The Washington Post

Random thoughts from the Terps bye week

Nothing revolutionary, just some musings while the Terrapins prepare for their ACC schedule. …

Thrust into a situation even he couldn’t have imagined just weeks ago, freshman quarterback Perry Hills turned in his strongest effort to date against West Virginia and is slowly improving. Patience, like wins, might be hard to come by in his inaugural season, but he developed a nice offensive groove against the Mountaineers. Short passes like those bubble screens to Matt Furstenburg or short crossing routes to Stefon Diggs are his bread and butter right now while Hills still works through the nuances of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s system. Hills is a mobile quarterback, but his zone reads need work. He’s routinely overshot receivers on the deep ball, save that 22-yard over-the-shoulder fade route to Furstenburg against Temple. The Terps need him to be accurate in the short game, and let playmakers like Diggs and Marcus Leak do work after the catch. Of course, that’s all dependent on Hills actually staying upright in the pocket. He’s been sacked the second-most times of any quarterback nationally. …

The backfield rotation has been entirely unpredictable thus far, but could we see a rotation starting to develop? Brandon Ross, who was the projected starter before his hamstring injury, got the bulk of the carries against the Mountaineers. Justus Pickett was serviceable as a backfield receiver on third down. The problem was, engaged in a shootout against that West Virginia “Air Raid” offense, carries were hard to come by, so Albert Reid and Wes Brown wound up with just six total touches. Of course, just watch Brown or Reid go off against Wake Forest and throw everything out of whack again. That could easily happen with this corps of running backs. …

Enough about the offense. The defense has been stellar. Seniors like Joe Vellano, Demetrius Hartsfield and A.J. Francis have stepped up to lead the nation’s eighth-ranked unit. Darius Kilgo and Darin Drakeford each have 1.5 sacks apiece, and linebacker Cole Farrand has four tackles for a loss, second most on the team. The Terps are 15th against the run and 22nd against the pass; no surprise there, given the big pass plays allowed against West Virginia and Temple. That top 10 ranking was questioned by some after Maryland’s first three games, which hardly included an offensive juggernaut on the opposing sideline, but, as Coach Randy Edsall pointed out, save four explosive plays, three of which went for touchdowns, Maryland held West Virginia’s offense in check by mixing up their looks and disguising blitzes to get at Geno Smith early. …

Barring a practice injury, which given how the offseason went is hardly out of the realm of possibility, the Terps will finally be at full strength coming out of the bye, save C.J. Brown and Andre Monroe, both of whom are lost for the season, and Nick Ferrara, on whom there is still no word. Kenneth Tate and Ross provided a boost in their debuts against West Virginia, as did Matt Robinson the week prior against the Huskies. But an injury report that stretched for miles before the opener is gradually thinning. …

Looking ahead at the ACC schedule, Maryland has four games to gear up for that grueling November stretch of Georgia Tech, at Clemson, Florida State. Of course, those four won’t exactly be cakewalks either. Wake Forest can position itself for a bowl game with a win against Duke this week. Virginia will have its hands full this week against Louisiana Tech’s high-scoring offense, but hosts Maryland for its Homecoming, if that has any effect on things. Then the Terps host North Carolina State for Homecoming in College Park. The Wolfpack have won three straight, but much will be said about that team once it plays Miami this weekend. Then it’s a trip north to Boston to face the Eagles, who have struggled mightily but have seen vast improvements from quarterback Chase Rettig. Then it’s that November gauntlet. What’s your prediction for how the Terps fare after the bye week?

Some quick-hit musings:

What do you think of the Terps so far this season? Drop your thoughts in the comments. Now carry on with your Wednesday.

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