Miami prepares for Maryland

Joe Velano recovers a fumble and runs it back for a Touch down. Courtesy Charlie DeBoyaceJoe Velano recovers a fumble and runs it back for a Touch down. Courtesy Charlie DeBoyace
Joe Velano recovers a fumble and runs it back for a Touch down. Courtesy Charlie DeBoyaceJoe Velano recovers a fumble and runs it back for a Touch down. Courtesy Charlie DeBoyace

As the Miami Hurricanes travel to Maryland to face the Terrapins on Monday night, the lights will show just how much the NCAA suspensions have hurt the program.

Most afflicted by the NCAA suspensions was the Hurricanes defense, with five of the eight players suspended having started on last year’s defense. Of the most notable replacements, Jordan Futch must fill in for Sean Spence at weakside linebacker and JoJo Nicolas will play free safety in absence of Ray-Ray Armstrong, even though Nicolas practiced at cornerback all summer.

For the offense, the suspension of a team’s senior quarterback may cripple most teams, but Miami is in a unique situation. Jacory Harris’ loss for the Maryland game puts in Stephen Morris, who has previous starting experience and battled with Harris for the starting position all summer.

Morris got his opportunity to start last year against Maryland after Jacory Harris was out due to a concussion he suffered the previous game against Virginia. Now due to suspension, Morris has another opportunity to grab control of the starting position with strong play.

But according to Coach Al Golden, the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season will not be decided in Harris’ absence against Maryland. The competition during the summer was “neck-and-neck”, according to Golden.

“We’ll let them compete,” Golden said. “The competition was really close, obviously it went to Stephen [Morris] down the stretch when it got to looking like Jacory [Harris] was going to be ineligible and we weren’t sure if he was going to be reinstated, so that competition abruptly ended. But we’ll continue it after this game.”

The Terrapin offseason focused on getting comfortable with a new system, not figuring out who at all would be playing. Sophomore quarterback and reigning ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’Brien returns for his second year at the helm of the Terps’ offense, but without the aid of running back Da’Rel Scott and star wide receiver Torrey Smith. While performing beyond expectations for any freshman quarterback, O’Brien must now execute a brand new offense with considerably less experience, and possibly less talent, around him at skill positions.

But while quarterbacks will be the story into the game, the Hurricane running backs will likely carry the majority of the offensive load. The combination of Lamar Miller and Mike James is among the best in the ACC, possibly the country.

In 2010 both running backs performed well in backup roles, with Miller averaging six yards per-carry and James at 5.7. Coinciding with the graduation of Damien Berry and Storm Johnson transferring out of the program before the season, and the summer-long uncertainty at quarterback, expect the early focus of the offense to be establishing the two backs.

As for the Maryland rushing attack,head coach Randy Edsall has a history of securing a strong running game for his offense, highlighted by UConn running back Donald Brown’s 2008 season. Brown rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 18 touchdowns, enough to make him a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Now for his Maryland squad, Edsall will entrust senior Davin Meggett with primary rushing responsibilites, who led the team in rushing last season with 731 yards.

Maryland’s 2010 All-ACC safety Kenny Tate moved down to the starting middle linebacker position, in hopes to make up for the loss of Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten. And while the secondary is patchwork, the Terrapin defensive line is among the most tenured in the ACC. Three juniors and one sophomore make up the defensive line, all with playing experience from the past season.