Maryland has reasons to respect James Madison in Saturday's opener

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland coach Randy Edsall stood in front of his team earlier this week and gave the standard speech leading into a game against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

He talked about James Madison being a threat, spoke about the importance of being focused and prepared despite the Dukes being a FCS team, and he referenced James Madison's upset of then-13th-ranked Virginia Tech in 2010.


Typical coachspeak? Yes.

But the James Madison team Maryland faces in Saturday's season-opener does have talent and is not necessarily the pushover its FCS label may suggest.


"They're a big threat," Terps quarterback C.J. Brown said. "They're going to be a good team, especially coming in here [with] a chip on their shoulder. They're going to want to prove the world wrong, just like they did a couple years ago against V-Tech."

The Dukes finished just 6-6 last year, but they've added several higher-level transfers, including former Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee, former North Carolina wide receiver Sean Tapley and former Tennessee running back Alden Hill.

Lee was the starting quarterback at Georgia Tech last season. He threw for 1,561 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 513 yards and eight scores. He also saw significant playing time in 2012, including during the Yellow Jackets' 33-13 win over Maryland. Lee only attempted two passes during that game, but he had 12 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's a good player," Edsall said. "He's a good athlete. And the thing we've got to make sure of is we've got to be disciplined in our rush lanes when they drop back and throw the football [to prevent him from scrambling]."

Tapley started seven games for North Carolina as a sophomore in 2012 and had 26 catches for 361 yards and five touchdowns. He was also a kick returner for the Tar Heels and had a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 2012.

"As we watched film, it's obvious he has a lot of ability," Maryland cornerback Jeremiah Johnson said. "He has some good speed."

The running back, Hill, has dealt with a shoulder injury this summer, but he was reportedly back to being a full participant in practice earlier in the week. He is expected to share time at the position and will be running behind two other former Football Bowl Subdivision players — left tackle Nick Appel (North Carolina) and right guard A.J. Bolden (Toledo).

James Madison also has several former FBS players on defense, notably former Terps Titus Till (at outside linebacker) and Jeremiah Wilson (cornerback).

The other challenge for the Terps is preparing to face a new coaching staff.

James Madison fired longtime coach Mickey Matthews after last season and hired former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers.

To get an idea of what the Dukes may do, Maryland coaches watched film of Withers' defense at Ohio State as well as film of defensive coordinator Brandon Staley's defense at John Carroll. Likewise, Terps defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said he watched tape of Ohio State's offense, plus film of the offense at Portland State, where co-offensive coordinator Brad Davis worked before joining James Madison.

"We've had a chance to study what we believe they're going to be and who they're going to be," Stewart said, "but we're not really going to know until they kick the ball off Saturday."


Maryland is better than a 20-point favorite on various lines. However, the Terps needed overtime to beat James Madison in 2009, and the Dukes have some talented players even aside from the transfers.

"I [told the team], 'Don't look at who you're playing,'" Edsall said. "You can't look at that. ... What you've got to do is study the opponent and understand who he is, and then you've got to get yourself prepared to go out and play to the best of your ability. If you do that, then you won't be disappointed on Saturday."



When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Site: Byrd Stadium

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 105.7 FM

Series: Maryland leads, 2-0.

What's at stake: Maryland has the opportunity to build some early momentum before getting into the meat of its schedule in October. The Terps will likely be underdogs in at least six of their final eight games, so getting off to a good start is important if Maryland is going to have any chance of becoming bowl eligible.

Key matchup: The Terps' front seven will look to contain James Madison quarterback Vad Lee and the Dukes' ground game. Lee was the starting quarterback at Georgia Tech last season. He left to be able to throw the football more than he did with the Yellow Jackets, but his main asset is his legs, and the Terps' front seven will have a challenge in preventing Lee and James Madison's running backs from picking up yards on the ground.

Player to watch: James Madison wide receiver Sean Tapley was a starting receiver at North Carolina in 2012 and made some plays as a kick returner with the Tar Heels as well. He is likely the Dukes' biggest offensive weapon aside from Lee. Tapley had just 21 catches for 241 yards and one touchdown at North Carolina last year, but he had 26 catches and five touchdowns in 2012.

— Matt Zenitz

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