Record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 ACC (fourth, Atlantic)
Bowl: beat Navy, 29-19 in EagleBank
They're here: QB Riley Skinner, DT Boo Robinson, T Chris DeGeare
They're gone: LB Aaron Curry, CB Alphonso Smith, K Sam Swank
• Nine offensive starters from last season’s final regular-season game against Vanderbilt return, keynoted by Riley Skinner, the ACC’s most experienced quarterback.
Not included is 2007 rushing leader Josh Adams, who was hurt and eventually gave way to Brandon Pendergrass at running back. Both are healthy entering fall camp but keep an eye on newcomer Willie Dixon.
• What pleases Jim Grobe more is the intact offensive interior, which struggled in ‘08 but will be better with age.
Tackles Doug Weaver and Joe Birdsong should be among the league’s best tandems. Center Russ Nenon could become the program’s next Steve Justice.
• With five home games before mid-October, the schedule sets up for another hot start. Two of those Groves appointments will be against Atlantic Division rivals N.C. State and Maryland.
• The defense is going to give up more points than last season’s 18.3 average. Without Aaron Curry, Stan Arnoux and Alphonso Smith, the key to the entire season will be patching leaks.
• Sam Swank’s graduation apparently leaves sophomore Shane Popham in charge of all kicking duties. With Swank hurt at times in ‘08, Popham didn’t exactly pop ‘em, missing four of six field-goal attempts longer than 30 yards. He did average almost 40 yards on 54 punts.
• The exit of wide-outs D.J. Boldin and Chip Brinkman leaves the Deacs without an obvious go-to catcher. Redshirt Chris Givens has plenty of speed and above-average hands.
|Sept. 26||@ Boston College|
|Oct. 3||N.C. State|
|Oct. 17||@ Clemson|
|Oct. 24||@ Navy|
|Nov. 7||@ Georgia Tech|
|Nov. 14||Florida State|
What went right
• Wire to wire, the defense was the best in the ACC. Even in two losses — at Miami and at State — the defense did more than enough to get a win.
Curry, Arnoux and Smith handled most of the lifting, but returning linemen Boo Robinson, John Russell and Kyle Wilber and DB Brandon Ghee did their share.
• In relief of Adams, Pendergrass had 528 yards and five scores. Those aren’t all-star numbers but were enough to keep the offense from going completely face down.
What went wrong
• Minus Kenny Moore’s versatility and with the inexperienced offensive line struggling, the offense turned what should have been a 9-3 or 10-2 finish into 7-5.
• Swank’s injuries translated into a deficit of at least six and maybe 10 field goals, which could have made the difference in three losses.
• The burden on the defense was most obvious when and where it hurt most. Opponents had a 90-72 fourth-quarter scoring advantage. Even Curry was winded by that point.
Record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 ACC (third, Atlantic)
Bowl: beat Nevada, 42-35 in Humanitarian
They're here: RB Da'Rel Scott, QB Chris Turner
They're gone: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, LB Dave
• In a league loaded with frail ground games, the Terps can actually run the ball.
They can, that is, when running back Da’Rel Scott is healthy. A sore knee kept the all-league junior speedster out of the spring game, but Ralph Friedgen is confident Scott is fine now and will be 100 percent in preseason camp.
• Quarterback Chris Turner won’t make anyone forget Boomer Esiason, but Turner’s definitely above-average among league rivals. Although he’s still given to some indecision and didn’t make the most of Darrius Heyward-Bey’s many talents over the last two seasons, Turner will begin ‘09 with almost 4,500 career yards and 20 touchdown passes.
• With burners Torrey Smith, Tony Logan and Kenny Tate, the Terps have as much kick-return potential as any team in the league, maybe the country.
• Scott’s defensive counterpart, junior linebacker Alex Wujciak, was another spring absentee after undergoing a second knee surgery in three years. He missed all of 2007 and had to check back in for a some clean-up repairs in the off-season.
Even with the active Wujciak (133 tackles last season) in the lineup, the defense could still be worse than the unit that gave up an average 30 points per game in its four ACC losses.
• Heyward-Bey, Danny Oquendo and Dan Gronkowski accounted for 100 receptions last season. All three have moved on, leaving Smith and Ron Tyler as the only receivers with so much as marginal experience in the program.
|Sept. 5||@ Cal|
|Sept. 12||James Madison|
|Sept. 19||Middle Tennessee|
|Oct. 10||@ Wake Forest|
|Oct. 24||@ Duke|
|Nov. 7||@ N.C. State|
|Nov. 14||Virginia Tech|
|Nov. 21||@ Florida State|
|Nov. 28||Boston College|
What went right
• The emergence of Scott as a star literally saved the season. Without his 1,178 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, the Terps would have gone shell-down fast and stayed there.
• After barely beating Delaware and then losing by 10 points to Middle Tennessee in the first two games, Friedgen and his staff somehow threw together a chicken-salad sandwich on the run, upset California in the third game and wind up with a bowl win.
• Other than Skip Holtz, it’s probably not real high on anyone’s bucket list but the Fridge did go 3-0 against North Carolina-based teams.
What went wrong
• With a decent chance to shock their corner of world by winning the Atlantic Division, the Terps lost their final home game by 34 points to Florida State, then lost the following week at Boston College and turned a possible 9-3 finish into 7-5.
• The defense was inconsistent enough that coordinator Chris Cosh became a chat-room lightning rod and quickly left for Kansas State at season’s end.
Don Brown — a guy from Massachusetts, not Connecticut — was hired to fix things. But if Wujciak’s knee buckles, there’s not a lot Brown will able to change.
Record: 9-5 overall, 5-3 ACC (first, Atlantic)
Bowl: lost to Vanderbilt, 16-14 in Music City
They're here: RB Montel Harris, WR Rich Gunnell, T Anthony Castonzo
They're gone: DT B.J. Raji, DT Ron Brace, coach Jeff Jagodzinski
• After a long wait, Frank Spaziani should make the transition from defensive assistant to head coach by starting 2-0 with wins over Northeastern and Kent State. The bad news is the rest of the schedule is considerably more challenging.
• The ground game could be, probably has to be, the offensive bright spot. Tailback Montel Harris rushed for 900 yards as a freshman in 2008 and has added some bulk to what was a 185-pound frame.
Blockers Matt Tennant (senior center) and Tony Castonzo (junior tackle) have combined have almost 60 career starts.
• It’s fortunate that the secondary has plenty of experience and an all-star candidate in junior safety Wes Davis. Odds are the DBs are going to be busy.
• With the sudden departure of Dominique Davis, there’s not an obvious quarterback on campus. Redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle and junior Codi Boek played some in the spring game, combining for a forgettable four completions and 22 yards on 17 attempts.
• After two seasons of having Jeff Jagodzinski and Steve Logan running the offense, look for a brain drain to coincide with the lack of quality personnel. Spazinai lured Gary Tranquill out of retirement to stop as much bleeding as possible, but the offense is broken.
• The likely loss of all-American linebacker Mark Herzlich, recently diagnosed with cancer, takes away the best team’s best defender and No. 1 leader.
|Sept. 12||Kent State|
|Sept. 19||@ Clemson|
|Sept. 26||Wake Forest|
|Oct. 3||Florida State|
|Oct. 10||@ Virginia Tech|
|Oct. 17||N.C. State|
|Oct. 24||@ Notre Dame|
|Oct. 31||Central Michigan|
|Nov. 14||@ Virginia|
|Nov. 28||@ Maryland|
What went right
• Against modest expectations and dealing with a barrage of early-season injuries, the Eagles started 5-1 and came within a few yards in a 19-16 loss to Georgia Tech of making it 6-0.
• Harris was one of the top surprise players in the league and although QBs Davis and Chris Crane threw 17 interceptions, the offense didn’t have an awful performance until the 30-12 league championship loss to Virginia Tech in a rematch of the Eagles’ 28-23 regular-season win.
• Herzlich and fellow LB Mike McLaughin combined for 199 tackles.
What went wrong
• The senseless power play between Jagodzinski and athletic director Gene DeFilippo resulted in enough staff upheaval to potentially cripple the program that prospered for so long under Tom O’Brien.
• Davis, suspended for academic problems before his decision to transfer, was on stride to become an above-average quarterback. He likely will be remembered as the first casualty of the awkward coaching transition.