With so many Maryland players sitting out spring practice — the latest is standout defensive lineman Joe Vellano, who will miss the rest of spring practice with a foot injury — let’s look ahead to next fall and an important potential bounce-back season for the Terrapins. Today we’ll take a closer look at the offensive personnel that first-year coordinator Mike Locksley will have at his disposal in a pro-style offense.
The issue at quarterback is not that Maryland was left with C.J. Brown after Danny O’Brien opted to transfer in the offseason. The issue is that, for all intents and purposes, Maryland was left with only Brown.
Brown is a capable quarterback. He played in 10 games last season, starting five, and rushed for 574 yards, a Maryland single-season record for a quarterback. That mobility gives the Terrapins an added dimension under center.
But Brown did miss almost all of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury and fans are probably concerned about depth at the position considering that Brown’s likely backups in the fall will be true freshmen Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills (senior walk-on Ricky Schultz, a transfer from Division II Shepherd who apparently has never thrown a pass in a college game, is listed as Brown’s backup on the spring depth chart). It is a legitimate concern.
Personally, I’m excited about seeing the progress made by running back Justus Pickett in the fall. He made few mistakes last year, but at times the staff felt he was so concerned about making mistakes that he played slow. Pickett has put on some weight, which should make him more durable and physical. He needs to have a big year.
Kevin Dorsey and Kerry Boykins, the two senior leaders of the wide receiving unit, are the known commodities at that position. After that, the Terrapins need some of the younger playmakers to emerge. My eye is on Marcus Leak, who showed some glimpses of potential last year but, like many of the receivers, showed a tendency to drop passes at times. Nigel King, who was not with the team last year because of an eligibility issue, could be a red-zone threat, the coaches feel, because of his height and length.
The offensive line will be a unit to watch closely. I felt it was starting to emerge last season, but now it will replace three starters. Center Bennett Fulper is an invaluable guy. Justin Gilbert is an athletic, versatile player who could play tackle, guard or center if need be. But it’s imperative that some of the younger or more inexperienced players become reliable in games.
And that leads us to the two biggest X-factors offensively: the arrival of running back Wes Brown and wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The Terrapins need production from these two freshmen; how much production remains to bee seen.
“I am not going to put the burden of the world on [Diggs] to be our savior,” wide receivers coach Lee Hull said.
I think that’s important for both players as they enter their freshmen seasons. They possess a world of potential, but they can’t single-handedly carry the offense.
What’s your biggest concern about the offense? What are you most encouraged about heading into the 2012 season?