This week, we were able to catch up with some of our buddies representing Maryland websites. This morning we would like to share with you our sbnation sister site, Testudo Times' replies to some of our questions. They have asked us a few items and will post our replies over there.
Head Coach Ralph Friedgen has been on the hot seat in Maryland, particularly after last seasons disappointing performance (and yes, Clemson did fall victim to the Terps). Maryland has gotten off to a good start this year with the lone blemish coming against a respectable West Virginia squad. What will it take for Ralph to get the go ahead to finish out his contract at Maryland?
Testudo Times: Right now, it still depends on who you ask, but it’ll probably take about seven or eight wins. The biggest problem with the program right now isn’t just its lack of success; it’s the lack of buzz and enthusiasm surrounding it. Maryland’s a basketball school, and when there’s a bad football team no one really cares about it. Six win seasons aren’t going to repair the damage that 2-10 did. That, combined with a new AD that probably wants a new guy, means that Friedgen will have to do something to recapture the fanbase’s attention – whether it’s win eight games or pulling a few recruiting coups – or he’ll get the boot.
Reports surfaced late last season that Friedgen resented Maryland naming James Franklin the coach in waiting. Have you seen any dissention between the two over the past 11 months and could this issue rear its ugly head if the Terps experience shortcomings over the next few weeks?
Testudo Times: It takes a lot of looking to see it, but it’s probably there. They do a very good job of masking it, but Friedgen wasn’t told about the Franklin move until very late in the process and has never really been entirely on-board. It would only be natural for there to be some measure of dislike between the two. You can sometimes see the disconnect when they talk about the game – for instance, Friedgen will say that Player X was going to play no matter what, while Franklin will say Player X played because Player Y played poorly. There’s not a lot of outright contention between them, at least that we can see, but they’re obviously not as close as the HC and OC should be.
That said, their futures are tied. If Friedgen doesn’t finish out his contract, Franklin will likely be fired, too. The common interest should keep everything smooth, at least on the surface.
Maryland’s passing game has struggled to date, as the Terps sit ranked 102 in NCAA 1-A averaging a little over 160 ypg in this category. Can you elaborate on how Jamarr Robinson’s injury has affected Maryland’s play and what Danny O'Brien and the Terp offense will need to do to improve in this area?
Testudo Times: I don’t want to come off as tasteless here, but Robinson’s injury has kind of helped out Maryland. He was okay late in the season last year, but dreadful early on this year. O’Brien looks like the QB of the future and has been more impressive in his time. No one knows exactly how bad Robinson’s injury is, but I’m of the belief that him getting pulled was just a matter of time, injury or no. O’Brien’s the starter for good now, and probably would’ve been this time anyway regardless of a Robinson injury.
As for improvement, two things need to happen: O’Brien needs more experience, and Maryland’s offensive line needs to block for him. The first is pretty self-explanatory; O’Brien’s got a great mind for football, but he’s a redshirt freshman and still plays like one. The second is tougher; Danny O’s got some agility, but he’s not a runner like Robinson. Maryland’s offensive line still isn’t up to snuff after last year’s disaster, and the occasional injuries aren’t helping. When he gets pressured, it’s clear he’s not the same QB.
Oh, and throwing deep to Torrey Smith more would be nice too. It’s nearly a guaranteed big play or pass interference call, but Franklin and Friedgen seem to avoid it.
Coach Friedgen has historically been a thorn in Clemson’s side, dating back to his days as Georgia Tech’s offensive coordinator. What will RF and the entire team attempt to do to win in Death Valley this Saturday?
Testudo Times: I’m not really sure Maryland does anything radically different. This team knows what it is, which is an overachieving bunch that relies on big plays and its turnover margin to win games. The nice thing about those two factors is that they can work against anyone. The bad thing is that they can also fail against anyone. Unless Maryland suddenly develops a stronger defense or more explosive offense, this is the formula.
Da’Rel Scott, Davin Meggett, and (especially) Torrey Smith all have big play ability; Tony Logan might be the best punt returner in the nation and is a good bet to score literally every time he touches the ball. Maryland will probably need at least two long TDs, plus a turnover or two. In the past few games, they’ve gotten them. Against Clemson? Who knows.
Clemson has been rather inconsistent offensively this year and has given up (defensively) some big plays and crucial 3rd/4th down conversions. We anticipate (per Dabo Swinney’s Sunday presser) that Clemson will feature Andre Ellington more moving forward. Can Maryland stop our best back and has Maryland shown you to this point that they can take advantage of missed defensive assignments (Clemson has had quite a few recently) on Saturday?
Testudo Times: Maryland has faced only one dynamic back so far this year, and did better than the stats show. Noel Devine of West Virginia is one of the most electric backs in the country, and if you take out his one 50-yard run, he had 81 yards on 26 carries. Joe Vellano has been a great surprise at DT and has made a living of busting up plays in the backfield, Maryland’s linbackers are all above-average, and the safeties help out a lot in run support. Whether or not Maryland will be able to contain Ellington, I don’t know; Clemson’s offensive line is probably a little better than WVU’s, though Ellington isn’t Devine. The more Ellington can get to the outside, the worse; Alex Wujciak is slower than molasses and Maryland’s corners are inconsistent tacklers at best.
As for the missed assignments: a few of Maryland’s big TDs this year have come when one player (usually a safety) misses an assignment, especially in the Morgan State and West Virginia games. Maryland’s skill players have the ability to make a team pay for mistakes. The thing that worries me is that most of those types of plays came when Robinson was in at QB; O’Brien hasn’t shown the same ability to identify mistakes, at least not yet. Now, the coaches say reading the field is his strength, especially compared to Robinson (who, to be fair, made some unbelievably egregious throws), so maybe it’s just a matter of time. That’s the hope; Maryland’s offense isn’t good enough to leave points on the field.
It was nice to see the Maryland/Navy rivalry played again this year. What game in particular do you guys (as a fan base) insist on winning and what former rival would you like to play again?
Testudo Times: This used to be West Virginia, especially in the early 2000s. Then a series of Mountaineer blowouts plus a two-year hiatus happened, and though there’s still a lot of passion, I think "insist" might be a little strong, especially considering their current talent advantage. Virginia’s probably more accurate right now; I don’t think any coach would be fired because they lost too many games to UVA, but the fanbases really dislike each other and the teams are usually of similar talent levels. The games are entertaining and losses certainly hurt more than they would if they came against, say, Wake Forest.
If I could renew any Maryland rivalry, it’s Penn State, easily. Maryland would get creamed, but UMD-PSU used to be a really big game, at least for Marylanders. The weird thing about it is that Maryland is 1-35-1 all-time against PSU, with the lone win coming in 1961. The last game, in 1993, was a 70-7 loss in College Park. I’m not eager for a beat-down, but if Maryland re-dedicates themselves to football, this series could get interesting in the future (especially if Maryland hires Penn State alum Al Golden as a HC in the future; his name is brought up a lot).