Earlier in today's Shotgun/Throwdown, I linked to the answers I gave to the guys over at Testudo Times (SB Nation Maryland blog) regarding this week's game between WVU and the Terps. They were kind enough to answer a few for us as well.
WVU fans are familiar with Randy Edsall from his years at UConn. This news of him implementing a spread offense with Gary Crowton goes against the grind it out offense we've been used to seeing from his previous teams. If any fan-base is familiar with system change struggles it's WVU's. How has is the change going in Maryland?
It looks like Randy's been pretty hands-off in regards to the offense, letting Crowton pretty much do his thing. The offense you're going to see on Saturday is 99% Crowton. Think of it like a toned-down version of Oregon's scheme, because that's quite literally what it is (Crowton, remember, installed the prototype of the current Oregon look): high-tempo, a lot of short passes to open up downfield, etc. Obviously, Maryland doesn't have a running QB, which takes out that aspect of it, but other than that there are a lot of similarities.
So far, it's worked out, but there's much we haven't seen. Miami's defense was ravaged by suspensions, so while the 500 yards of total offense is impressive, we don't know how it'll perform against a healthy, cohesive unit. It was such a change of pace from what we're used to that I think everyone's a little in shock, but I didn't see any obvious problems in the opener and everyone's on board with it so far. Crowton will need to transition away from so many screen passes, but the conditions on Monday made that understandable. More time is needed to fully judge, but no complaints yet.
The red zone struggles against Miami have been fairly well documented. What do you attribute this to and do you see it getting fixed quickly?
There were a variety of issues. Execution was pretty bad, first and foremost: Danny O'Brien forced an interception when he could've walked into the end zone on a roll-out early and Kerry Boykins dropped a sure TD later. The O'Brien interception occurring when it did might've caused Crowton to dial back his playcalling, and in later drives it was certainly too conservative. But also keep in mind that Maryland was missing its short-yardage back, D.J. Adams, to suspension. He scored 11 TDs last year, all of them near the goal-line, and if he was playing last Monday he almost certainly would've been used several times when the offense stalled inside the 20.
But perhaps most of all, it's still early in Crowton's scheme. When the field shortens for the defense, they have less to cover, and things get harder for the offense. That seemed to be the problem as much as anything else: the offense had to execute at a higher level near the end zone, and they weren't ready to. Things should improve as the season goes on.
We don't know a lot about Maryland's defense. What type of style is utilized by UMD and is there any specific player we should be aware of?
Todd Bradford is Maryland's new defensive coordinator, and he was hired in a rather ugly manner: he was Southern Miss.' DC for the past two years and took Maryland's LB job before likely being fired there. Then Don Brown went to UConn late in the process, and Maryland was forced to promote Bradford on short notice. His scheme is constantly being called "multiple", and he showed off several looks against Miami. The personnel he's chosen are all very versatile, and he could, theoretically, easily switch between his base 4-3 to a 3-4 to a 3-3-5 without making a single substitution. It's not an aggressive look, though; he didn't blitz all that often against Miami, and that often resulted in Maryland's small, quick defense getting steamrolled by a larger Miami squad.
There are two names to know: Kenny Tate, a former star at safety converted to linebacker, and Joe Vellano, probably the ACC's best defensive tackle. Tate was moved to LB in the offseason, and though the experiment hasn't worked yet - he's too small and gets too easily blocked by TEs or OL - he's still one of the best, most athletic defenders in the country when used properly. Vellano is a hard worker at DT, and makes things easier on everyone else on the line.
Aesthetically, I can understand the blowback. That's an opinion thing, and I'll be the first to admit that they aren't beautiful. But there's so much meaning to a Marylander in the Maryland state flag, and such a strong connection. When I lived in Virginia, no one really cared about the VA state flag, which was understandable (it's ugly) but still a little strange to me. For that alone, I love them and their meaning.they weren't designed to be. They likely won't be brought back anytime soon, and the others are a little more toned down. I don't know if they look better, but they certainly look more normal. The no-logo helmets - one matte, stealth black and the other with a turtle shell pattern - are both pretty cool.
As usual, there looks to be a large WVU contingent traveling the short distance to College Park. What local watering holes and/or eating establishments are a must?
Fair warning here: College Park isn't the Athens/Gainesville/Madison sort of awesome road trip college town. That said, there's still some fun to be had. Bars are plentiful, and while Bentley's may not be the world's finest drinking establishment, it's worth it just to go and say you've been for the next time Scott Van Pelt gives it a shout-out on SportsCenter. As far as restaurants: the original Ledo's is in town and a gameday tradition for many Maryland fans, and Plato's Diner is fairly popular and well-liked.
I'm fairly certain it'll be a close one, but past that it's really tricky. Maryland as a program obviously has a bunch of momentum and confidence right now, and that combined with the home field advantage might be enough to sway an otherwise pretty even game. Terps by 4 or so, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see WVU win.
Thanks to Ben Broman at Testudo Times! Check them out for more coverage of the Terps this week.