Maryland football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Terrapins, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About The Maryland Offense
A defensive coach by nature making his name at Florida and Michigan, D.J. Durkin needed to surround himself with good coaches who know the offensive side. Former Ball State head coach Pete Lembo is one of the assistants, and rising offensive coordinator Walt Bell comes in from Arkansas State to try cranking up the dual-threat attack.
Nine starters are back on an offense marked by one of the least-efficient passing games in college football, and the first order of business if figuring out the quarterback situation. The key is finding someone who won’t throw a lot of picks, while hoping one of the options can stay in one piece and rise up to be the leader to work everything around. Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe are senior veterans – one of them has to take the gig by the horns.
The receiving corps is in place with three veteran ballers who should shine if the quarterback play is better. On the flip side, they need to make the passers better, too – something they didn’t do much of last season.
Leading rusher Brandon Ross is gone, but the Terps have a stable of solid backs who should shine if the line play is stronger.
Biggest Key To The Maryland Offense
The passing game has to be far more efficient. After finishing 126th in the nation in passing efficiency, the Terps have to be more explosive down the field and the quarterbacks have to stop screwing up. On the year Maryland came up with just under 2,100 passing yards completing a mere 47% of their passes with 15 touchdowns and 29 picks. It got really, really ugly at times and the interceptions became a part of life with three or more in seven games.
What You Need To Know About The Maryland Defense
The cavalry has arrived. Considering what a great defensive coach D.J. Durkin is, and with former Virginia head coach Mike London handling the line and former Syracuse head man Scott Shafer taking over the defensive coordinator gig, the D won’t have teaching issues.
Almost wholesale changes need to be made in some spots with all-star William Likely the only returning defensive back and just five starters back overall.
The secondary got lit up like a Christmas tree allowing 258 yards per game, and now it’s up to Likely to carry the unit from one corner spot. However, three of the top four tacklers were defensive backs, and they’re all gone.
Jermaine Carter and Jalen Brooks lead a sneaky-strong linebacking corps that should rise up and be one of the team’s biggest strengths. It might not be among the Big Ten’s elite, but it won’t be that far off.
The line needs pass rushers after losing Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson, but the run defense should be fine as long as Azubuike Ukandu can be a strong anchor in the middle. Again, this is where the coaching should play a big role.
Biggest Key To The Maryland Defense
It needs to force more field goals. Every defense will give up drives and opportunities in the red zone, but Maryland’s defense managed to bend and break. The Terps had one of the worst red zone defenses in college football with offenses scoring 91% of the time with 39 touchdowns in 49 trips inside the 20. Opponents scored touchdowns a whopping 72% of the time inside the red zone compared to 57% of the time in 2014.
Maryland Will Be Far Better If …
The turnover margin isn’t so miserable. It doesn’t matter how good the team is, it’s impossible to win when you go a -18. Maryland only won the turnover battle once – going a +1 in the loss to Indiana – and was even in the loss to Michigan and the win over Rutgers, and got crushed under the weight of mistakes against everyone else. The Terps turned it over a ridiculous 36 times with three or more giveaways seven times. In 2014, Maryland was dead even in turnover margin
Best Maryland Offensive Player
OT Michael Dunn, Sr. – The desperate hope is for one of the quarterback options becomes the best player on the team, and there are weapons at receiver to make the offense more dangerous, but it’s Dunn who’ll be the rock who helps make everything go. An All-Big Ten tackle, he’s the anchor up front and the key to the pass protection that has be better.
Best Maryland Defensive Player
CB Will Likely, Sr. – This might not be fair considering Likely is the team’s best all-around player – his return abilities play a big role in that. LB Jermaine Carter might be the best pure defensive player, but Likely is a playmaker in the secondary with shutdown corner ability even though he’s a smallish baller. There’s a chance he’s an All-American on special teams and as a defender, too.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Perry Hills, Sr. – Or Caleb Rowe. It’s this simple – Maryland’s season is going to be a waste of time if the quarterback play is as bad as it was in 2015. Hills and/or Rowe – or another option – have to be more efficient and far more effective for the woeful passing attack. Stop throwing picks, stop making mistakes, start making more big plays. It’ll be interesting to see just how good the team can be if there’s a passing game.
The Maryland Season Will Be A Success If …
Durkin takes the team to a bowl game. The Terps should be three wins better on coaching staff alone. The offense won’t screw up so much, and the defense should be far stronger and far more consistent. That should be enough to blow through the miserably sad scrimmages masquerading as a non-conference schedule. Beat Purdue, beat Rutgers, win one other game – like Indiana, Minnesota, or pull off an upset somewhere – and it’s off to a bowl.
Oct. 15 vs. Minnesota – If everything goes according to plan, Maryland should be at least 4-1 to start the season beating Howard, FIU, UCF and, after a week off, Purdue. Assuming a loss at Penn State, the Terps have an important moment coming back against Minnesota in a winnable game that could be a make-or-break moment considering a tough second half of the season.
2015 Maryland Fun Stats
– Second Quarter Scoring: Opponents 134 – Maryland 58
– Interceptions Thrown: Maryland 29 – Opponents 9
– Time of Possession: Opponents 32:24 – Maryland 27:36