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March 22, 2010
Maryland doesn't have a new coach, but it does have a new look.
Ralph Friedgen kept his job in the wake of a 2-10 season that included only one win over an FBS team, but he has changed his offensive scheme in hopes of recapturing the success of his early seasons on the job.
Maryland is switching from a West Coast offense to multiple sets in an attack that should resemble the way the Terps operated on offense while going 31-8 in Friedgen's first three seasons.
That run of three consecutive seasons with double-digit wins helped Friedgen establish a reputation as one of the game's top offensive minds, but Maryland had all kinds of trouble moving the ball last season. The Terps ranked 98th in the nation in scoring, 102nd in total offense and 105th in rushing offense.
Here's a look at how Maryland stacks up heading into spring practice.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH
Maryland has outstanding depth at linebacker, where the Terps return four players who made at least six starts last season. The group is headed by Alex Wujciak, who has recorded more than 130 tackles in each of the past two seasons. Wujciak's career average of 10.6 tackles per game leads all active Division I players who have appeared in at least 15 games. Maryland also is in good shape at wide receiver and running back. Adrian Cannon and Torrey Smith combined to catch 105 passes for 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Da'Rel Scott rushed for 1,133 yards and earned first-team All-ACC honors in 2008 before struggling through adversity last season. Davin Meggett provides plenty of big-play potential out of the backfield.
HELP IS NEEDED
The Terps have all kinds of problems on the offensive line. Maryland averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and gave up three sacks per game last season, and now the Terps must find a tackle to replace probable first-round pick Bruce Campbell. Maryland has three returning starters on the line, but all have question marks attached to their names. Andrew Gonnella and Paul Pinegar are former walk-ons who bring plenty of effort but not a whole lot of upside. Dill has loads of potential, but he remains unpolished. The Terps are counting on Pinegar, who alternated between guard and tackle last year, to make a successful transition to center. And they're also hoping sophomore Justin Gilbert can step into the starting lineup at tackle. Maryland also must retool the secondary, where Chism is the only returning starter.
GUYS TO WATCH
OT Justin Gilbert: Maryland's chances of improving along the offensive line depend in large part on whether Gilbert can emerge as a capable replacement for Campbell at left tackle. Although Campbell likely will get taken in the first round of the NFL draft, it's worth noting that he didn't earn All-ACC honors last season. Still, Campbell clearly was the best athlete on Maryland's offensive line. Campbell's decision to forgo his senior year to enter the draft leaves Gilbert with a huge task - and an equally huge opportunity - ahead of him.
CBs Trenton Hughes and Dexter McDougle: The loss of three starters in the secondary should result in more playing time for each of these two. Chism figures to man one of the top two cornerback spots for Maryland. Hughes, a junior, and McDougle, a redshirt freshman, will compete for the other job.
QB Jamarr Robinson: After replacing an injured Chris Turner in the final four games last season, Robinson heads into spring practice as the clear front-runner to win the starting job. Robinson went 46-of-85 for 459 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions last season, and his mobility gave Maryland's offense a new dimension. He rushed for 129 yards on 24 carries against Virginia Tech and ran for 58 yards against Florida State.
THE PRESSURE IS ON
DE Drew Gloster: This former four-star prospect has struggled to find playing time for much of his career. Gloster, a fifth-year senior, arrived on campus as a tight end, moved to linebacker after the 2008 season and now is working at defensive end. He sat out the '08 season for academic reasons. This marks his last chance to make an impact. Perhaps a move to the line will allow Gloster to better utilize his speed in Don Brown's attacking defense.
Much of the attention will focus on Maryland's new offensive philosophy, which accentuates the quarterback option that Shaun Hill ran so effectively during Maryland's Orange Bowl season of 2001. The Terps believe Robinson's mobility gives their offense the flexibility it lacked the past few seasons when Jordan Steffy and Turner were taking the snaps. Maryland also is counting on its defense to have more success in Brown's second season as coordinator. Brown has moved some safeties to linebacker, has shifted some linebackers to end and is moving some ends to tackle in an effort to upgrade the overall team speed. The hope is that a speedier defense will adapt better to Brown's attacking schemes.
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.