Part of Maryland week ...
To get a jump on previewing this year's Boston College vs. Maryland game, we welcome back the boys at Testudo Times back to the blog for Five Good Minutes.
BC Interruption: Obviously the biggest story of the offseason is the departure of Ralph Friedgen and the hiring of Randy Edsall. What changes are fans expecting from the new look Terrapins?
Testudo Times: Immediately, I'm not sure if we're expecting anything radically different. Edsall is different from Ralph, but they're still ultimately similar coaches - we're not transitioning to Mike Leach here. The biggest initial differences will come in with the coordinators. Gary Crowton, who's been running LSU's offense for the past few years and was a part of BYU and Oregon before that, is known for having fantastic first seasons offensively with a spread-style attack (though after that he tends to tank). Considering he's working with probably the conference's best quarterback, I'm expecting him to open it up and let Danny O'Brien throw the ball a lot more than he did.
On the other side of the ball, Todd Bradford is replacing Don Brown, and that's a major negative switch on the surface. Bradford is a case of failing upward: he did a crap job as DC at Southern Miss, took a demotion at Maryland as a LB coach, and then stepped up for Brown when he went to UConn. A crap job at Southern Miss gives me no confidence he'll do a good job at Maryland. If you combine that with what everyone is hoping will be a relatively open offense, the Terps should be involved a lot more high-scoring games.
BCI: Danny O'Brien had a monster 2010 season on his way to ACC Rookie of the Year honors. What kind of changes do you expect to see out of him from due to a year under his belt and the loss of his two top WRs (Smith/Cannon)?
TT: The big thing to look for is what you just mentioned: the loss of Adrian Cannon and Torrey Smith. O'Brien has a ton of options at wide receiver, but none of them are truly proven. Finding a go-to, reliable target will be crucial for him, because he'd often focus in on Smith last year (with good reason). With that in mind, the first few games might be a little tougher than expected.
But O'Brien is by and large the same player he was last year, just a year older, wiser, and stronger. That last one is of especial importance; O'Brien's biggest knock was a relative lack of arm strength. If he can flesh that out, and I imagine he can, he'll be an extremely dangerous passer. He's also in that aforementioned new scheme, which should see him take a larger load of the offense. O'Brien started to become Maryland's star and leader last year, and I fully expect him to completely embrace that role this season.
BCI: Last year was a huge turnaround season for the Terrapins, going from 2-10 in 2009 to 9-4 in 2010. Maryland will have a difficult path this season, with a tough schedule. Predict what the 2011 season will look like for Maryland
TT: Obviously with the new coaching staff, there's a lot of just random speculation going into this - we're still not even 100% certain what schemes Maryland is going to run on offense or defense. But when I look at the schedule, I see 7 wins as a pretty solid estimate, with 6 or 8 well within reach. Ending up with 5 or 9 would be a surprise to me. Realistically, I'm thinking Maryland should beat Temple, Towson, and Wake Forest, while the road game at Florida State is probably a loss. After that, they should be able to win half of the remaining 8 games against Miami (H), West Virginia (H), Georgia Tech (A), Clemson (H), Boston College (H), Virginia (H), Notre Dame (N), and N.C. State (A). Five of those are at home, with another at FedEx Field just a few miles off campus, and another against a GT team that frankly doesn't look all that scary this year. 7 wins seems a solid bet to me.
BCI: Last season Maryland held on to a victory after a late charge from the Eagles. Maryland's defense was solid last year, forcing 3 turnovers against BC. Who are some defensive stars Eagles' fans should be aware of?
TT: Well, Kenny Tate is the big one, though hopefully you already know him. He's been on the watch list of every major defensive award and he's a good bet to make the shortlist for most. He's an athletic freak with a nose for the ball, and he was one of the nation's best (and most underrated) safeties last year. Interestingly enough, Edsall and Todd Bradford are moving him down to "Star" LB, a rover-like position. Basically, he's just going to play closer to the line of scrimmage, acting as a LB/S hybrid, and hopefully that will get him in the middle of more plays.
Outside of that, the supporting cast stars are DT Joe Vellano, DE David Mackall, and LB Demetrius Hartsfield. Vellano was Maryland's best DL last year and a breakout star, while Mackall, who has a very Shawne Merriman-esque skillset, is the smart money to be this year's Vellano. Hartsfield, a junior, is going to anchor a relatively young and inexperienced LB corps.
BCI: Prediction time. BC-Maryland in College Park. Who wins?
TT: Again, there's a lot of guesswork in this one. BC looks like a very dangerous team next year, particularly with Montel Harris back and Chase Rettig with another year under his belt, and it's easy to forget that the Eagles were the better team last season despite the loss. But Maryland returns quite a lot as well, particularly O'Brien, who had a very good game in Chestnut Hill last season. If this was at BC, I say Eagles win. But in College Park, I'm thinking Maryland squeaks out a W.
BCI: Thanks for joining us.
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