In a make-or-break season for Ralph Friedgen and the coaching staff, the Terps were hoping to finish the spring with enough optimism to carry through the offseason and give some hope heading into September.
The staff says it has that, after an April where it saw Jamarr Robinson maintain his hold on the No. 1 quarterback slot and several players emerge as ones to watch on defense. But a skeptical fanbase will be looking for proof once the regular season starts against Navy in September.
For the Terps to exceed expectations, two unites that struggled a year ago will need to emerge in 2010 -- the offensive and defensive lines. Those units had mixed success in April.
The offensive line, hurt with the loss of Bruce Campbell to the NFL, was further hindered by injuries to projected starters Lamar Young and Bennett Fulper. Paul Pinegar, Andrew Gonnella and R.J. Dill are all returning starters, but considering the line was 110th nationally in sacks allowed and 105th in rushing, that's far from a sure sign of improvement.
Meanwhile, the defensive line was missing the injured Derek Drummond, and the 220-pound defensive end Bradley Johnson and converted tight end Drew Gloster started in his stead. With A.J. Francis, Zachariah Kerr and De'Onte Arnett, there is some talent to work with, but it has to do a better job at controlling the line of scrimmage than it did a year ago.
There are other questions heading into the summer, from quarterback to secondary, but the success or failure in the trenches will determine whether those become minor nuisances or major problems.NOTES, QUOTES
--Joe Vellano was one of the stars of the spring, with coach Ralph Friedgen saying that he looked the best of all the defensive linemen. The 6-2 sophomore has had a problem staying healthy, but looks to be an integral part of the rotation at tackle.
--Haroon Brown looks like he'll be the starting fullback this Fall, since his prime competition, Taylor Watson, tore his ACL. Brown will have big shoes to fill as he takes over from four-year starter Cory Jackson.
RB D.J. Adams -- Adams sat out the 2009 season as a redshirt, and will face a difficult task to earn time in the backfield behind Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett. But with 14 carries for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Spring Game, he showed the ability that made him one of the jewels of the Terrapin recruiting class in 2009.
S Travis Hawkins -- Hawkins came to campus as a highly-touted cornerback, but the redshirt freshman had a strong spring at safety. That was critical, as the next generation of top prep talent comes to campus in September, with Titus Till ready to compete with him for time.
QB Jamarr Robinson -- It's not so much that Robinson moved forward, since he entered April atop the depth chart at quarterback, but he didn't do anything to lose his status as front-runner. There are a lot of guys looking to take his job, but coach Ralph Friedgen tends to lean towards the guys he trusts and the guys who have shown him what they can do under enter, and Robinson is what passes for experience under center for the Terps in 2010.
DE Bradley Johnson -- The redshirt freshman is undersized for the line, and will have a harder time of it once Derek Drummond returns from his injury in September. But he was able to disrupt the Terrapin offensive line because of his speed this Spring, and may get the chance to show whether he can do that against other teams this Fall.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The difference this year is we have a lot of young guys who have a blue-collar, scrappy mentality. It will bring a different dynamic to our play." -- Offensive tackle Andrew Gonnella, on the Terrapins' new-look offensive line.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: For the sake of Ralph Friedgen and the coaching staff, the outlook has to be better than the 2-10 finish of the 2009 squad would suggest.
A lot of it will come down to how quickly the offense grows up. If Jamarr Robinson or one of the new guys steps up at quarterback, and if the offensive line can improve over last year's dismal showing, the Terps could get to a bowl game. If not, it'll be another long year in College Park.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The biggest concern for the Terrapins heading into the summer is the offensive line. It was looking to retool after a brutal 2009 and the loss of Bruce Campbell to the NFL, but injuries kept the unit from getting the time it needed this April to get used to each other. That will be a huge task this fall if the team hopes to improve.
Both Jamarr Robinson and Danny O'Brien threw a pair of interceptions in the Spring Game, which didn't make the coaching staff very happy.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense was brutal at the start of the 2009 season, but seemed to catch its stride as it became more familiar with new coordinator Don Brown's system. In addition to the line, the secondary is a question mark for the Terrapins, who will be looking for Kenny Tate and Antwine Perez to step up their game now that they are the projected starters at safety, while redshirt freshman Dexter McDougle could find himself starting at corner.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Nick Ferrara is back to handle the kicking duties, while Travis Balz has recovered from the broken finger that cut his 2009 season short to resume the punting role. Torrey Smith is rewriting the ACC record book as a kick returner, so he's a sure bet there, while Tony Logan looks to shore up a punt return unit that had its problems a year ago.
--Derek Drummond injured his MCL in April. Though it will not require surgery, it ended his spring early and was expected to sideline him for 4-6 weeks.
--Running back Morgan Green was not listed on the Maryland roster for the Spring Game. He is expected to graduate over the summery will transfer down a level to complete his final year of eligibility.
--Running back Caleb Porzel missed the Spring Game to concentrate on academics. He'll be back to compete for time in a crowded and talented backfield this fall.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010