ACC: Antwine Perez
2010 conference record: 5-3
Offense: 7, defense: 7, punter/kicker 0
QB Danny O’Brien, RB Davin Meggett, WR Kerry Boykins, WR Kevin Dorsey, DT Joe Vellano, LB Kenny Tate, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, DT A.J. Francis, CB Cameron Chism
WR Torrey Smith, WR Adrian Cannon, RB Da’Rel Scott, LB Alex Wujciak, LB Adrian Moten, SS Antwine Perez, P/PK Travis Baltz
2010 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Meggett* (720 yards)
Passing: O’Brien* (2,438 yds)
Receiving: Smith (1,055 yds)
Tackles: Wujciak (117)
Sacks: Tate* (3.5)
Interceptions: Moten (4)
1. Receivers answering the call. Maryland lost its top two receivers from 2010, but three emerged as potential go-to players this spring. Ronnie Tyler, Kerry Boykins and Kevin Dorsey were the lead candidates to become O’Brien’s favorite target this fall, and Quintin McCree, who has missed the Tuesday and Thursday practices for study hall, is the leading returner with 16 catches. None of them have been in a starting role before, but all of them proved to be capable hands this spring.
2. A 'general' consensus. Some players within the program have nicknamed first-year coach Randy Edsall "the general" for his strict rules and high expectations, but they seem to have bought in. Overall, the team has adjusted well to the staff changes and embraced the new regime, its style, schemes and philosophies. Edsall has banned hats, earrings and do-rags in the football building, and facial hair must be neatly trimmed.
3. Kenny Tate’s move a good one. The biggest position change of the spring was Tate from safety to linebacker, and Tate showed this spring it was a good move -- especially following the departures of veterans Adrian Moten and Alex Wujciak. Tate adjusted well to the “star” position, a cross between strong safety and outside linebacker. The move also indicated the staff is confident in Eric Franklin and Matt Robinson as the starting safeties.
1. What will this team’s identity be? The players spent this spring learning new schemes and terminology, much of which has been kept under wraps by Edsall. O’Brien has said the offense will be more up-tempo, and has made every effort to study and learn the system this spring, but executing it in games remains a question. The defense also made a transition under first-year coordinator Todd Bradford.
2. Can the offensive line stay healthy? It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and this spring wasn’t much different. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.
3. Who will be the starting fullback? Taylor Watson decided this spring to graduate and leave the team, leaving Rahsaan Moore and Haroon Brown as the lead candidates. True freshman Tyler Cierski, rated the No. 2 fullback in his class by ESPN Recruiting, should add to the competition this summer.
Dontrelle Inman, WR, Virginia: He went from eight receptions in 2009 to 51 in 2010. Inman ranked No. 6 in the ACC in yards per game (67.9) and No. 10 in receptions per game (4.2). He led the team with 815 receiving yards and had the 13th-best receiving output in ACC history with 239 receiving yards at Duke.
Antwine Perez, S, Maryland: The career backup and former USC transfer finally had the breakout season many had been waiting for. He had a team-high 11 passes defended (three interceptions/eight pass breakups). He was fifth on the team with 74 tackles, including seven TFLs, and he had three fumble recoveries.
Julian Burnett, LB, GT: He began the season on the bench, undersized for a typical 3-4 defense, but ended up leading Tech in tackles (89). He had 42 solo tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Quinton Coples, DE, UNC: He went from backup defensive end to first-team All-ACC defensive tackle. He had 15.5 TFLs, 10 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and was fourth on the team in tackles with 59.
Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: He wasn’t even an honorable mention all-conference selection a year ago, let alone on anyone’s NFL draft board. After a breakout season in 2010, he was a first-team unanimous All-American, the Bronko Nagurski Award winner and the No. 1 projected NFL draft pick by several experts. He improved from three sacks to 15.5 and 11 TFLs to 26.
Earl Wolff, S, NC State: After starting just four games in 2009 as a redshirt freshman, Wolff was one of the team’s top defenders, leading the Pack in tackles with 95, including two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He also had one interception, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Brandon Jenkins, DE, FSU: Following a 2009 season in which he played as a true freshman, Jenkins was named the team’s most-improved defensive lineman following spring drills last year and he continued it into the fall. He had 21.5 TFLs, 13.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. He also had two pass breakups and four quarterback hurries.
Jim Noel, S, Boston College: The true sophomore earned his first start against Florida State and finished with four interceptions and one pass breakup. He had 10 tackles in his starting debut against the Noles and had two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
Virginia Tech kicker Chris Hazley: He joined the program as a walk-on in 2007 and his patience and practice finally paid off. He earned a scholarship this past preseason and all-conference honors this postseason. He set a school record for consecutive field goals made in a season with 21. He made 21 of 22 field goals.
Cooper Helfet, TE, Duke: The junior college transfer enrolled at Duke last January and was a backup on the depth chart entering the fall. He caught 34 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns. He started for the first time against Georgia Tech and had six receptions for 92 yards. He also caught seven passes for 122 yards against Virginia.
Offensive linemen: Six players on the final two-deep roster for 2010 were either juniors or seniors, and the Eagles will have to find replacements for Anthony Castonzo, Rich Lapham and Thomas Claiborne. There were two juniors at center in 2011, and the recruiting overall at this position hasn’t been as strong in recent years.
Defensive linemen: The Eagles have been thin at the position to begin with since the departures of Ron Brace and B.J. Raji. The interior line should be a priority, as tackle Damik Scafe will graduate, and Kaleb Ramsey will be a senior. Defensive end Brad Newman will also graduate.
Quarterback: Prior to the early enrollees, Clemson only had one scholarship quarterback on the roster -- projected starter Tajh Boyd. The depth needs to be rebuilt after the loss of starter Kyle Parker and transfer of backup Willy Korn.
Running back: The early departure of Jamie Harper to the NFL left a hole in the Tigers’ lineup. It’s not completely empty, as Andre Ellington remains the best back on the roster and Roderick McDowell was a redshirt freshman backup to Harper.
Offensive lineman – The departures of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon will leave gaping holes up front, and A.J. Ganguzza and Antwane Greenlee aren’t expected to return. Overall, the staff is looking for bigger, better players. With the exception of right guard, this was a veteran group.
Running back: Despite the current depth, the coaching staff still wanted to sign about three more running backs in this class.
Wide receiver: This would be the third priority for the staff. Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling will both be seniors, but the team has lacked some dynamic playmakers at the position.
Linebacker: The Noles lost two starters from last year’s Atlantic Division championship team, and there are several young players on the rise like Jeff Luc and Telvin Smith, but the staff wants more numbers at the position.
Safety: The Noles need an upgrade at this position.
Defensive line: This is a matter of mostly building depth and size and continuing to get better.
Kicker/ Punter: Nick Ferrara has the ability to do both, but he also struggled at both in 2010. Travis Baltz was a four-year starter at punter who has to be replaced. The kicking game should be a top priority in this class, and a concern if Ferrara doesn’t become more consistent.
Wide receiver: The early departure of standout Torrey Smith to the NFL leaves quarterback Danny O'Brien without a favorite target. Seven of the nine receivers listed on the most current depth chart for 2010 were either juniors or seniors.
Running back: The Terps have to replace starter Da’Rel Scott, and Davin Meggett will be a senior. There is some talent behind Meggett in D.J. Adams, but the position could use more depth.
Secondary: Six of the top 10 players in the secondary were either juniors or seniors in 2010, including safety Antwine Perez, who will graduate. Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism will both be seniors, and the corner position is the biggest need.
Defensive end: Defensive coordinator Don Brown would like to bring in at least one player who can really bring some speed off the edge.
Kickers: The Wolfpack lost their starting punter and place-kicker, easily making kickers the biggest need in this recruiting class.
Defensive linemen: With the exception of sophomore Brian Slay, the entire 2010 line was comprised of juniors and seniors. The Pack have to replace two starters, and two returning starters, Jeff Rieskamp and J.R. Sweezy, will be seniors.
Linebackers: This was another veteran group for NC State, with five of the six players on the two-deep either juniors or seniors. Nate Irving’s graduation will be a big hit and Audie Cole will be a senior.
Quarterback: If Russell Wilson leaves early, the position will be even thinner, but backup Mike Glennon will be a junior, so the staff needs to build more depth.
Offensive linemen: The Deacs will have four redshirt juniors returning up front, and have to replace redshirt senior center Russell Nenon. The staff is looking to increase the depth and talent up front.
Linebackers: The position hasn’t been the same since the 2008 class (Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux). They were both drafted and two of the fastest players the program has ever seen. The staff needs to bring in more talent and speed here.
QB Russell Wilson, NC State: He threw for 275 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in what might have been his final collegiate game. He also ran for 41 yards and earned the Champs Sports Bowl’s MVP award.
RB Da'Rel Scott, Maryland: The MVP of the Military Bowl, Scott rushed for a school bowl-game record 200 yards on 13 carries. His 91-yard TD run in the fourth quarter was the longest in Maryland bowl-game history. It was also the longest Maryland touchdown in seven years and only the eighth 90-plus yard run in ACC history. He also set the school record for yards per carry in the game with 15.4.
RB Chris Thompson, Florida State: He was the Chick-fil-A Bowl's Offensive MVP after he racked up 147 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown run against the SEC's then-top-ranked rushing defense.
WR Jarvis Williams, NC State: His 3-yard touchdown reception with 3:44 remaining sealed the win over West Virginia. He finished with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
TE Brandon Ford, Clemson: Despite the loss to South Florida, Ford had four catches for 45 yards, including two touchdown receptions. He became the first player in Clemson history with two touchdown catches in a bowl game.
OL Jake Vermiglio, NC State: He helped the Pack score more points against West Virginia than any other opponent had all year. NC State controlled the clock and had 378 total yards.
OL Paul Pinegar, Maryland: He had three big blocks for the Terps, who rolled up season highs in rushing yards (297) and rushing touchdowns (6), including runs of 61 and 91 yards by Da’Rel Scott. The Terps also did not allow a sack to the Pirates, the 11th time the squad surrendered two or fewer on the season.
OL Rodney Hudson, FSU: He graded out at 86 percent against South Carolina and didn’t have any penalties or missed assignments. He also had two knockdowns.
OL Zebrie Sanders, FSU: He graded out at 88 percent in final game and didn’t have any penalties or missed assignments. He helped neutralize South Carolina’s pass rush.
OL Mike Ingersoll, UNC: He graded out as the team's top offensive lineman and was named one of the offensive players of the game by the coaching staff. Carolina had 180 positive rushing yards against Tennessee.
DE Brandon Jenkins, FSU: Despite the fact he missed a series-and-a-half, he finished with a team-leading eight tackles, including two TFLs and a sack.
DE Andre Branch, Clemson: On an off-day for Da’Quan Bowers, Branch stepped up and had two sacks. He finished with six tackles.
DT Quinton Coples, UNC: He finished with six tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced a fumble and had two quarterback hurries in the Heels’ win over Tennessee.
DT Donte Paige-Moss, UNC: He had six tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced a fumble and blocked an extra point attempt. The extra point block was key, as Carolina later kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime.
LB Nate Irving, NC State: He had four solo tackles against West Virginia and finished with one 7-yard sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and quarterback pressure and a pass breakup.
LB Quan Sturdivant, UNC: He had a season-high 12 tackles, including two tackles for losses, and made a key interception in overtime against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. Sturdivant picked off a Tyler Bray pass in the second overtime and Carolina scored on its next possession to win the game.
LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College: He no doubt looked the part of an All-America. Kuechly was the defensive MVP of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl with 12 tackles (8 solos), and one interception he returned 31 yards.
DB Greg Reid, FSU: He was named the defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl and was an obvious choice. He finished with five tackles, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles (one that came with his hit that ended Marcus Lattimore’s night on the first series), and he had two punt returns for 53 yards leading to scores.
DB Antwine Perez, Maryland: He made eight tackles, including a game-high seven solo stops and two tackles for loss, as the Terps clamped down on the seventh-ranked passing offense in the nation. Perez had seven or more tackles in each of the last five games of the season.
DB Kendric Burney, UNC: He finished with six tackles and an 11-yard return on an interception.
DB Brandon Bishop, NC State: His fourth interception of the season was a diving interception at the West Virginia 10 in the fourth quarter. He snagged the pass intended for Jock Sanders, and prevented the Mountaineers from cutting the lead to 16-14 with plenty of time left.
K Dustin Hopkins, FSU: He nailed all four field-goal attempts against South Carolina (29 yards, 48, 35, 45), and he had four touchbacks.
P Shawn Powell, FSU: He had three punts for an average of 51 yards, and gave the Noles winning field position.
KR Greg Reid, FSU: He had one kick return for 18 yards and two punt returns for the Noles. His two punt returns led to scores.
WHO TO WATCH: Maryland receiver Torrey Smith. This could be his final game, as the junior is considering leaving early to enter the NFL draft. He has 12 touchdown receptions, which is tied for eighth in the FBS, while his 87.08 receiving yards-per-game average is 20th.
WHAT TO WATCH: Maryland’s secondary against East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. If the Pirates are going to win, they’re going to have to do it with their passing game, which ranks seventh in the NCAA at 319.33 yards per game. Davis, a Boston College transfer, passed for 3,699 yards, the fourth-most in the nation, while completing nearly 65 percent of his passes and throwing for 36 touchdowns. The Terps had at least one interception in 10 of 12 games this season. Kenny Tate ranks tied for fifth in the FBS in forced fumbles (0.33 pg), safety Antwine Perez is tied for 11th in the FBS in fumbles recovered (0.25 pg) and leads the team in pass breakups (eight). Cornerbacks Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes are tied for second on the team with seven pass breakups apiece.
WHY TO WATCH: This is Friedgen’s farewell after a decade coaching his alma mater, and a win would give the program at least nine wins for the first time since 2006. It will also be interesting to see how the play-calling goes, as the departure of former offensive coordinator James Franklin to Vanderbilt left the Terps in an awkward situation. Running backs coach John Donovan, who will eventually join Franklin on his staff, stayed behind to coach in the bowl game and will call the plays. Maryland is bowl-eligible for the seventh time in 10 seasons under Friedgen and is 4-2 during that span. The four bowl wins are the most in school history.
PREDICTION: Maryland 31, East Carolina 24 -- Instead of letting Friedgen’s farewell become a distraction or a spoiler, the Terps will use it as motivation and rally together to send him off with a win. East Carolina’s defense won’t be able to stop ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien, and Smith will have another eye-popping statistical performance.
OFFENSIVE BACK -- Torrey Smith, Maryland, WR, Jr., 6-1, 205, Colonial Beach, Va. (Stafford)
Smith turned in one of the most outstanding performances by a receiver in Maryland history, setting the school’s single-game record with four touchdown receptions, while setting career highs with 14 receptions and 224 receiving yards as the Terps knocked off No. 21 NC State 38-31. His receiving yardage is the third most in a single game in school history and 18th-most on the ACC books, while his receptions are just two off the ACC mark. Smith’s 1,045 yards are the second-most in a season in school history. Smith finished the regular season with 12 touchdown catches, which is a Maryland record and is tied for the ninth most in a season in ACC history. In addition to his receiving yards, Smith had 48 kickoff return yards, giving him 272 all-purpose yards in the game. He broke Lamont Jordan’s school record for career all-purpose yards, and his 5,183 yards ranks seventh on the ACC career list.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN -- Rodney Hudson, Florida State, G, Sr., 6-2, 282, Mobile, Ala. (B.C. Rain)
Hudson was a dominant force in FSU’s ability to completely control the Florida defensive front. He earned a grade of 91 percent -- 100 pass; 85 rush -- registering four knockdown blocks. He was not penalized and did not have a missed assignment for the Seminoles, who rolled up 333 total yards on 65 plays (5.1 ypp). Hudson was a mainstay as the ‘Noles did not allow a sack against Florida’s defense and controlled the clock for 33 minutes. It marked the fourth time this season that Hudson, an Outland Award finalist, posted a score of 90 percent or better.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN -- Brandon Jenkins, Florida State, DE, So., 6-3, 234, Tallahassee, Fla. (Florida High)
Jenkins turned in his fifth multi-sack game of the season with 2 sacks against Florida. That pushed his season total to 12 sacks, which ranks second in the ACC and is tied for third nationally. He finished the day with four tackles, all solos, pushed his season total to 61 tackles, and added two more tackles for loss to give him 17.5 (-80 yards) on the season. He was a vital cog in FSU’s ability to control Florida’s option attack, limiting the Gators to 276 total yards. FSU also forced four turnovers (three fumbles and an interception) in a dominating, start-to-finish performance.
DEFENSIVE BACK -- Antwine Perez, Maryland, S, Sr., 6-1, 210, Westville Grove, N.J. (Woodrow Wilson/USC)
Perez had a terrific all-around game in Maryland’s win over NC State, which enabled the Terps to finish 8-4 on the regular season, a six-game improvement from 2009. The senior, making his final home appearance, had a team and career-high 11 tackles, including six solo stops. He also forced and recovered a fumble, broke up one potential touchdown pass, had one of the team’s eight tackles for loss and returned a blocked kick 35 yards to set up a field goal. Perez has been strong down the stretch, posting at least seven tackles in each of the past four games. He ranks tied for third in the ACC in fumbles recovered (0.25 pg) and tied for fifth in passes defended (0.92 pg).
SPECIALIST -- Shawn Powell, Florida State, P, Jr., 6-4, 227, Rome, Ga. (Darlington Prep)
Powell’s work was instrumental in Florida State winning the game-long, field position battle. He punted four times for a 40.2 yard average and did not yield a single return yard to the Gators, for an impressive 40.2 yard net average. Florida began drives after Powell placed directional punts at its own 4, 7 and 5 yard lines. He also angled a 44-yard attempt out of bounds, punting from his own goal line. Powell now has 15 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line on 45 attempts this season (33 percent).
ROOKIE -- Danny O'Brien, Maryland, QB, r-Fr., 6-3, 215, Kernersville, N.C. (East Forsyth)
In the victory over NC State, O’Brien became the first Maryland quarterback to throw for 400 yards in a game since 1993, racking up a career-high 417 yards (fourth-highest total in school history) while completing 33 of 47 passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions. The freshman made up for the lack of a running game, as Maryland was held to minus-9 yards on the ground, and led the Terps to their first victory over a ranked opponent since a win over No. 17 North Carolina in 2008. O’Brien was at his best in the second half, completing 13 of 17 passes for 227 yards and three scores. He led the Terps to scores on four of their final six drives of the game. O’Brien, who ranks fourth in the ACC and third nationally among freshmen in passing efficiency (135.20 rating), has 21 touchdown passes this season, the second most in school history, and has accounted for 23 total touchdowns, the first Maryland player to do so since 2003.
Pass-rushers in Tallahassee. Clemson at Florida State will feature two of the ACC’s top pass-rushers in Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and FSU defensive end Brandon Jenkins. They’re No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the ACC in both sacks and tackles for loss. FSU’s offensive line has allowed 2.11 sacks per game (19 total), while Clemson has allowed nine total.
Replacements in Chapel Hill. There will be plenty of them. With UNC tailback Johnny White out for the rest of the season, the Tar Heels’ tailback situation remains a question as of now. Will Ryan Houston redshirt? Will Shaun Draughn (ankle) be cleared to play? The Hokies have their own problems, as defensive end Chris Drager, tailback/returner David Wilson and receiver Dyrell Roberts are all out. All of the backups will be forced into key roles.
Scoreboards in Chapel Hill and Atlanta. These are the two games to watch, as a Virginia Tech win coupled with a Miami loss will lock up the Coastal Division for the Hokies. The Atlantic Division race is more complicated, as no outcome will determine the division winner, but a Clemson win in Tally opens the door for a four-team race.
Turnovers in Durham. The one thing that’s been going right for Duke in its two-game winning streak is it hasn’t been turning the ball over like it was in its losses. That could change against a BC defense that ranks third in the country in turnovers gained with 26. The Blue Devils have turned it over just one time in the past two games compared with an average of three per game in the previous seven.
Virginia Tech’s secondary vs. T.J. Yates & Co. Yates has thrown for over 400 yards twice this season, and the Tar Heels are No. 33 in the country in passing offense (258.44 yards per game). Virginia Tech is No. 22 in the country in passing defense (187 yards per game).
Keith Payne and Perry Jones against Maryland’s rushing D. Virginia has two of the ACC’s top 10 leading rushers, as Payne is No. 7 (74.8) and leads the ACC with 14 rushing touchdowns, and Jones is No. 10 (61.9). Maryland is holding ACC opponents to just 2.6 yards per carry, the best in the league.
Virginia receiver Dontrelle Inman. Against Duke, he caught 10 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown. On the season, Inman is sixth in the ACC with 66 receiving yards per game. He’ll face an underrated Maryland secondary that features playmakers Kenny Tate and Antwine Perez.
Cursed kickers. Clemson missed two field goals last week, Florida State’s wide right curse continued in the loss to North Carolina, and NC State will be without senior Josh Czajkowski for the rest of the season after he injured his hamstring in the loss to Clemson. Sophomore Ellis Flint and freshman Chris Hawthorne were competing for the job this week.
Running back rotations. NC State’s Dean Haynes is back after missing the Clemson game with a head injury, but coach Tom O’Brien did not say which of his top three tailbacks will start against Wake Forest. At Miami, Lamar Miller had the best performance of any Miami running back this season against the Terps, but Damien Berry returned to practice. He is still listed as questionable, and Miller, Mike James and Graig Cooper should again carry the load. UNC’s running back situation remains a question, and Ryan Williams and Darren Evans will carry the load without No. 3 tailback David Wilson.
How much better is the defense because it’s the second season under Don Brown?
How much fun are you guys having in this system, being that it’s such an attacking-style defense?
KT: So much fun. It allows us to run, have fun, make plays, anything we really want to do.
How has your career gone so far compared with what you might have expected?
KT: This is much more than what I expected. When I first came in, it was a different defense. I had to get accustomed to that. I thought I was just going to find my place, now with this new system, I guess it fits me.
You and Antwine Perez have both been having great seasons. What’s your relationship like with him and how much communication is going on between you two on the field?
KT: We’re side by side all the time. It’s our third year being around each other. We have chemistry. I always know where he is. My dad told me before, ‘Y’all are always around each other. You’re always talking about something on the field, or when you’re standing on the sideline, next to each other about to go in.’ We hang out off the field, too.
What do you think you guys are capable of here down the stretch as a team and as a defense?
KT: As a team, I think we’re capable of proving a lot of people -- I wouldn’t say wrong, but opening their eyes to Maryland football. Definitely after last season, going 2-10, it’s just like, ‘Oh, it’s just Maryland.’ People are still saying that about us, even though we’re 6-2. We like sitting in that position because any given day, your team could be beat. As a team we’re just hoping for the best. We’re playing really well right now and very confident. Hopefully things work out for us.
How much more comfortable are you in the defense this year?
KT: Oh, I’m extremely comfortable. The coaches think I’m too comfortable.
KT: I know the ins and outs of the defense. It allows me to do other things on the field as far disguising things, knowing where people are supposed to be, how to fit, just everything. That can be the difference of a big play or a stop in the backfield.
How did you get to that point?
KT: Just working at it. This defense, we’ve come so far. We all worked together this summer, this winter, from last year, just wanting to be better. We’ve definitely improved now.
What’s the most surprising thing to you so far about this season?
KT: I’d probably have to say that people are still looking at us as a slouch team. I have no problem with that. We’re sitting pretty good right now, but we still have four games to go, so you never know.
When you look at the overall picture from a team perspective, what do you attribute the turnaround to? Going from 2-10 to 6-2 is pretty big.
KT: It was just our drive. We bought in to each other and said that we were going to work to be the best, do everything full speed. No half-speed, just laying it all on the line. After being the worst, we’re striving to be the best right now.
NC State’s run defense. It will be one of the biggest keys to the game, as FSU enters Raleigh with the No. 19 rushing offense in the nation at 211.71 yards per game. NC State is holding opponents to 148.13.
The replacements in BC. BC defensive end Alex Albright’s season ended last week with a broken fibula. It’s Max Holloway’s job now, and safety Wes Davis is definitely out after sustaining a neck injury against Maryland. Okechukwu Okoroha is expected to start in his place. Cornerback DeLeon Gause did not practice on Wednesday but is still listed as day-to-day.
Bowl eligibility. Maryland, NC State and Miami are all chasing their sixth win of the season this week. So far, only Virginia Tech and Florida State are bowl-eligible in the ACC. It’s of particular importance to the Terps and Wolfpack, who were both home for the holidays last year.
Clemson’s turnover-free streak. The Tigers have gone three straight games without turning the ball over -- a first in school history. The Clemson offense has run 196 consecutive plays without a turnover, a streak that dates to the last play of the Miami (FL) game on October 2. Overall, Clemson has four games this year when it has not committed a turnover. BC’s defense has had 18 takeaways this year.
Nation’s top tacklers in Chestnut Hill. Saturday’s game between BC and Clemson will feature two of the nation’s top tacklers in BC linebacker Luke Kuechly and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Kuechly leads the nation in tackles per game with 13.9 and is three shy of 100 tackles for the season. Bowers leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, and he is on a record-setting pace with 10 sacks in seven games so far this season. Boston College is one of the worst teams in the country in sacks allowed with 2.86 per game. Bowers needs three more to set the record for most sacks in a season in school history by a defensive lineman.
Wake Forest running back Josh Harris. In his first career start against Virginia Tech, Harris rushed 20 times for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Harris’ 241 yards rushing were the most ever allowed by Virginia Tech, surpassing the 239 by Temple’s Paul Palmer in 1986. Harris became the first Deacon since 2005 to rush for over 200 yards in a game. Maryland has the No. 4 rushing defense in the ACC, holding opponents to 143.6 yards per game. The Terps have held each of their last three opponents (Duke, Clemson, and BC) under 100 yards on the ground. It’s the first time the defense has done that since 2004.
Maryland’s secondary. Two players who are having great seasons are flying under the radar in College Park, Md. Against Boston College, safety Antwine Perez had a career-best two interceptions and recovered a fumble. Perez is second on the team in pass breakups (six) and tied for third in the league in interceptions (0.43 pg). Kenny Tate is the leading tackler in the ACC among defensive backs (8.0 per game). He is also atop the league chart with four forced fumbles, the most by a Terp since Milton Harris also had four in 2005.
Shoop vs. Shoop. UNC offensive coordinator John Shoop will face his older brother, William & Mary defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. It is believed to be one of only three matchups in college football this season pitting brothers against each other, according to UNC’s sports information department. (The other two involve Oklahoma). Both Shoops are in their fourth seasons at their respective schools. Carolina is averaging 365 yards per game and the Tribe is allowing just 318 yards. May the best Shoop win.
Pass defenses in Charlottesville. The ACC’s top two pass defenses will be featured in the Miami-Virginia game. Miami leads the ACC with 149.1 passing yards per game allowed, and Virginia follows at 165.4. The Canes have 14 interceptions, Virginia five.
OFFENSIVE BACK – Andre Ellington, Clemson, RB, r-So., 5-10, 190, Moncks Corner, S.C. (Berkeley)
Ellington had a career-high 166 yards rushing in 20 attempts for two touchdowns, along with one scoring reception, to lead Clemson to a 27-13 win over Georgia Tech. He scored first on a 55-yard run in Clemson’s first possession, and then on a 42-yard run in the second period. Ellington caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Kyle Parker for his third touchdown of the day. He also had 79 yards on kickoff returns to finish with 257 all-purpose running yards, also a career best.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN – Tyler Horn, Miami, OL, Jr., 6-4, 295, Memphis, Tenn. (University)
Horn helped power the Miami offense to 33 points against a North Carolina unit that entered the game ranked second in the ACC in scoring defense. The Canes center graded out at 97 percent and registered six pancake blocks against the Tar Heels. Miami racked up 442 yards of total offense in the game.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN – Allen Bailey, Miami, DL, Sr., 6-4, 285, Sapelo, Ga. (McIntosh County Academy)
Bailey had a career evening with a game-high 3.5 sacks for a total loss of 13 yards in the Canes' 33-10 win over North Carolina. Miami sacked UNC quarterback T.J. Yates five times, the most by an opposing defense versus the Tar Heels this season. He was also second on the team with six tackles in the game.
DEFENSIVE BACK – Antwine Perez, Maryland, DB, Sr., 6-1, 210, Westville Grove, N.J. (Woodrow Wilson/USC)
Perez came up big defensively for Maryland in its 24-21 win over Boston College. The senior had a hand in all three BC turnovers, collecting two interceptions and recovering a fumble, as the Terps scored 14 points off those miscues. Perez helped the Terps take control of the game in the second quarter as the Eagles turned the ball over on three of their final four possessions of the half. Perez, the first Terp to record multiple interceptions in a game since Cameron Chism had two against MTSU (9/19/09), set up Maryland’s second and third TDs of the game. He recovered a Montel Harris fumble on the BC 38 and picked off Chase Rettig pass on the Eagles’ next offensive play. He also stopped a potential BC scoring drive, intercepting Rettig at the Maryland 26 with less than 30 seconds to go in the opening half. Perez, who is tied for second in the ACC in passes defended (1.29 per game), also had four tackles, including a half of a tackle for loss.
SPECIALIST – Terence Fells-Danzer, Virginia, FB, Jr., 6-1, 250, Culpeper, Va. (Culpeper)
Fells-Danzer made up for a fumbled kickoff return to open the game in a big way in Virginia's 48-21 victory against Eastern Michigan. In the third quarter, after EMU had scored on a 53-yard run to close the score to 24-21, the Eagles decided to short kick to keep the ball away from the ACC’s leading kickoff returner. The short kick came to Fells-Danzer, and he returned it 70 yards for a score that started a 24-0 run by the Cavaliers. It was the second-shortest kickoff return for a TD in Virginia history. Earlier in the game Fells-Danzer, who played linebacker his first two years at Virginia, recorded the first receiving touchdown of his career. Fells-Danzer has already been honored as the CollegeFootballPerformance.com national kickoff returner of the week.
ROOKIE – Danny O'Brien, Maryland, QB, Fr., 6-3, 215, Kernersville, N.C. (East Forsyth)
Starting the fourth game of his collegiate career, O’Brien had an efficient and error-free performance in directing the Terps to their first road win in 11 tries. He completed a career-high 26 passes on 39 attempts (66.7 percent) for 179 yards against BC which ranked third in the ACC in total defense. He also matched a career high with three TD passes, but did not toss an interception. Most importantly, he led the Terps to scores when given the opportunity. Maryland was 3-for-3 (all TDs) in red zone opportunities and converted two of BC’s three turnovers into touchdowns. O’Brien ranks fifth nationally among FBS freshmen in passing efficiency (127.9).
- Wake Forest is the last of the other 11 ACC schools to play at Lane Stadium since Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004.
- In Tom O’Brien’s 14 years as a head coach, a fullback has never rushed the football.
- It was 20 years ago this week that Virginia was ranked No. 1 in the country. The Cavaliers moved into the top spot on Oct. 15 after a 31-0 win over NC State on Oct. 13, 1990. UVA was ranked No. 1 for three weeks.
- No quarterback has ever led the ACC in rushing. Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt leads the conference this week with 90.5 rushing yards per game after a 109-yard effort against Virginia.
- When Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer coaches Saturday against Wake Forest, he will pass Paul “Bear” Bryant in number of games coached at one’s alma mater. Bryant coached 287 games at Alabama. The Wake game will be Beamer’s 288th game at Virginia Tech.
- For the second straight week, a true freshman receiver at BC recorded a 100-yard game. Against NC State, Alex Amidon had four catches for 104 yards and a 67-yard touchdown. Amidon’s performance came just one week after true freshman Bobby Swigert had seven catches for 137 yards and a 58-yard touchdown reception against Notre Dame.
- With the 45-17 win over Miami, Florida State is 3-0 in the ACC for the first time since 2005. That is the last time the Seminoles captured the ACC Championship. FSU has been 3-0 in ACC games on 10 different occasions since joining the league in 1992 and have captured the ACC title each time.
- North Carolina tailback Johnny White accounted for 70.2 percent of the Tar Heels’ offense in their 21-16 win over Clemson. He was the team’s leading rusher with 89 yards and receiver with 90 yards.
- North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates has the lowest interception percentage in the country at .063. He has just one interception in 160 attempts. Yates has just one interception this year. He has not thrown an interception in four of UNC’s five games this year. Last season, there were only three games in which he did not throw an interception.
- The Hurricanes rank ninth among BCS programs having played 11 true freshmen this fall.
- Maryland’s defense already has 25 pass breakups after just 29 in all of 2009. Three Terps -- Antwine Perez, Adrian Moten, and Cameron Chism -- are tied for fourth in the ACC in passes defended (1.2 per game). As a team, the Terps are third in the ACC in both interceptions (seven) and pass breakups.
- Duke leads the ACC and ranks sixth nationally in red-zone efficiency (17-18; .944). The Blue Devils opened the season with scoring conversions in their first 16 red-zone possessions before an interception at Maryland on October 2. One big reason for Duke’s success has been the performance of kicker Will Snyderwine, who is 9-of-10 on field goals this year (7-of-7 on red zone possessions). Snyderwine leads the ACC and is tied for 12th nationally in field goals, averaging 1.90 per game.
- Over the last eight years, Clemson is 26-21 in games played before October 15, for a .553 winning percentage, and 34-13 in regular season games after October 15, a .723 winning percentage.
- This is the fourth time in the past seven years Clemson has started 2-3. Each of the previous three times that has happened, Clemson has battled back to be bowl eligible.
- Overall, Clemson has started 2-3 or worse eight seasons in the last 25 years and came back to become bowl eligible six of those eight years. Each of the last two times Clemson has started 2-3, the Tigers have come back to win at least eight games and finished in the final top 25 of the AP poll.
There’s only one problem:
He would know – the Terps are winless in their past four meetings against No. 21 West Virginia. Maryland is 2-0 for the first time in three years, though, and has an opportunity to put a halt to that streak this Saturday.
Maryland showed positive signs in its season-opening win against Navy and romp of Morgan State, but this weekend will be a chance for the Terps to prove they can beat a ranked opponent on the road. If they can, Maryland should be taken as a serious contender in the Atlantic Division. What once seemed like an opportunity at an improbable upset could now be a more manageable road trip considering the way the Mountaineers fell behind to Marshall last week before winning 24-21 in overtime.
Freidgen, though, is expecting West Virginia’s best.
“This is another test for us,” Friedgen said. “From a team standpoint, number one to play on the road in a hostile environment against a very good football team. And number two, the more we win, the bigger the games get, and I think this is a very big game for us. We will learn a lot about who we are after this game.”
Right now, the Terps are as good as last year’s 2-10 record, but both the offense and the defense have reached some encouraging milestones. The 85 yards in total offense allowed by Maryland against Morgan State were the fewest in the Friedgen era. The Terps’ rushing total of 261 yards against Navy was the most since 271 against Delaware (Aug. 30, 2008). Maryland’s 7.7 yards per rush was its highest average since 7.9 against North Carolina on Nov. 2, 2002.
"We really think that we can build off what we learned from what we did against Navy,” safety Antwine Perez said. “We can use that discipline and it can carry over as the season goes on. Definitely, now that we are much more prepared after facing Navy's offense and going into offenses that we're facing now, we think we are able to adjust on the fly."
West Virginia is also 2-0, and averaging 434.5 yards per game and scoring 27.5 points per game. Quarterback Geno Smith is completing 72.2 percent of his passes and has totaled 532 passing yards with three touchdowns to one interception. The West Virginia defense is tied for 14th in the nation as opponents have averaged just 10.5 points so far.
"It's definitely a test for us and right now we are focused in on them,” receiver Torrey Smith said. “Coach Friedgen is getting us as prepared as he can and come Saturday it will be a great test for us and hopefully we stand up to it."
Those within the program said it's a good thing they had all summer to prepare for Monday's season opener against Navy.
They also had a lot of time to reflect on last year's 2-10 season and try and correct their mistakes. The Terps are 6-3 in their openers under coach Ralph Friedgen, but there is an added sense of urgency to this one, as Friedgen's job status is tenuous. There's not a lot of margin for error if Maryland is going to get to a bowl game.
Maryland has spent a majority of the summer preparing for the Midshipmen without a ball, in order to help simulate the speed they'll see on Saturday.
"It is very difficult to defend," Friedgen said. "The more we look at it the more you have to play the 'what ifs.' They're very adept at knowing if you stop this, they dish it and open it up. To match the speed they are going to run is one of the reasons we practiced without the ball. Our scout team can function a whole lot better if they can just run the plays. We added the ball yesterday because we were worried about our guys over running things and playing too fast. I think we have a good plan. It is all in how well we execute and how disciplined we are. I think you have to be very disciplined and play your responsibility. Defensively guys usually just want to run to the ball and not have to think, just react, and this offense makes you take care of your responsibilities."
Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs rushed for 1,203 yards last year, passed for 1,031, and scored 33 touchdowns. The Midshipmen return five of their their top six rushers from last year's 10-4 team.
"It's a challenge," linebacker Alex Wujciak said. "I think it helps that we're playing them the first game of the year so we can prepare for longer stretches of time, but it's going to be a challenge for our defense. Coach [Don] Brown has been a great defensive coordinator. He's played them in the past and has had some success so hopefully we can continue that."
2009 overall record: 2-10
2009 conference record: 1-7
Offense: 7, defense: 5, punter/kicker 2
WR Torrey Smith, C Paul Pinegar, RB Da’Rel Scott, WR Adrian Cannon, LB Alex Wujciak, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, LB Adrian Moten, P Travis Baltz, CB Cameron Chism
LT Bruce Campbell, C Phil Costa, QB Chris Turner, FS Terrell Skinner, CB Anthony Wiseman, SS Jamari McCollough
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Scott* (425 yards)
Passing: Turner (2,069 yds)
Receiving: Smith* (824 yards)
Tackles: Wujciak* (131)
Sacks: Moten* (6)
Interceptions: Chism* (4)
1. Separation at quarterback. Maryland wrapped up spring with Jamarr Robinson as its new quarterback, Danny O’Brien his backup and C.J. Brown No. 3. Robinson made good decisions, threw the ball pretty well and limited his turnovers despite two picks in the spring game. He has a quiet confidence and started to become more of a leader, taking control of the huddle.
2. Growing confidence in the offensive line. The staff feels much better about this group than it did at the start of spring. The lineup isn’t 100 percent settled, but if the Terps played tomorrow, Justin Gilbert would start at left tackle, R.J. Dill at right tackle, Andrew Gonnella at left guard, and Paul Pinegar at center. For the past couple of weeks, Justin Lewis and Bennett Fulper have shared time at right guard. Lamar Young has a chance to work his way into the rotation after missing the spring for offseason shoulder surgery.
3. Potential on the defensive line. Maryland lost three starters to graduation on the defensive line, but found some capable replacements this spring. Defensive tackle Joe Vellano, who missed the first half of 2009 and never quite got back to full speed, was one of the surprises this spring. Coach Ralph Friedgen praised Vellano, but questioned whether or not he can maintain that success on Saturdays this fall. Overall, the staff seemed to settle on Vellano and A.J. Francis at tackle, along with Zachariah Kerr.
1. Depth in the secondary. The Terps will have three new starters, but the safety position remains the biggest concern, enough so that Maryland could turn to a true freshman to help. The staff feels good about safeties Antwine Perez and Kenny Tate, but they need some help behind them and would like to solidify a fourth corner this summer.
2. How will the offensive line hold up? Yes, they made progress this spring, but the group has been a weak link. Part of that can be attributed to inexperience, but it’s an older group this year. Maryland has enough talent at running back to help take some pressure off of Robinson in his first full season as starter, but the offense will only improve as much as the players up front.
3. Will Maryland get back to the postseason? After just one win in conference play, Friedgen’s future at Maryland was in doubt. The pressure is on, but there has been a renewed sense of commitment and determination this offseason. Maryland’s season opener against Navy could set the tone for the whole season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen sat in his plush red leather chair in his office, surrounded by his usual cast of reporters, tired and soaked with sweat, but clearly satsified with the effort the Terps gave in the extreme heat and humidity.
"We're at the dead-legged stage," he said.
That's not to say, though, there's not room for improvment, and he's still looking for some wide receivers to separate themselves from the group and for the offensive line to come together.
In the 'mock scrimmage,' which was in Byrd Stadium with officials and closed to the media, the players don't tackle each other, but Friedgen said he still got what he was looking for out of them. Backup quarterback Jamarr Robinson made some plays, but there are still aspects of his game management that need to come along. He said the team struggled to run the ball well, but they're also getting better defensively under first-year coordinator Don Brown.
Quarterback Chris Turner got some more work in this scrimmage than he did in the last, and looked "OK," but he didn't get the pass protection he needed. Robinson got some plays with the first-team offense, too. Robinson, like several other backup quarterbacks in the ACC, is going to see playing time. Friedgen made that clear today, but wasn't sure as to whether those snaps would come early or late in the season. He does like Robinson's ability to scramble and make a play.
Overall, Friedgen said, the offense made some big plays but isn't showing the consistency he's looking for.
A few quick stats for you:
Anthony Wiseman had six tackles, all solo.
Jamari McCollough made four tackles, two sacks, and an interception.
Antwine Perez had an interception.
Jamarr Robinson 16-of-28 for 250 yards, 3 TDS and 1 INT
Chris Turner 9-of-13 for 80 yards 1 INT
Kevin Dorsey 5 for 61 yards
LaQuan Williams 3 for 84 yards
Torrey Smith 3 for 46
Robinson 29-yard touchdown to Williams, and 29-yard touchdown to Dorsey.
Da'Rel Scott with 9-yard touchdown to Turner on a flea flicker
Robinson 23-yard touchdown to Emani Lee-Odai
6:11 4th Qtr William & Mary 9 Virginia Tech 34 6:43 2nd Qtr 16 Clemson 21 12 Georgia 21 12:05 2nd Qtr Elon 3 Duke 14 11:26 2nd Qtr Liberty 7 23 North Carolina 14 8:00 PM ET 1 Florida State Oklahoma State Final Delaware 0 Pittsburgh 62 Final 7 UCLA 28 Virginia 20 Final Wofford 19 Georgia Tech 38 Final Georgia Southern 23 North Carolina State 24 Final Boston College 30 Massachusetts 7