Esquire from Turtle Waxing is back to tell us about the Terps and the Fridge's future. My answers and his questions are below.
1. Your offensive line was a problem earlier in the year. Is it still the main issue on offense?
TW: The line probably had its best game of the season last week against FSU but it is still a weak spot on the offense. Left tackle Bruce Campbell is capable of playing at an All-ACC level but has missed a number of games due to injury. He finally looks like he is shaking the rust off and dominating. There are a number of young kids mixed in the bunch and while right tackle R.J. Dill has struggled at times he also seems to be improving. The constant shuffling of the line due to injury and performance issues has not helped matters. With the mobile Jamarr Robinson at quarterback it helps the line's pass blocking. When Chris Turner was healthy he was like an old Drew Bledsoe at quarterback: he could make some plays with a weak arm but was likely to take a drive killing sack because he held on to the ball too long.
With RB Da'Rel Scott back from injury the running game is much better.
2. You've only held one opponent under 20 points all year. Obviously there are problems on defense. Is there one aspect of the D that is creating most of the issues?
TW: Lack of talent and experience. The defensive line is a patchwork affair and there are not any guys in that group who would scare a decent offense. The front four do little to disrupt the running game or rush the passer so I would guess the problems start up front, just like with the offense. The linebackers are decent but not great in coverage and have struggled when blockers get by the DL into the second level. With the problems at defensive end the outside linebackers have been beat to the edge by speed backs for big gains.
Defensive coordinator Don Brown plays a blitzing style that will give up big plays. The corners have struggled in one-on-one coverage when they are hung out to dry on the blitz. The safety play has been slightly disappointing as Terrell Skinner and Antwine Perez are big hitters but have failed to make big plays.
To be fair the defense has held the offense of Virginia (13), Duke (17), Clemson(13) and Rutgers (20) to 20 points or less but special teams mistakes and Chris Turner's history of giving touchdowns to the defense either through interceptions or fumbles has inflated those scores.
3. What do you think will happen with Friedgen after the season? What do you want to happen? In hindsight, do you think the coach in waiting situation was a bad idea?
TW: That is the $100,000 question. Right now it seems likely that both Friedgen and offensive coordinator (head-coach-in-waiting) James Franklin will be back next season. There doesn't seem to be the political will to pay out the $5 million required for both coaches given the current economic climate and fiscal deficits in the state.There have been painful cuts to staff and departments to close the budget gap and I doubt paying $5 million for a buyout and then committing the same financial resources to a new staff would play well.
If it was financially possible I would prefer that Friedgen be bought out. I think the Friedgen era has run its course at Maryland and some new blood with a better focus on recruiting would improve the program's fortunes. He has done some great things for the school and football program but asking for repeated raises every time he went to a bowl game and then going 35-37 the last few seasons sealed his own fate in many ways. I don't want Franklin made the head coach either so it is best to clean house and start fresh.
The coach in waiting contract was a horrendous mistake. Much worse than the Friedgen extension, which at least made sense at the time, in that Franklin had little track record other than washing out as an NFL position coach and offensive coordinator at a middling Big XII program. The contract that he was given guaranteed him either $1
million or a five year contract at the average of ACC head football coaches. With Clemson's Dabo Swinney making it to the ACC title game and triggering large contract bonuses Franklin's deal would approach Freidgen's current deal of $2 million per year. Putting $10 million dollars into a young assistant who appears overwhelmed with the responsibilities of offensive playcalling would be insane. If the athletic director was as smart as she thinks she is should would have called Franklin's bluff, as Boston College has done recently, and told him if he could find a better job to go take it. Odds are it would have been easy to hire him in a few years once Friedgen was on his way out and at that point Franklin might have even proven he is capable of being a head coach.
4. What is your prediction for Saturday?
TW: I think you would have to go with Boston College in this game. There is always the possibility of a rally around the leader moment with this team but they have lost so many close games I doubt some fire in the belly will change much. I don't see the offense moving the ball as well on BC as they did against a bad FSU defense. The key in my mind will be Boston College limiting turnovers. If BC doesn't turn the ball
over I think they will win comfortably. If Don Brown's blitzes force BC into mistakes then you could be in for a tough battle. My prediction is that BC will win going away, 31-17.