowa Western Community College transfer Deon Long, who led the nation at that level with 100 catches, 1,625 yards and 25 touchdowns last year (although he was suspended for two weeks in the spring for violating school policy). Running back Wes Brown (382 yards, 2 TD) did well for a freshman. The Terps lost a few players from last year’s stout defensive unit, but there are some key returners, including nose tackle Darius Kilgo (40 tackles, 5 TFLs), linebacker Cole Farrand (team-high 78 tackles, 6 TFLs) and veteran cornerbacks Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson. Having both coordinators back for a second straight season (Locksley on offense, Brian Stewart on defense) should help the team build some continuity. As a bonus, Diggs is one of the most dangerous return men in the country.
Why they should worry: The offensive issues last year weren’t entirely on the quarterback. The offensive line gave up 40 sacks, seventh most nationally, and didn’t necessarily open a ton of holes for the running game, which averaged a meager 2.6 yards per carry last year, one of the lowest averages in the country. Three starters are back on the line, but with a group that was that bad, expect plenty of shuffling until Maryland can find the right combination. The quarterbacks should be better by virtue that they’re healthy, but it’s not as if they have a ton of playing experience. Young, for instance, hasn’t played in an actual game since 2009, when he was still in high school, having sat out at Virginia Tech, New Mexico and in his first year in College Park as a transfer. Defensively, the players Maryland lost were a big reason for its success last year. Vellano, end A.J. Francis (9 TFLs, 4 sacks) and linebackers Demetrius Hartsfield (78 tackles, 7 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, despite missing three games) and Kenneth Tate were all All-ACC honorees in some form or fashion and will be hard to replace. Finishing with the No. 21 defense in the country might be a tall order this year.
The more you know: Maryland lost 10 players to season-ending injuries last season, four of them quarterbacks.
- Alabama: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Western Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- East Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Marshall: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Georgia Tech: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- North Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Pittsburgh: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Duke: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Boston College: Team overview
- Miami: Team overview | Ask a beat writer