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November 2, 2013

Brown and the option need to pressure defenses

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Maryland football has a bye this weekend before taking on Syracuse at home on Nov. 9. Here is a breakdown on the various aspects of the team.

Scouting the running game: A lot is riding on C.J. Brown being the old C.J. Brown, and putting pressure on defenses to respect him on the option. If leading rusher Brandon Ross (shoulder) can get back with the two weeks rest, that's a boost, too, though Albert Reid showed he can make plays, too. Reid has to find a way to hang on to the ball, though. The speedster lost a key fourth-quarter fumble when the Terrapins trailed by just six. Coach Randy Edsall also voiced displeasure with the inconsistency of the offensive line. Tackle Mike Madaras, the top athlete in that line, had a particularly rough day against Clemson. Madaras was thrust into action last year as a true freshman, an indication of the depth woes in the OL that continue to haunt the program.

Scouting the passing game: The loss of Diggs and Long at end, and of QB Brown, didn't completely discombobulate the passing game. Sophomore Caleb Rowe has shown improvement and had long scoring passes in each of the last two games. He also had a tough red zone interception against Clemson, the kind of mistake Brown is unlikely to make. Brown's return will boost the passing game and should give emerging WR Lavern Jacobs further opportunity to shine. The glut of WR injuries has already affected game-planning. "We only really had four (healthy) receivers to go with today," said Edsall after the Clemson game. "So I knew we could not go up-tempo."

Scouting the run defense: Maryland came up big on defense against the run in some key situations but when Tajh Boyd ran the ball more in the third and fourth quarter, taking the game over, the Terps seemed to wear down. A 45-yard touchdown run late was another indication. The offense didn't keep the D off the field enough early, again, something perhaps the return of C.J. Brown can help. Clemson ran 98 offensive plays and few defenses could stand up against that onslaught.

Scouting the pass defense: Sammy Watkins had a career day with 14 catches but Maryland also had an interception and four sacks. Thankfully, Maryland's injured secondary -- they had three starters out against the Tigers -- won't see another pass-catch combo like Boyd and Watkins again this season unless it's in a bowl game. The Terps are still hoping to get top CB Jeremiah Johnson back from his broken toe, and the pass defense has already received a lift with hybrid linebacker Matt Robinson back from his shoulder injury.

Scouting the special teams: Punter Nathan Renfro has picked up steam this season and been a key player recently. He had seven punts for 43.4 yards against Clemson and twice pinned the Tigers inside the 20. Kicker Brad Craddock had two 41-yard field goals last week and is now 15 of 18 this season. Freshman Will Likely had a 37-yard kickoff return and still seems just a whisker from breaking one all the way. Coverage teams were exemplary against Clemson, and have become a strength.




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