Guest Blogger: Turtle Waxing
Like BC, Maryland's season showed promise. They had a returning star at QB, a new Head Coach and produced a solid win against Miami in their opener. Since then it has been all down hill. To figure out what went wrong and what we can expect this weekend, I asked Esquire from Turtle Waxing some questions. His answers are below.
1. Explain to an outsider how the QB controversy makes sense. It seemed like O'Brien was a budding superstar. Is this all on him or has the staff screwed up two promising QBs?
Turtle Waxing: One of the common theories is that the new spread system by OC Gary Crowton doesn't fit O'Brien's skills as a west coast style QB. The mediocre offensive line has had some struggles, LT Justin Gilbert has been out all year with a torn knee ligament and G Andrew Gonnella is out with a broken leg, which hasn't helped either QB. The receiver corps has been underwhelming with the departures of Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon from last year. Smith's ability to stretch the field has been sorely missed this season. Even with all that O'Brien hasn't played well. Since the opening game against Miami his play has consistently declined every game culminating in a dreadful performance against Temple in a 38-7 defeat and his awful play against Georgia Tech before getting benched. Right now O'Brien is 9th in the ACC in passing efficiency and 10th in passing yards per game so he is well behind his peers in the conference as there are four or five sophomore QBs who are ahead of him. Looking back on his 2010 season it appears O'Brien was a bit overrated. Against the top 3 passing defenses he played (Clemson, Miami, FSU) O'Brien completed only 49% of his passes and threw just two touchdowns to six picks. The new system, losses to skill position players, and playing from behind have all contributed to O'Brien's struggles but the larger truth is that he has not played well.
2. How has Edsall changed the approach from the blitz heavy stuff that Don Brown ran?
Turtle Waxing: New DC Todd Bradford has totally scrapped Don Brown's system. I think the biggest loss of the offseason was the departure of Brown to Connecticut. It took a few years but his pressure scheme was really starting to pay dividends his final season at Maryland. The Terps now play a fairly vanilla 4-3 style defense. They don't blitz much and play a great deal of zone underneath. Injuries have decimated the defense but this was a poor unit even before all the starters went down. The secondary has forced turnovers and even returned two for touchdowns but surrender big plays too often and are allowing 3rd down conversions at an astonishing rate of 53%. As much as the offense has struggled this year the defenses' total collapse has been a far bigger reason for all the defeats.
3. Instead of focusing on Edsall, I want to ask about Friedgen after the awful 2009 season. BC looks like we are facing a season like that. You guys brought him back for 2010. I am of the opinion that once a coach has a season like that in Year 3 or after, you need to make a change. Do you think sticking with Friedgen after a terrible year was wise? Did it put Maryland in a better place when you made a coaching change a year later?
Turtle Waxing: If former AD Debbie Yow had the funds I think Friedgen would have been out after his 2-10 season and coach-in-waiting James Franklin would be the head guy instead of coaching Vanderbilt this season. With a cash strapped athletic department she had no other choice, in part because of the stupid head-coach-in-waiting deal she had made with Franklin, so she had to sit tight and ride out the last lame duck year under Friedgen. His 9-4 record that was largely smoke and mirrors gained him an ACC coach of the year award (now we know what those are worth) but greatly complicated his departure which was a foregone conclusion. Friedgen's sniping in the press this season has been an inevitable result of that messy situation. I think Maryland would have been better off had they been able to remove Friedgen after his 2-10 disaster but poor planning by the AD and a budget crisis made the decision for Maryland. It doesn't appear to have turned out very well. I don't see what Boston College stands to gain by sticking with their current staff for another season if they have the cash to buy out the contracts. How many excellent college coaches have a 2-10 season on their resume?
4. What is your prediction for the game?
Turtle Waxing: Even with the roller coaster this team has experienced and the myriad of injuries this group has stayed fairly cohesive even when overmatched by the likes of Georgia Tech and Clemson. It will be interesting to see if the Florida State rout was a sign that the players are starting to crack and mail in the rest of the season. My guess is that Edsall will go back to O'Brien and that he will play well enough for Maryland to pull away from BC at home in a bit of an offensive shootout.