By David Glenn
May 6, 2008
COLLEGE PARK Installation. That was the watchword at Maryland this spring, as the coaching staff worked overtime to implement new offensive and defensive schemes.
Much has been written about the fact that Maryland, under first-year offensive coordinator James Franklin, is installing a West Coast-style attack.
The Terrapins also are making schematic changes on the defensive side of the ball. Fourth-year coordinator Chris Cosh is planning to base out of a three-down "stack" alignment, to take advantage of the team's surplus of quality linebackers.
Cosh believes the Terrapins have at least six linebackers capable of starting and wants to utilize all of that talent.
"We are trying to create a little more speed by who we have in there and what positions they are playing," said Cosh, who hopes to create an attacking scheme designed to create confusion through multiple fronts and unpredictable blitzes. "This (system) requires more out of the linebackers, since they have to be more multiple in what they do. They need to be flexible enough to play with their hand in the dirt or standing up."
Maryland has employed a 3-4 scheme for most of the past decade, utilizing a hybrid linebacker-end position (known as LEO) to morph into a 4-3 front. Senior Trey Covington, a third-year starter at LEO, will not line up in a three-point stance as much this season. Meanwhile, senior Jeremy Navarre will shift from end to tackle, since the Terps routinely will use a three-man line.
By far the biggest hole in the Maryland defense is at nose guard, because of the loss of Dre Moore, an All-ACC selection and a fourth-round draft pick of Tampa Bay. Walk-on Bemi Otulaja emerged from spring camp as the starter, although the staff is hoping that promising redshirt freshman Dion Armstrong will make an impact this season.
That position will prove paramount, as both the tackle (Navarre) and the nose guard routinely will be asked to take on double-teams so the linebackers will be free to flow and make plays.
"It's definitely a different mentality inside," said Navarre, a former state champion wrestler who always has played with good leverage. "You're going against bigger blockers, and often it's two at a time."
Navarre had a strong season at end in 2007, tying for the team lead with 5.5 sacks while ranking third among down linemen with 41 total tackles. He's first among active Terps in career tackles for loss (18) and sacks (nine).
"I don't want to change my game," said Navarre, who hopes to bulk up from 265 to around 280 by August. "I just try to stay low and stay strong at the point of attack."
There figures to be some serious competition at all of the linebacker spots this season, after star Erin Henderson gave up his final year of eligibility to turn pro. Covington, Dave Philistin and Moise Fokou all have started, while Adrian Moten played as much as any linebacker last fall. Chase Bullock and Alex Wujciak were on their way to earning starting jobs last season before sustaining injuries during August camp, while Rick Costa saw considerable action before being sidelined by a shoulder problem.
Philistin, a sturdy 6-2, 231-pound senior, had a break-out campaign in 2007, ranking second on the team and fourth in the ACC with 124 tackles. Cosh also was extremely impressed with the performance of Moten, who was forced into the fray as a redshirt freshman and finished ninth on the team with 50 tackles while playing all three linebacker positions.
Meanwhile, the Maryland coaches have said for more than a year that Wujciak has the potential to be the best of the bunch. He's a 6-3, 255-pound animal with aggressive instincts and a slight mean streak. He terrorized the starting offense while serving on the scout team as a true freshman, then missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Perhaps the most important player in the stack alignment is Covington, who remains the one linebacker with the size and strength to creep up to the line of scrimmage and serve as a real run-stopper. However, the versatile Covington has assumed additional coverage responsibilities and also will be asked to blitz a lot.
"My position is way different now," said Covington, an impressive physical specimen at 6-3 and 240 pounds with above-average speed. "Last season, I was basically a defensive end, but I'm not on the line of scrimmage as much anymore."
An important emphasis of spring practice involved getting the QBs acclimated to the West Coast-style offense being implemented by Franklin, who picked up the system while serving as the wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers. Franklin then incorporated elements of the Indianapolis Colts' vaunted play-action game during his two-year stint as Kansas State's offensive coordinator.
Friedgen concluded spring camp believing that his top three signal-callers all needed work in understanding and executing the system, which features more three-step drops and shorter patterns with a goal of accumulating more yards after the catch. That is why Friedgen was particularly perturbed that Maryland's quarterbacks suffered six sacks in the Red-White scrimmage.
"We're holding onto the ball way too long," Friedgen said. "We've got to get the ball out of our hands. We can't just sit there and wait. If it's not there, throw it away or run the football.
"This type of offense is not going to work if guys don't start getting rid of the football faster."
Friedgen was disappointed that returning starter Chris Turner, former starter Jordan Steffy and Florida transfer Josh Portis remained relatively even coming out of spring practice.
"I'm looking for some guy to separate," Friedgen said, "and I really can't see that right now."
Maryland also was hoping to identify a new starting tailback during spring camp, and it appeared that Da'Rel Scott moved ahead of classmate Morgan Green. A speedy sophomore, Scott was the star of the Red-White contest, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while displaying the breakaway ability the coaching staff loves.
Scott, a high school state champion in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.56 seconds, turned in the highlight of the scrimmage, bursting through a hole and racing 75 yards for a touchdown. While the run was called back because of illegal motion, it illustrated the home run ability of the 5-11, 192-pound back.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Scott's performance was the fact that he also gained some tough yards between the tackles. Friedgen has questioned whether the Pennsylvania native can withstand the pounding that goes along with being the featured tailback in a predominantly I-formation set.
"I worry about Da'Rel's durability," Friedgen said. "He's been injury-prone ever since he got here."
Maryland's offensive linemen struggled throughout camp with understanding the new blocking schemes involved in the West Coast offense. Senior center Edwin Williams, who has played in 36 straight games with 26 consecutive starts, admitted that he felt like a freshman at times.
"The blocking rules aren't set in stone anymore," Williams said. "This system gives the linemen more freedom, but along with that comes more responsibility because you need to know who to block and when to provide help."
SPRING 2008 OVERVIEW
RG Andrew Crummey, DT Carlos Feliciano, CB Isaiah Gardner, LB Erin Henderson (early NFL), FS J.J. Justice, RB Keon Lattimore, DT Dre Moore, SS Christian Varner
RB Lance Ball, HB Jason Goode, TE Joey Haynos, DE Jermaine Lemons, DS Brendan McDermond, PK Chris Roberts
2008 Returning Starters^
Pos. Name Ht./Wt. Class
QB Chris Turner 6-4/210 Jr.
FB Cory Jackson 6-1/245 Jr.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 6-2/206 Jr.
WR LaQuan Williams 6-1/180 So.
TE Dan Gronkowski 6-6/255 Sr.
LT Scott Burley 6-5/335 Sr.
LG Jaimie Thomas 6-4/339 Sr.
OC Edwin Williams 6-3/315 Sr.
RT Dane Randolph 6-5/300 Sr.
DT Jeremy Navarre 6-3/270 Sr.
DE Trey Covington 6-3/240 Sr.
LB Moise Fokou 6-2/225 Sr.
LB Dave Philistin 6-2/231 Sr.
CB Kevin Barnes 6-1/188 *Sr.
Special Teams (2)
PK Obi Egekeze 6-2/210 *Sr.
P Travis Baltz 6-2/200 So.
- -has utilized redshirt season
^ -six/more 2007 regular-season starts
Other Tested Returnees
OT Bruce Campbell, OG Phil Costa, OG Jack Griffin, WR/PR Danny Oquendo, RB/KR Da'Rel Scott, QB Jordan Steffy, WR Isaiah Williams
SS Jeff Allen, LB Chase Bullock, CB Nolan Carroll, LB Rick Costa, DE Mack Frost, LB Adrian Moten, FS Antwine Perez (eligible transfer), DS Andrew Schmitt, FS Terrell Skinner, CB/PR Anthony Wiseman, LB Alex Wujciak
Year ACC Overall Postseason
1998 1-7 (8) 3-8 None
1999 2-6 (8) 5-6 None
2000 3-5 (6) 5-6 None
2001 7-1 (1) 10-2 Orange Bowl (L)
2002 6-2 (2) 11-3 Peach Bowl (W)
2003 6-2 (2) 10-3 Gator Bowl (W)
2004 3-5 (8) 5-6 None
2005 3-5 (4A) 5-6 None
2006 5-3 (2A) 9-4 Champs Bowl (W)
2007 3-5 (5A) 6-7 Emerald Bowl (L)
ACC: 39-41 (.488)
Overall: 69-51 (.575)
Date Opponent 2007 Record
Aug. 30 Delaware 11-4 (5-3)
Sept. 6 at Middle Tennessee 5-7 (4-3)
Sept. 13 California 7-6 (3-6)
Sept. 20 Eastern Michigan 4-8 (3-4)
Sept. 27 at Clemson 9-4 (5-3)
Oct. 4 at Virginia 9-4 (6-2)
Oct. 11 OPEN
Oct. 18 Wake Forest 9-4 (5-3)
Oct. 25 N.C. State 5-7 (3-5)
Nov. 1 OPEN
Nov. 6 at Virginia Tech 11-3 (7-1)
Nov. 15 North Carolina 4-8 (3-5)
Nov. 22 Florida State 7-6 (4-4)
Nov. 29 at Boston College 11-3 (6-2)
NOTE: Most game times still TBA.
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