Things are looking up

Contributions of younger players in Humanitarian Bowl win get Terps excited for next season

maryland football

January 01, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,

BOISE, Idaho - It's striking what a single victory, particularly of the bowl-game variety, can do for a team's outlook as it contemplates the next season.

Before Tuesday's 42-35 Humanitarian Bowl victory over Nevada, the Maryland Terrapins - and certainly their fans - were a little stuck in time. It was hard not to focus on the two regular-season-ending defeats that cost the Terps a shot at the Atlantic Coast Conference title and a warm-weather bowl game.

Tuesday's victory, in which the Terps overcame partial-game suspensions of seven players for missing curfew, gave the team something new to ponder in the months before spring practice. Something positive.

The game clearly boosted Maryland - and not only because it ended with running back Da'Rel Scott and other players giddily hoisting the unwieldy Humanitarian Bowl trophy with "CHAMPION" engraved at the base.

It also benefited the Terps because of the way they won. Because the seven suspended players, most of them regulars, were benched at the start, Maryland coaches had to scramble to fill holes with younger players who will return next season.

The players got plenty of game experience on national television and generally acquitted themselves well, leaving coaches hopeful that these relatively untested Terps can help offset the loss of 30 seniors. Some notable performances:

* Wide receiver Ronnie Tyler, a redshirt freshman, filled in for suspended senior Danny Oquendo and caught five passes for 55 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown. Coaches have high hopes for Tyler next season. Oquendo entered in the second half but didn't catch a pass.

* Wide receiver Adrian Cannon, a redshirt sophomore with two receptions during the regular season, caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Turner on Maryland's third play from scrimmage to give the Terps an early lead.

* Redshirt junior Jared Harrell, who can play defensive line or linebacker, stepped in and played because the suspended players included several linebackers. Coaches said Harrell had to learn the "Leo," or left linebacking position, almost overnight.

* Redshirt freshman Tony Logan took over for Oquendo returning punts and had 49 yards on six returns.

* Redshirt sophomore Morgan Green, who hadn't carried the ball since the Eastern Michigan game Sept. 20, had 10 carries for 72 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown.

Other young players - who probably would have participated in the game even without the suspensions - also contributed. Freshman safety Kenny Tate made his first career interception. Another freshman, defensive back Cameron Chism, was credited with three tackles.

"I think it makes next year look great," Turner, a junior, said of the way Maryland won without seven players for various portions of the game. "We're all going to come back after winter session feeling good about ourselves."

The Terrapins should be set next season at running back, where 1,000-yard rusher Scott returns along with Green and freshman Davin Meggett. Turner is back at quarterback and will be helped by the emergence of Tyler. Junior wide-out Darrius Heyward-Bey might forgo his senior season for the NFL. The Terps lose much of their veteran offensive line. "We're going to be young" there, coach Ralph Friedgen said.

On defense, Maryland loses several skilled linebackers. "We have [leading tackler Alex] Wujciak back. We have [Adrian] Moten back," Friedgen said.

The departures of Jeremy Navarre, Mack Frost and Dean Muhtadi will hurt the defensive line, but Travis Ivey and Dion Armstrong return. Despite the losses of Kevin Barnes and Jeff Allen, the secondary should be set with Terrell Skinner and Tate at safety and Nolan Carroll and Anthony Wiseman returning at cornerback. Jamari McCollough, who can play safety or corner and led the team with four interceptions, is also back.

Everything seemed to look cheerier to the Terps - particularly for next season - after Tuesday's win. "We ended the [regular] season on a downturn," Turner said. "We knew we had a chance to make amends for the inconsistent season we had."

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