Special Teams Again
Last Saturday, during Maryland's open week, Ralph Friedgen spotted place kicker Nick Novak on the field working on fundamentals. Friedgen had told the senior to rest up during the week, but Novak insisted that he only was working on technique. Forgive Novak if he's a little psyched for a game against Georgia Tech. Novak kicked his first game-winning field goal against the Yellow Jackets in 2001. Aside from Novak's late-game ability, Steve Suter needs only four punt return yards to break the conference mark. And punter Adam Podlesh leads the conference in punting. The play of the special teams unit could turn the game in Maryland's favor.
Which quarterback will take a step forward or backward today? Maryland's Joel Statham and Georgia Tech's Reggie Ball have proven to be turnover-prone this season. Yet each team's coach has stood by his quarterback while making both off-limits to the media this week. Georgia Tech's Chan Gailey named Ball the starter earlier in the week, but Gailey changed his mind about redshirting freshman Taylor Bennett, who will back up Ball today. Statham, meantime, remains the clear-cut man in charge because no one else appears a serious contender at this point. One quarterback should gain some confidence today. For the other, criticism might mount, and the message boards will continue to roar.
Georgia Tech running back P.J. Daniels, when healthy, has been every bit as effective as he was last year, when he ran for 1,447 yards, the fourth-best total in ACC history. The junior rushed for 272 yards in the first two games this season, both wins, but has been hampered with bruised quadriceps since. Daniels sat out the Yellow Jackets' 27-3 loss to Miami last week but is expected to play today. Will he be 100 percent? Gailey was unsure, and with two offensive linemen potentially sidelined with injuries, Daniels could be in for a tough day if his thigh continues to trouble him.
Maryland's offensive line vs. Georgia Tech's defensive front
Maryland players and coaches said they don't remember a team that blitzed as much as Georgia Tech did last season. The Yellow Jackets first knocked Maryland's quarterback Scott McBrien out with a concussion and then continued to blitz replacement Joel Statham in the 7-3 Georgia Tech victory.
"They had movements all game," Terrapins left guard C.J. Brooks said. "That's going to be another big challenge. It's definitely going to be the most movement we've seen so far." Besides movement in Georgia Tech's defensive formations, the Yellow Jackets are fast, which could cause problems for a Maryland offensive line that has not been as sharp in recent weeks as it had been to start the season. And keep an eye on Georgia Tech defensive end Eric Henderson, an all-American hopeful who returned last week from injury to record five tackles against Miami.