On Saturday, Maryland (4-5, 2-3 ACC) travel to Death Valley to face Clemson (8-1, 5-1 ACC). Clemson247 spoke with InsideMDSports.com's Jakob Engleke for his take on the game.
Randy Edsall's Terps have been riddled with injuries and transfers.
1- How can Maryland be effective on offense against Clemson given its quarterback situation?
Well, it certainly won’t be easy for Maryland on offense from here on out. The Terps haven’t had any luck at quarterback, and with a converted linebacker and fifth-string option starting at the position, it’s clear they won’t be as effective as they were at the beginning of the season.
In game No. 1 of the Shawn Petty era, the Terps picked up 259 yards of total offense, with a 54 yards coming on the game’s final drive with Georgia Tech playing a prevent defense. Quite frankly, Maryland won’t be looking to its offense to win games in its final three outings.
The Terps’ best chance to get points on offense Saturday will be by putting the ball in the hands of two true freshmen: running back Wes Brown and wide receiver/returner Stefon Diggs. Both players have stepped into starting roles for Maryland and both have played well. Brown has rushed for 382 yards and two touchdowns, while Diggs has likely cemented himself as the ACC Rookie of the Year, picking up 721 receiving yards, 1,774 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns.
2- Rankings aside how good is the Maryland defense?
Maryland’s defense has been the best thing going for the Terps this season, and the rankings are indicative of the talent on the unit.
With a senior-laden front seven, Maryland has been dominant against the run – at least until they faced Georgia Tech last week. Despite giving up 370 yards on the ground against the Yellow Jackets, Maryland still ranks second in rushing defense, pass defense and total defense in the ACC. The Terps are also 11th in total defense among all NCAA teams.
The team did take a big hit Saturday, though, when linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield tore his ACL. Hartsfield was the quarterback of the defense and one of the most respected voices in the team’s locker room. He also led the team in tackles with 78 and had posted seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception and two fumble recoveries. His 338 career tackles rank 15th in Maryland history.
It will be interesting to see how the Terps respond with Hartsfield sidelined. Sophomore linebacker L.A. Goree is poised to start in his stead.
3- Can Maryland slow down the Clemson offense?
This is the question that will decide the game. Maryland’s offense doesn’t have enough firepower to get into a shootout with Clemson, and the Terps’ defense will need to do better than any other team has done against the Tigers all season if they want to stand a chance.
I don’t think it will happen, though.
Clemson’s offense is simply too good with weapons like Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. That’s too many explosive weapons for the Terps to keep up with, and I think Clemson will win handedly.
4- Talk about the unfortunate rash of injuries Maryland has faced this year.
Injuries have dominated the headlines in College Park this year. The Terps have lost eight potential starters to season-ending ailments, four players to ACL tears and four quarterbacks.
Hartsfield, quarterbacks C.J. Brown, Perry Hills, Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe, kicker Nick Ferrara, wide receiver Marcus Leak and defensive end Andre Monroe have all been lost to season-ending injuries.
The issue has been magnified by the quarterback position, since Maryland has turned to their fifth-string option: A converted linebacker who last took snaps under center as a high school senior last November.
It’s been unfortunate, and I’ve never seen anything like it at the quarterback position.
5- Who does Maryland turn to with another ACL injury on defense?
Like I mentioned above, Hartsfield tore his ACL against Georgia Tech. Maryland will now turn to Goree in his stead.
Goree has seen playing time on special teams this season and saw some action at linebacker last year due to injuries. He’s got experience, but there’s no doubt Maryland will miss Hartsfield’s presence on the field.
I expect Goree to hold his own, but how the defense as a whole reacts to Hartsfield being out remains to be determined.