Maryland has only 14 seniors on its roster, which ranks 13th in the nation for fewest seniors. The Terps have played only one game in California in the last 55 years – the 2007 Emerald Bowl versus Oregon State. Furthermore, Saturday’s contest will be their first road opener since 2003 – a loss at Northern Illinois – and first road opener against a ranked foe in 17 years.
Head coach Ralph Friedgen is 6-2 in season openers, including 5-0 in his last five (all at home).
The Terps lost 30 seniors from last year’s squad. Of the 30 players, 23 started at least one career game. But they do return 38 lettermen, including 10 starters (six offense/four defense) and two top special team performerss.
Offensive coordinator James Franklin enters his second season at Maryland. He uses multiple sets including three receivers, double tight ends, one-back, and empty. But the 2009 offense lacks experience outside of the backfield.
Quarterback - Senior Chris Turner is one of the top returning signal callers in the ACC. However, despite starting a majority of the last two seasons, Saturday will be his first start in a season opener.
He ranks fourth on the Terps’ career completion percentage list (59.7), seventh in career passing yards (4,474), seventh in total offense (4,295), fifth in completions (367), sixth in career pass attempts (615), and tied for 11th in touchdown passes (20). But his most impressive stat is 5-1 as a starter in games versus ranked opponents, including last season’s win over the Bears in College Park.
In games versus ranked teams, Turner has completed 143-of-225 passes for 1,636 yards for nine touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Running Back - This is the most talented unit for the Terps. Junior Da’Rel Scott torched the Bears last year in one of his five 100-yard games of the season. He finished with 1,133 yards rushing in 2008 earning first team All-ACC honors.
While Scott brings the power, sophomore Devin Meggett brings shiftiness. He rushed for 457 yards last season and has been pushing Scott all preseason.
When the Terps use a fullback, veteran senior Cory Jackson is a solid lead blocker.
Receivers - The receiving corps is very young, but it doesn’t lack playmakers.
Sophomore Torrey Smith is one of the most explosive players in the nation. The All-American kick returner candidate will get more opportunities to showcase his skills at Z in 2009. He recorded 24 receptions last year for 336 yards. But he showed his big-play capabilities as a kick returner setting the ACC single-season record for return yards with 1,089.
Junior Adrian Cannon has emerged as another solid receiver at X in the preseason. Sophomore Ronnie Taylor is the third receiver for the Terps. Behind them are unproven wideouts without a career catch.
Senior Tommy Gault and redshirt freshman Matt Furstenburg are the top two tight ends.
Offensive Line - The Terps lose five of their top seven linemen from a year ago. Veteran senior Phil Costa makes the move from guard to center this season. Junior left tackle Bruce Campbell is the only other returning starter.
Sophomores Lamar Young and Andrew Gonnella exited fall camp atop the depth chart at left and right guard, respectively. Junior Paul Pinegar is expected to start at right tackle with freshman R.J. Dill also expected to take snaps.
Don Brown makes his debut as defensive coordinator on Saturday. He has implemented an attacking style defense. Cal can expect much more pressure than what the Terps used last season.
Defensive Line - This unit is very inexperienced. Senior Travis Ivey is the lone returning starter. The mammoth defensive tackle (6-4, 325) battled multiple injuries last season.
Senior Jared Harrell is expected to give the Terps a legitimate pass rush threat at defensive end. Redshirt freshman A.J. Francis and senior Deege Galt are atop the depth chart at nose tackle and anchor (DE), respectively.
Linebackers - At one point in the spring, the Terps had only one linebacker in the rotation with any game experience. The unit lost two starters and two more major contributors from last season.
But second team All-ACC selection Alex Wujciak does return at middle linebacker. He ranked second in the ACC in tackles last season with 133. He is also ranked fifth nationally among returning tacklers.
Junior Adrian Moten can play both outside backer spots. He’s been a capable backup the last two years but moves into the a staring role in 2009 after making his first career start in the 2008 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl. Talented freshman Demetrius Hartsfield will start opposite Moten.
Junior Drew Gloster moved from tight end to backer, and he has become a quality backup to Wujciak. Darin Drakeford and Avery Murray are true freshmen that enrolled early in January and have cracked the two-deep.
Secondary - This is the lone defensive unit with multiple returning starters (two). It is by far the experienced unit on the team with all four starters being seniors.
The unit is led by returning starters free safety Terrell Skinner, who is the Terps’ second leading returning tackler (63), and cornerback Anthony Wiseman. However, Nolan Carroll has emerged as Maryland’s No. 1 corner in the preseason because his size fits Coach Brown’s scheme.
Strong safety Jamari McCollough had four interceptions last season. Behind him is talented sophomore Kenny Tate, who was arguably the most impressive defensive back in fall camp.
Maryland Special Teams
First-year special team coordinator Charles Bankins has two of the top special team players in the nation..
Torrey Smith is a dangerous kick returner; moreover, he is relentless gunner in coverage. Junior punter Travis Baltz was a 2008 first team All-ACC selection. He averaged 41.1 yards per punt last season. Sophomore wide receiver Tony Logan is slated to return punts with freshmen Mike Barbour and Nick Ferrara are both still in contention for the starting placekicking spot.
Maryland has a nice collection of skill position talent with a veteran quarterback. However, the offensive line is still a work in progress. They will be tested consistently by one of the nation’s top defensive lines on Saturday. Protecting Chris Turner will be priority, as the Bears will look to bottle Da’Rel Scott and the run game.
Torrey Smith will test Cal’s secondary. It will be interesting to see if Cal has All-American cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson cover him exclusively.
Defensively, the Terps inexperienced defensive line will be abused by a good Bear offensive line. The linebackers must fill the holes, and Maryland does have experienced defensive backs to help in run support. But it won’t be enough to contain Jahvid Best let alone stop him.
The Terps lone equalizers will be on special teams. Big returns by Smith and strong punting by Travis Baltz will help them win field position battles. But unless Cal turns the ball over multiple times, Maryland does not have enough talent and experience on either side of the ball to pull out a win.
Maryland’s last regular season game in California was in 1954. The Terps lost 12-7 at No. 4 UCLA.
Cal, UCLA, Oregon State, and Washington (1982 Aloha Bowl) are the only Pac-10 teams the Terps have played in the programs 116 years.
The Terps 10 returning starters is the lowest since 2004 when they returned nine.
Maryland was 4-1 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll last season. Only five teams beat at least four top 25 teams in 2008. Florida, Oklahoma, USC, and Texas were the other four and all four finished ranked in the top five in the final AP Poll.
The 2008 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl win Maryland’s 600th in the program’s history.
Maryland holds the nation’s longest streak without a blocked punt at 111 games. The last punt blocked came on November 13, 1999 against Florida State.
Quarterback Chris Turner (Simi Valley) and backup linebacker Stephen Hargett (Los Angeles) are the players on the Terps’ roster from California.
Cal head coach Jeff Tedford and Maryland wide receiver coach Lee Hull were in the CFL at the same time. Tedford was an offensive assistant for the Calgary Stampeders (1989-91) when Hull was a receiver with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1990-92).
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