COLLEGE PARK — Imagine if the Maryland Terrapins could trade speed for points as easily as investors trade stocks.
The Terps might have been near the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring offense last season instead of behind 10 teams, and ahead of just Virginia.
Heading into the disastrous 2009 season, the Terps knew they had enough speed at receiver and running back to rattle opposing defenses. Coaches feel the same way about the upcoming season.
Maryland's problem, of course, has been translating all those impressive 40-yard dash times — tailback Da'Rel Scott and receivers Emani Lee-Odai, Quintin McCree and Torrey Smith are among the fastest — into touchdowns.
Too often, the inexperienced offensive line didn't create enough valuable seconds of daylight in 2009 to allow the backs and receivers to showcase their raw talents.
"The reality is that it's been hard at times to evaluate the running backs, it's been hard at times to evaluate the quarterbacks because of some of the issues we've had on the offensive line," offensive coordinator James Franklin said. "I think they're vastly improved and I think it's allowing us to show some of the talent that we have been able to recruit at some of the other positions."
Maryland averaged 21.3 points per game, 11th in the conference in 2009. The Terps were 11th in average first downs (16.2), 10th in third-down conversion percentage (36.6) and 11th in turnover margin (minus-6).
Maryland is among a number of fast ACC teams. Miami has several top track-and-field sprinters on offense. Clemson boasted two of the conference's fastest players last season in receiver Jacoby Ford and running back C.J. Spiller, both of whom are on NFL rosters.
The Terps have improved their speed with Jamarr Robinson expected to enter the season as the starting quarterback, replacing the graduated Chris Turner. "I think [Jamarr] rushed for 129 yards [in 2009] against Virginia Tech," Franklin said. "As we know, they are pretty good on defense, so he obviously brings an element to the game that we haven't had here in awhile."
Maryland's most potent offensive threat last season was Smith, the wide receiver and kick returner who was named first-team preseason All-ACC last month by the media.
Smith may be quick — he says he has run a 4.36 in the 40 — but he is neither the fastest nor the biggest of the nine receivers on scholarship.
"We are fast and we are all big. I am like 208, 209 but I always weigh in at like 200 on purpose so teams think I'm smaller than I am," Smith said with a smile. "We weigh in at the beginning of spring, so I just won't eat nothing."
Smith conceded that Lee-Odai, a fifth-year senior, and McCree, a redshirt sophomore, are faster. "Blazing," Smith said.
Maryland's challenge, besides improving the offensive line, is getting the fastest guys on the field. Prominent on the list is McCree and Lee-Odai, who have played sparingly.
"They both have had very good camps," said receivers coach Lee Hull, interviewed in the Gossett Football Team House after a recent practice.
"With Emani it's been consistency, catching the ball. Quintin it's just more knowing his assignments and not having [missed assignments]," Hull said.
Lee-Odai suffered a setback recently when he suffered a compound dislocation of his pinky finger blocking a practice kick. He is expected to return in a few weeks.
Hull said he hopes to use McCree, Lee-Odai and fellow receiver Kevin Dorsey more this season. His goal is to give Smith and fellow starter Adrian Cannon more rest, while better employing Maryland's speed.
"I tell Torrey all the time that he may not have as many catches, but he will probably have more yards and more touchdowns because he will be fresher," Hull said.
Said Smith: "That's fine with me."
Maryland wide receivers coach Lee Hull said his receivers are "a really fast group." Here, according to Hull, is how some of the fastest of the bunch informally stack up and their approximate 40-yard dash times in seconds:
1.) Emani Lee-Odai ("in the low 4.3s")
2.) Quintin McCree ("the high 4.3s")
3.) Torrey Smith ("the low 4.4s," although Smith says he is faster)
4.) Kevin Dorsey ("the high 4.4s")
5.) Tony Logan ("the high 4.4s")