The season opener always brings the unknown but that will perhaps be even more at the forefront when West Virginia travels to College Park to take on Maryland.
That’s because while there are a significant number of returning players on the Terrapins roster there is almost an equal amount of questions that come with it.
That’s because Maryland only was able to play a total of five games last season and no features three new coordinators in each phase of the game.
The Terrapins finished 2-3 on the season but showed flashes of more despite the limited schedule.
Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and offensive coordinator Dan Enos are new to the staff after being added in the off-season, while long-time head coach Ron Zook was elevated to special team’s coordinator during that same window.
“There’s not a whole lot to go on,” head coach Neal Brown said.
Last season Stewart served as the cornerbacks coach at Baylor and coached defensive backs with the Detroit Lions in the NFL for two seasons before that. The assistant hasn’t called plays on that side of the ball since serving as the coordinator at Rice in 2017 which leaves things more of a mystery.
“You’re kind of guessing for lack of a better term on that,” Brown said.
Enos last served as an offensive coordinator in 2019 at Miami which opens some of the same issues albeit not as much time as elapsed since his last time calling things on that side.
“They’ve had a year to prepare for you, so you know you’re going to have to adjust and having a new OC makes it that much more of a challenge,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said.
That puts West Virginia in the position where they must enter the game with the ability to adjust in all three phases of the game. That’s what fall camp is for as the Mountaineers were able to rep their entire package and see multiple looks from their own defense.
From there, you make the best guesses at what the Terrapins will do in each phase based on how they played last year, the last time each assistant called a defense and other factors in order to formulate a game plan. But even that could be adjusted on the fly depending on what actually unfolds.
On the field, while five games isn’t a treasure trove of film, it does give the coaching staff an idea of what to expect out the Terrapins players in the various phases. The coaches have had to evaluate in order to determine where the matchups are good or perhaps not as favorable and then determine where to attack. Like above, there is always some trepidation, but preparation is key.
“You’re afraid of those things in every game one but at this point we feel really good about how we prepared to be quite honest with you and because so many of those guys are returning and have played you get a fair eval on those guys,” offensive coordinator Gerad Parker said.
What helps matters even further is the fact that West Virginia and Maryland have started to cross paths on the recruiting trail quite a bit which has the coaches familiar with some of the names on the roster.
But that doesn’t eliminate the challenges that typically come with the first game.
“There are always things – formations or plays – that you’re probably going to see that you haven’t seen or haven’t worked on as much as you need to,” Lesley said. “I think a lot of times it depends on the flow of the game. You don’t always know how they’re trying to attack you so it’s a little bit of a chess game there but you’re always going to see things you have to adjust to.”