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As the Maryland Terrapins enter their bye week undefeated at 4-0 to rest, recover, and ready themselves for the start of ACC play, Comcast SportsNet takes a look back at each unit of the team and how it has progressed through four games. First up, the offense.
It was next to impossible to know what this offense was capable of a year ago. A carousel of quarterbacks stifled any sort of consistency and starting a freshman linebacker under center is a last resort for any team. Wait, what's the option that comes after a last resort? That was Maryland's situation at quarterback in 2012.
It looked bleak, too, when running back Wes Brown was suspended for the entire season after an incident with the police, thinning the Terrapins' running back corps and putting a Brandon Ross-Albert Reid tandem front and center.
But led by C.J. Brown and Stefon Diggs in 2013, Maryland has been one of the conference's more impressive offenses. The Terrapins have tallied at least 500 yards of total offense in three of its first four games and the read option implemented by offensive coordinator Mike Locksley is giving the offense much-needed versatility.
Let's break it down further.
QUARTERBACKS-- C.J. Brown (starter), Caleb Rowe (backup)
Caleb Rowe won the backup job over Ricardo Young in Week 1 and played sparingly against Florida International. That's just about all the news on that front. Let's focus on Brown.
What a difference having a quarterback can make, right? Brown has orchestrated this offense as many expect a senior to do, running the read option and helping Maryland look to be one of the strongest offenses in the conference.
Brown leads the ACC in total touchdowns (7 passing, 6 rushing, 13 total) and passing yards (1043) and ranks second behind Florida State's Jameis Winston in completion percentage (66.7).
Brown's success comes partly from scheme and partly from what he has shown he is able to do with his legs, now that his surgically repaired knee is fully healed.
With Deon Long and Stefon Diggs as weapons that need respect on the outside, Brown ranks sixth in the ACC and first among quarterbacks with 283 yards on the ground.
As head coach Randy Edsall explains, defenses have a difficult time choosing which facet of the Terrapin offense to slow down. If receivers are covered, Brown can carry the ball. If there is a concerted effort to stop Brown on the ground, Brandon Ross can carry the football. Or if the running game is stopped completely, Long and Diggs will be open.
RUNNING BACKS-- Brandon Ross (starter), Albert Reid (backup), Kenneth Goins, Jr. (fullback)
The idea coming out of training camp was that Ross and Reid would split carries, but Ross became the starter before that start of Week 1 against Florida International. So far it has been successful, despite a few concerns.
Carrying the ball 66 times, Ross has rushed for 332 yards, good for 5.0 yards per carry. Not bad for a sophomore who has needed to adjust to being in the full-time role after the suspension of Wes Brown.
The issue over the past two games has been ball control. In Week 3 against Connecticut, whether it was entirely his fault or not, a ball slipped off Ross' hands on a screen and turned into C.J. Brown's first interception of the season.
He fumbled in that game, as well, and fumbled again against West Virginia. Weather could have been a factor against the Mountaineers, but the point still stands: Ross will need to hold onto the football because turnovers in close ACC games can make the difference.
A quick side note on Goins, Jr.: Edsall has been pleased with him at the fullback position, especially his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield when needed.
WIDE RECEIVERS-- Stefon Diggs, Deon Long (starters), Nigel King, Levern Jacobs (backups), Dave Stinebaugh (tight end)
Maryland is fortunate to have one of the most lethal wide receiver duos in the conference with Long and Diggs as starters. Together, the two have combined for 671 yards through the air and four of quarterback C.J. Brown's seven passing touchdowns.
The key for these two is the fact that defenses ultimately must choose to stop one or the other, because both are too talented to both be shut down completely. That was on display Saturday vs. West Virginia. Diggs had just two catches for 13 yards, while Long carried the load with six catches for 98 yards.
In combination with a strong running game, options give Maryland versatility offensively in the passing game.
Jacobs has been somewhat unheralded as a third wide receiver, but has been impressive in long pass situations. He has totaled 148 yards this season on eight receptions, including a big 48-yard gain in Week 3 vs. Connecticut.
Stinebaugh had yet to be worked into the mix in the pass game much at all until Week 4 against West Virginia when he caught his first career touchdown pass.
OFFENSIVE LINE-- Mike Madaras, Ryan Doyle (tackles), Michael Dunn, De'Onte Arnett (guards), Sal Conaboy (center)
The offensive line was the biggest area of concern coming out of training camp and it's hard to say that it still doesn't remain that way through four weeks.
This is the positive: If the offensive line was not solid, we wouldn't see the offensive numbers that we have so far. But here's the negative: There are isolated concerns that could point to larger issues when ACC play begins.
In the opening quarter of Week 3 against Connecticut, Maryland failed to convert on two 4th-and-short plays. It appeared that it was caused mostly by a lack of push by the offensive line and an inability to overpower the defense.
Yes, injuries play a role, but much of the success of the Maryland offense going forward will be predicated on the Terrapins' ability to give C.J. Brown time in the pocket and create running lanes for Brandon Ross.