Terps' Tight End Trio In Huff-And-Puff Mode
By David Snyder
With the guarantee at the start of spring practice that an inexperienced quarterback would take the reins of the University of Maryland offense, the casual football fan expected a common trend in the passing attack.
Lesser experienced quarterbacks tend to rely on their bigger targets as security blankets in the offense. For the Terrapins, those big targets are tight ends Joey Haynos (6-foot-8), Dan Gronkowski (6-foot-6) and Jason Goode (6-foot-4). Each possesses a broad frame and both Haynos and Gronkowski tip the scales at over 260 pounds.
Maryland senior tight end Jason Goode was sixth on the team with 12 receptions in his junior year.
However, the tight end corps has played a minimal role in the Terps' pass offense. The trio has combined for only 17 receptions and 233 yards in the team’s first seven contests, an average of just over 33 yards per game, with a third of the yardage coming on a Goode 78-yard touchdown pass and catch against Georgia Tech.
Tight ends coach Ray Rychleski attributes his group’s lack of involvement to the fact that Maryland, in addition to being a run-first offense, has often needed the tight ends to help out a makeshift offensive line in pass protection.
Haynos has endured the brunt of the group’s struggles. After his 37-catch, 369-yard junior campaign that made him the Terps’ second-leading receiver a season ago, he has only eight receptions and 84 yards this year and only two catches in the last four games.
“What has happened with Joey is that a lot last year we were more of a one-back team, where we had to throw the ball more,” Rychleski said. “Now, playing with leads, we’re in regular personnel more often, which is running back, fullback and a tight end. That’s Gronkowksi’s personnel group. We’ve used that package more than we ever have before.”
In his junior year, Gronkowski has benefited modestly from his increased role, already surpassing his two-catch total from last season with six receptions in 2007. He made sure to point out the unit’s other contributions to the offense, but admits the group’s decreased role in the offense can be frustrating.
“We’re out there blocking well in the run game and are running good routes,” Gronkowski said. “We might think about [not catching passes] a little. If you’re out there not making plays, that’s reason to be concerned, but when the ball’s come to us, we’ve made the plays.”
Goode and Rychleski echoed Gronkowski’s sentiments.
“It’s definitely not frustrating because we’ve contributed in other areas aside from the passing game,” Goode said. “We’re team players. It doesn’t matter if you have individual accolades or stats, as long as you get the ‘W’ at the end.”
“Of course, who doesn’t want to catch more passes?” Rychleski said. “But at the end it’s about singing that song in the locker room.”
Maryland Opponent Preview
By: Ashley Campbell
Date: October 27, 2007
When: 3:30 p.m.
Clemson is coming off a huge 70-14 win over Central Michigan last week. After playing seven games, the Tigers are 5-2 (2-2 ACC), sitting at third in the ACC. They have relied heavily on their passing to win games, particularly focusing on wide receiver Aaron Kelly who has 46 catches for 637 yards and six touchdowns. The combination of Kelly and quarterback Cullen Harper could prove difficult for Maryland’s pass defense, which is allowing over 200 yards per game.
The Clemson defense could also pose some big problems for Maryland, ranking 10th in the country overall. Chris Turner will make his third start at quarterback for Maryland, and he can expect to feel the pressure of Clemson’s defensive line, which has seven sacks this season. Turner was sacked twice in last week’s loss to Virginia.
Although the Tigers' defense has successfully contained their opponents’ passing games, their rush defense seems to be their weakness. Clemson’s defense has proven tough, but if Maryland utilizes their rushing strength, they can easily get some points on the board. Expect to see a lot of action from Maryland running backs Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball, who have rushed for a combined 17 touchdowns this season.
The Terrapins will need to play with more consistency if they want to beat Clemson. Despite leading 14-3 at halftime last week against Virginia, the Terps watched their lead diminish after converting only a field goal in the second half. Maryland’s main focus for this game should be to contain Clemson’s offense, particularly their passing.
Player to Watch:
QB Cullen Harper
Red-shirt junior Cullen Harper currently leads the ACC in pass efficiency at 63.89 percent. Having converted big plays all season, last week he went 20-of-22 for 273 yards and tied Clemson’s school record with five touchdown passes. At a towering 6-foot-4, he has a great eye for the field, and proved against Central Michigan that he can make some big plays.
Head coach Tommy Bowden, offensive coordinator Rob Spence, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning
Prediction: Maryland 28, Clemson 22
Issue 2.43: October 25, 2007