Maryland Terrapins at Florida State Seminoles game preview

The Maryland Terrapins roll into town to face the Florida State Seminoles for a 3:30pm kickoff. The 'Noles sit at 3-3, the Terps at 2-4, and both have 1-2 records in conference. However, FSU's three losses have come by an average of less than a touchdown against three teams with a combined record of 17-2. 

For an excellent preview from the Maryland site (Testudo Times), go here.

Randy Edsall is no stranger to Northeast colleges and universities. Edsall spent his playing days at Syracuse ('76-'79) playing quarterback then stayed with the Orangemen coaching various positions through the 1990 season. Edsall was then the DB's coach and Boston College and for the Jacksonville Jaguars then spent a season as Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator ('98) prior to taking his first head coaching gig at UConn in December 1998 following the resignation of Skip Holtz (though Skip won there, he wanted the OC job at SC). Edsall led the Huskies from the 1-AA ranks to 1-A then into the Big East and, following the 2010 season, to the Fiesta Bowl. There he ran a conservative I-formation offense that was very fundamentally sound, though low on outright talent. -ShakinTheSouthland (SB Nation Clemson Site)

How Maryland got to 2-4

These are my writeups from each week on Maryland

-Barely beat a Miami team missing most of its starters due to the NCAA suspensions.

  WVU MD
Plays 77 87
Yards/Play 6.3 5.5
WVU outgained MD by 15% per play
Avg Field Position WVU 24 MD 34

-The Maryland Terrapins lost a home game to the West Virginia Mountaineers, 37-31. This was a battle of good offenses and bad defenses. Played at a fast pace, WVU was simply better. 6.3 yards allowed per play is not very good by Maryland. The issue seems to be really poor defensive back play, complete lack of pass rush, and the need to over-involve the safeties in the run defense, exposing those defensive backs. I think Maryland will need Danny O'Brien to play out of his mind each week if the Terps are going to win more than 7 games. That didn't happen yesterday, and part of it is due to Maryland suspending two of its top receivers. Stock Report & Helmet Stickers: http://www.testudotimes.com/2011/9/18/2432153/west-virginia-37-maryland-31-stock-report-and-helmet-stickers

  Temple MD
Plays 53 59
Yards/Play 6.4 3.3
Temple outgained MD by 94% per play
Avg Field Position Temple 40 Maryland 20

-Maryland was demolished at home by Temple 38-7. Want a good example of a team losing the same game twice? This is it. Maryland didn't recover from the loss to WVU last weekend. Does Temple have better players? Of course not. You'd be hard pressed to argue that Maryland took Temple seriously. 

Oh, and this was not a turnover fest! Maryland only gave Temple a single turnover. Ben Broman said the Terps were Shell-Shocked. Here are the helmet stickers and general observations. Maryland is far from a powerhouse team, but do not expect them to come into the FSU game totally unprepared.

Maryland fans were unimpressed. Didn't they bring in Edsall to make a splash and sell tickets? Oops.

-The Maryland Terrapins beat Townson, 28-3. I did not and will not watch this game, so Testudo Times' recap and game balls will have to suffice. 

MD GT
Plays 64 79
Yards/Play 5.23 4.93
MD outgained GT by 5% per play
Field Position MD 26 GT 35

- Maryland went down to Georgia Tech, got down big early and then fought back to lose 21-16. Maryland slightly outgained Georgia Tech, but Tech ran 23% more plays and had almost a 10-yard edge in starting field position. Maryland's passing game is a total mess. They pulled Danny O'Brien (2010 rookie of the year) and the quarterbacks combined to go 5-23 for 53 yards and two picks. That is one of the most awful stat lines of the year. Did Georgia Tech take its foot off the pedal? I didn't watch this game yet, so I cannot say for sure, but up 21-3 entering the 4th quarter, Tech's offense basically quit. Credit to Maryland for not giving up. Game story here from Testudo Times


CU MD
Plays 80 83
Yards/Play 7.2 5.6
CU outgained MD by 29% per play
Field Position Own 41 Own 31

Maryland Blows 18-Point Lead to Undefeated Clemson, Falls in 56-45 Barnburner - Testudo Times
Maryland held a 35-17 lead in the third quarter, but an outpouring of Clemson scoring led to yet another disappointing defeat. Maryland seems to have found its new quarterback in C.J. Brown, who was 17-35 for 177 yards. He was the victim of several drops, so his stat line was better than that. 

Maryland's defense is a bit of a mess as well, obviously. 

The major thing to take from this game is that Maryland really didn't do anything special. Rather, Clemson was really unfocused for much of the game. Boyd threw a pick-6 right to Maryland (one of the worst you will ever see). Clemson also muffed a punt at its own 9. Those were 14 points for Maryland in which MD really didn't have to do a thing. 

Clemson Tigers 56, Maryland Terrapins 45: Stock Report and Helmet Stickers - Testudo Times
Taking stock of Maryland after their close, disappointing loss to #8 Clemson.

The game was not all that close. Maryland did very little to Clemson. Clemson did a lot to Clemson.

Florida State Defense v. Maryland Offense

For the first time in a while, FSU's defense is better than its offense, thus having the honor of going first in the preview.

But for all of the talk about Edsall going conservative, I-Formation, that was not the choice he made in an offensive coordinator:

Maryland's offense is directed by Gary Crowton. Crowton has been a lot of places as offensive coordinator, including LSU, Oregon, Chicago Bears, and Georgia Tech. Crowton has two stints as a collegiate head coach: Louisiana Tech (1996-'98) and BYU (2001-'04). LSU won the national championship with Crowton running the offense in 2007. His scheme there was a blend of a no-huddle spread with a lot of carryover of NFL and BYUish principles. BYU guys generally prefer to throw the ball around, and at La Tech, where he really made his mark as an offensive guru, he threw it around a ton. He later grew to absorb whatever worked best for him, and the technical difficulty of an NFL scheme's formations and shifts did influence his offensive philosophy to the complex side. As a result, wherever he goes, he has had success and then later faltered. In Chicago he was one of the first guys to really try the bubble screens in the league. Once they were onto him, he got out. At LSU, his offense worked only with Quarterbacks that Jimbo Fisher had taught fundamentals to, and the offensive execution degraded from 2007 onwards steadily. Most of it apparently because it was too complex for the team to figure out. Sometimes it'll look great, and sometimes they look completely lost, because he doesn't do a good job of keeping it simple for the players. Crowton values complexity to confuse a defense, as opposed to keeping it simple and executing several plays really well (like Morris).

Still, it could be said that he is a strong influence on (Oregon HC) Chip Kelly's offensive scheme. Kelly is from NH, and his passing game is basically Crowton. Crowton's offense at La Tech, New Hampshire, Oregon, and later did influence several guys. He basically made the constraint plays popular again. The guy is not dumb, but his brilliance does not translate in every situation to the field.

In our minds, Crowton's success at Maryland will depend on Edsall's use of restraint. If Edsall keeps him from overcomplicating his offense, he can do really well. However we do not believe him to be a great QB coach. This year, he's gone away from his 2-back/1-2 TE sets to more of a 3-wide, 11 personnel shotgun scheme that emphasizes the zone read. They run the zone read a lot, and Meggett is suited to the RB spot in such a scheme and benched the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year in favor of C.J. Brown because O'Brien didn't fit the system.

Look for Maryland to show typical spread plays. Inside and outside zone, read option, zone read, midline a variety of screen passes, etc.  I saw a ton of short passes and little screens from UMd in my limited film study.  - ShakinTheSouthland

Clemson was pretty shocked that C.J. Brown started at QB for Maryland, as evidenced by the ill-fitted gameplan and Brown's incredible rushing performance against the Tigers. 

Brown is a runner who can throw. Maryland is going to feature his "4.4" speed (read: 4.5 or 4.6, but still very fast for a QB). Expect them to run this kid into the ground with lowly Boston College on deck. 

They'll be using three plays to do so:

Zone Read

I won't reinvent the wheel. Read all about the zone read here.

This video is incredibly simplistic.

Midline

Excellent posts on the midline play here and here

Speed Option

Here's your explanation of the speed option.

Maryland OFFENSE
WR 82 Marcus Leak 6-0 195 Fr.-HS
13 Kerry Boykins 6-0 190 Jr.-2V
LT 73 Max Garcia 6-4 290 So.-1V
LG 67 Pete White 6-4 330 So.-1V
C 63 Bennett Fulper 6-4 295 Jr.-1V
RG 68 Josh Cary 6-5 290 So.-1V
RT 76 R.J. Dill 6-7 300 Jr.-2V
TE 89 Matt Furstenburg 6-4 245 Jr.-2V
34 Devonte Campbell 6-2 255 Jr.-2V
QB 16 C.J. Brown 6-3 200 So.-1V
5 Danny O’Brien 6-3 215 So.-1V
TB 8 Davin Meggett 5-9 215 Sr.-3V
44 Justus Pickett 5-10 175 Fr.-HS
FB 49 Tyler Cierski 6-0 255 Fr.-HS
WR 17 Quintin McCree 6-1 190 Sr.-3V
1 Tony Logan 5-10 180 Sr.-3V

Mark Stoops has seen some of this before when his Arizona defenses faced Oregon. Always outgunned, his teams nonetheless did well against Oregon, and Ohio State copied Arizona's gameplan in defeating Oregon in the 2009 Rose Bowl. 

What are the general keys to playing against this spread option attack? 

Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline Discipline.

Ok, got that? Two years ago, this attack would have dropped 50 on FSU's defense and everyone would have stood around after the game wondering what happened (unless they read Tomahawk Nation, that is, in which case we would have told you what was coming.)

FSU's defensive line and linebackers will be key in this game.

I'll start with the defensive line. FSU's defensive line is much improved from last season, even with the loss of Jacobbi McDaniel to an ankle injury. Still, this will be a different test for them. They need to forget about sacks. Just forget about sacks in this contest. Forget about flying off the ball and getting around blockers.

This will be about power. It will be about controlling the blocker in front of you. That means playing low, with leverage, and not trying to go around him. If a defensive lineman tries to shoot to one side of a blocker, Maryland's QB will simply go to the other side of that blocker and use him as a shield. FSU should absolutely be able to control these blockers, but that must be the focus. Sacks, tackles for loss, etc are not en vogue this week. Don't give Brown anything to read. Bjoern Werner has a chance to really hurt Maryland by dominating the tackle on the edge, not allowing a read, and just gumming up the works. Jenkins needs to turn in an acceptable game against the run. Youngsters Cam Erving and Timmy Jernigan must be disciplined on the interior.

The same goes when pass rushing. Ends need to bull rush and not get upfield. The absolute worst place to be for a pass rusher is behind a QB. That's especially true with Brown. Brandon Jenkins needs to ditch the spin move in this contest as well. That's fine if the QB is a stationary target, but not when he can move like Brown. So bull-rush, do not pick a gap, and try to contain brown. 

Patience is key against this scheme. I worry about this a bit with a defense like FSU that racks up tons of tackles-for-loss. FSU really needs to trust its plan and not get too aggressive. Maryland will pick up first downs against FSU, but the 'Noles must prevent the big play.

Brown is an unpolished thrower and his receivers are inexperienced and new because some of the regulars are suspended or injured. FSU should and likely will give him the short pass if he can throw it, betting that he will not always be on the same page with these receivers. Having only started one game, that seems like a good bet. Let that lack of cohesion show through, which could lead to an interception. And when he completed some of the short stuff (particularly the screens), FSU must tackle. This seems similar to Oklahoma, but missed tackles make Maryland's offense go.

Expect primarily zone defense in this game. Playing man defense against Brown is a fool's errand. Zone allows all 11 eyes to face forward and on the QB. It could also lead to an interception if Brown is as inaccurate as he was against Clemson -- a game in which Tiger defenders dropped two gift interceptions.

With its secondary apparently healthy now, I'd expect to see more Nickel coverage, and perhaps more Telvin Smith

FSU has seen this pace before, so it shouldn't be anything new. This is where the defensive depth really pays off.

Davin Meggett is a very good runner, and a real threat. They hit the tight end for over 100 yards against Clemson, but FSU definitely should be ready for that. 

FSU Defensive Goals

Hold Maryland to no more than 5 yards/play before garbage time. Examples: 65 plays - 325 yards | 70 plays - 350 yards | 75 - 375 yards | 80 plays - 400 yards | 85 plays - 425 yards | 90 plays - 450 yards

- Hold Maryland to less than 50% TDs in the red zone

- Hold Maryland to no more than four plays over 20 yards & zero scores of more than 20 yards. (Allows FSU to go big in the red zone and use its size advantage).

- Force Two Turnovers

Florida State Offense v. Maryland Defense

Maryland DEFENSE
DE 11 David Mackall 6-3 240 So.-1V
41 Marcus Whitfi eld 6-3 230 So.-SQ
DT 72 Joe Vellano 6-2 285 Jr.-2V
97 Darius Kilgo 6-3 290 Fr.-RS
DT 90 Maurice Hampton 6-2 295 Sr.-2V
96 A.J. Francis 6-4 295 Jr.-2V
DE 91 Keith Bowers 6-2 260 Fr.-HS
54 Cody Blue 6-4 260 So.-SQ
STAR 15 Mario Rowson 6-3 190 Fr.-RS
6 Kenny Tate 6-4 220 Sr.-3V
MIKE 53 Lorne Goree 6-1 230 Fr.-RS
47 Cole Farrand 6-2 233 Fr.-HS
WILL 52 Darin Drakeford 6-0 240 Jr.-2V
35 Alex Twine 6-0 220 Fr.-HS
CB 25 Dexter McDougle 5-10 190 So.-1V
14 Jeremiah Johnson 5-11 170 Fr.-RS
S 48 Eric Franklin 6-2 205 Jr.-2V
29 Austin Walker 6-0 195 Sr.-3V
S 27 Titus Till 6-2 195 Fr.-RS
19 A.J. Hendy 6-1 195 Fr.-HS
CB 22 Cameron Chism 5-10 190 Sr.-3V
21 Trenton Hughes 5-11 190 Sr.-2V

The two M.A.S.H. Units here, as FSU's offense is missing four starters, while Maryland's defense is missing five. FSU should have the advantage here because it has better talent and depth, but the losses have significantly hurt both sides. 

As seen above, Maryland's new 4-2-5 scheme under Todd Bradford has not been great this season. Allowing more than 6 yards/play three times this season, this unit definitely misses its injured players, but it also desperately misses its excellent defensive coordinator Don Brown. I guarantee you Jimbo Fisher and co. were happy to see Brown leave. Yes, FSU had good success against Brown, but he was a pain to prepare for. 

Maryland has a quality defensive tackle rotation, featuring superstar Joe Vellano, who made 22 tackles against Georgia Tech. I've never heard of that outside little league. Francis and Hampton are pretty good inside as well. FSU's new G-C-G trio of Jacob Fahrenkrug, Bryan Stork and Garrett Faircloth just need to hold their own against Maryland's defensive interior. I don't expect them to dominate.

The same can't be said for the battle between FSU's offensive tackles and Maryland's defensive ends. Zebrie Sanders and yes, Bobby Hart, should have the advantage over Maryland's Mackall and Bowers (Bowers was playing HS ball on Nick O'Leary's team last season). 

The Terps' linebackers are no great shakes either. Just like last week, Tate and Hartsfield are doubtful. But Darin Drakeford will go for Maryland, which is better than what the Terps had against Clemson. Still, Maryland starts a true freshman and a red-shirt freshman, neither of which were highly recruited. You can bet Jimbo is eager to attack this combo. Perhaps more balls to Nick O'Leary?

Last week FSU went back to more of its zone-based running attack and scrapped much of the man stuff they tried to put in over the off-season. I'll have an article on this next week, but you should expect more of this as FSU is comfortable running out of these looks, and they've dominated the ACC on the ground the last two seasons with these zone looks. The return of E.J. Manuel makes this all the more effective. 

Maryland will bring the blitz, which means you might see more Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas, and a bit less of Devonta Freeman. That is, unless Freeman has his pass protections down. Can't have a freshman blowing blitz pickups and getting the QB killed.

Maryland's corners are not bad, but the safeties are quite suspect. In addition, Maryland's corners are quite aggressive, so don't be surprised to see some double moved on the outside, perhaps to Rodney Smith

Offensive Goals

- At least 6 2/3 yards/play before garbage time. Example: 55 Plays 367 Yards | 60 Plays 400 Yards | 65 Plays 433 Yards | 70 Plays 467 Yards | 75 Plays 500 Yards | 80 Plays 533 Yards | 85 Plays 567 Yards

- No more than 1 turnover

- 66% or better TDs in the red zone.

Special Teams & Other Considerations

Tony Logan is probably the only returner in the conference I'd consider taking over Greg Reid. FSU will need to be on its cover game against Logan. He's special.

On the other hand, Maryland's kick coverage team is not very good. Don't be surprised to see FSU have a decided advantage in field position on the day.

Prediction

FSU has more talent than Maryland. Both teams are banged up. Playing at home, with better depth, FSU should have the advantage over a Maryland squad playing without the element of surprise that the Terps sprung on Clemson with C.J. Brown.  Maryland 14, FSU 38

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