Maryland’s offensive line experienced enough problems on Saturday, without the sobering knowledge that Florida State could predict whether the Terrapins would run or pass before the ball was even snapped. Seminoles defensive lineman Mario Edwards told reporters as much following his team’s 63-0 blowout win in Tallahassee. If Maryland’s offensive lineman squared their feet, it meant a run, Edwards said, while angled stances signaled pass. The Seminoles picked up on that and parlayed it into Maryland’s worst offensive game of the season.
“A lot of defensive players focus on reading stances,” center Sal Conaboy said. “For us, we do self-scout and that’s something that was brought up on Sunday. I was surprised to hear that. It’s something we’ll definitely work on and fix.”
The offensive linemen seemed more concerned than Coach Randy Edsall. The Terrapins labored to 33 rushing yards and less than than 300 total yards, suffering from dropped passes, shoddy blocking, poor reads, quarterback C.J. Brown’s concussion and a stifling Florida State defense that ranks among the ACC’s best. But Edsall offered little when asked whether Edwards’s assertions concerned him.
“All the time we try to make sure we study ourselves and to make sure that we’re not giving tips away,” Edsall said. “You look at yourself, scout yourself, and if that’s something they picked up and felt they could do, that’s something we try to study each and every week to see if there are tendencies and tips for the teams we play against. If that’s something he saw, then I guess he saw that.”
Maybe it affected Maryland less than Edwards intimated, but the Terps offensive line had been able to hide any deficiencies against sub-par defenses through the team’s first four games. Brown and running back Brandon Ross rumbled to more than 200 rushing yards against Florida International, Old Dominion and Connecticut, but barely topped 100 yards against West Virginia and averaged just 1.3 yards per rush against the Seminoles. They certainly could have done without telegraphing their plays.
Of course, it’s impossible to hide in some situations. Tackles Mike Madaras and Michael Dunn open their stances on obvious passing downs. But on the in-between snaps – first and second down or third-and-shorts – Maryland cannot afford to tip its hand. Some of its most successful plays against Florida State came on play-action, when Madaras and Dunn squared their pre-snap blocks, perhaps lending more credence to Edwards’s claims. As the Seminoles avoided bull-rushing the pocket to stay disciplined in their gap assignments, they froze just long enough to buy Brown and backup Caleb Rowe more time to make their read progressions.
“Coach had mentioned it, something in film quick about it,” Conaboy said. “Third-and-long situations, everyone in the stadium knows what’s going on. In certain situations, you’ll know. In certain situations, you shouldn’t know. That’s on us. We have to work to get that fixed. From what I heard, they were reading stances. So that’s something we have to work on in practice, not giving away any tips or keys. Just like when we scout defensive players, we can tell whether they’re dropping off the ball. They scout us, see what we’re doing. Just tweaking your stances.”