Even before the season began, Maryland coach Randy Edsall openly wondered whether his defense had enough depth.
He candidly told Terps supporters over the summer that he didn't have enough linebackers. Later, Edsall — hired from Connecticut in January — said he needed more bulk on the defensive line.
And that was before all the injuries.
A quarter of the way into the season, Edsall has seen a spate of injuries that is testing the very issue — defensive depth — he was concerned about. All too often, he has seen the cart roll onto the Byrd Stadium field and take his defenders into the locker room.
Defensive end Isaiah Ross suffered a leg injury in the opening game against Miami. Linebacker Darin Drakeford was also injured in that game. Then, defensive tackle Andre Monroe hurt an ankle in last week's loss to Temple, and safety Matt Robinson (Atholton) suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Justin Anderson was already out with a foot injury.
None will play Saturday when the Terps (1-2, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) host Towson (3-0, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association). It will be Maryland's fourth straight home game to open the season.
The Terps have never faced the Tigers, whom Edsall referred to as a "state rival." Towson, ranked No. 23 in the Football Championship Subdivision, is coached by Rob Ambrose, a former assistant of Edsall's at Connecticut. Ambrose served as the Huskies' quarterbacks coach for four seasons and their offensive coordinator for three.
"It's funny how it worked out," Ambrose said in a news release. "I left UConn to return to my home state and coach at my alma mater. Two years later, Randy left UConn to become the head coach at Maryland. I think it's great that Randy is the head coach at Maryland because I know he will do a good job and he will represent the university very well.
"I will always be grateful to Randy for everything he taught me at UConn. He helped me prepare to become a head coach."
Ambrose, who won just three games in his first two years, has turned Towson into a potentially formidable opponent for the Terps. The Tigers have outscored their opponents 115-30. Maryland, meanwhile, is desperate for a win after its 38-7 unraveling against Temple left players dazed.
"It's really hard to explain because it was so emotional," said sophomore defensive end David Mackall (Edmondson). "Everybody was angry, everybody was mad, everybody was quiet. It hurt."
With the injuries, the defense still seems to be finding itself. Maryland is last in the ACC in total defense (424 yards per game), scoring defense (33 points per game) and opponent third-down conversions (48.8 percent).
The Terps had thrived on forcing turnovers, but only managed one against Temple.
All the injuries have created new opportunities.
Redshirt sophomore Cody Blue (Wilde Lake) began his career as a defensive lineman, then was moved to the offensive line by former coach Ralph Friedgen. Now Blue — who was being used a tight end on the scout team — has been switched back to defense by Edsall. Blue is now listed as a second-team defensive end behind true freshman Keith Bowers.
Like Blue, senior defensive tackle Maurice Hampton hopes to seize the opportunity to rejuvenate his career. He's expected to start Saturday at defensive tackle.
Hampton started one game in 2009 as an offensive guard before being switched to defense in 2010. He credited Edsall with giving him a fair chance and not playing "favorites."
"He's really straightforward," Hampton said. "He's a pretty square guy."
Towson (3-0, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association. No. 23 FCS) vs. Maryland (1-2, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference)
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Site: Byrd Stadium
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 105.7 FM, WNST-1570 AM
Series: First meeting
Last meeting: None
Maryland offense vs. Towson defense: Maryland returns suspended senior receivers Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree to an offense that held the ball for only 19 minutes in a 38-7 loss to Temple. The Terps rushed for just 45 yards against the Owls, but hope to use their size against the smaller Tigers up front to establish a running game. The Tigers, hoping for their first 4-0 start since 2006, already have seven sacks, five fumble recoveries, three interceptions and are surrendering just 10 points per game. If attendance exceeds 36,000, it will be the largest crowd to watch Towson play.
Maryland defense vs. Towson offense: Maryland has had to replace a handful of injured defensive starters. This will be the first game without safety Matt Robinson (shoulder), who will be replaced by redshirt freshman Titus Till. Towson is averaging 460 yards of total offense, including a CAA-best 246 rushing yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Grant Enders (Old Mill) has completed 73.3 percent of his passes and run for 113 yards. Receiver Leon Kinnard (eight catches, 54 yards) and Gerrard Sheppard (four catches, 55 yards) played for Maryland coach Randy Edsall at Connecticut last year.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun