Imagine you are visiting DC, presumably work related, and you go out afterwards with the boss who is a big Terrapin fan. Not wanting to offend him because he controls any sort of promotion you may receive, what do you do? You want to spark up a sports conversation and avoid work, but you are unsure of what Terp related items are off hand, and where the positives are. Well, never fear. I have your answers and talking points so you sound sufficiently educated in all things Terps!
Pleasantly surprised, you've caught the attention of your boss. You guys continue on and your basic knowledge of Terps are dwindling fast. What do you talk about first?
The good news...
Last season started off great, with Maryland sweeping the Out Of Conference schedule with the sweet added bonus of blanking regional rival WVU 37-0. Maryland locked up bowl eligibility mid-November by beating Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, in OT. That was a bitter sweet win, as we'd had trouble with them since uh...when they joined the ACC. It was even better that it locked up bowl eligibility for the first time since Edsall has been in College Park. Maryland ended the season by thrashing NC State, where former AD Debbie Yow is currently employed.
The bad news...
The game against Wake Forest, on the SAME play, Maryland lost both starting receivers in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long to broken fibulas. Also...um...Florida State happened. And, so did Marshall in the bowl game. Moving on..
Yes, let's talk about the offense. When not injured, the offense can be prolific. CJ Brown is a true dual threat quarterback. He can take you out on the ground, and with star receivers Deon Long and Stefon Diggs along with the plethora of depth behind them, he doesn't need a cannon to make things happen. His game is short to intermediate throws, and that suits Maryland just fine because of what the receivers can do after the catch. Maryland's running game features a lot of zone read plays as well as stretch plays on the edge. While no Maryland RB has gotten in front of the bunch, they do get suspended RB Wes Brown back this year along with incumbents Brandon Ross and Albert Reid. Wes Brown had an impressive freshman year even with defenses stacking the box due to the AMDQBHG making our passing game...less than stellar. The competition should make things even better, and if the Offensive Line, featuring two impressive freshman tackles (5 star Damian Prince and 4 star frosh Derwin Gray), can gel early, things could get interesting.
The pre-season MVP, as you guessed, is Stefon Diggs. He will be a household B1G name before long, and you all will hate him. He can do things like this at any moment:
Even though Diggs is the favorite for MVP because of the ridiculous agility he possesses, I don't think he is the one that is missed the most due to injury. Maryland is stacked at WR, and outside of maybe OSU I'd have a hard time believing you if you told me your school possessed a deeper WR core. If CJ Brown goes down, Maryland could be in trouble. For every bit of increased arm strength that Caleb Rowe brings to the table, he does not have that in speed or agility. He is a true pocket passer, and the definition of a gun slinger. That's great in all, but he has a penchant for missing WRs high and taking the big risks. He makes Maryland's offense a true boom or bust, and while he has logged major minutes I wouldn't say he's a sure fire step in replacement. This worries me the most, since CJ will be facing much stouter defenses than the ACC, so his playing style may cost him.
Maryland's defense is very experienced, bringing back the large majority of their starters from last season. The defensive line features Andre Monroe, who excels in penetrating to the QB; Darius Kilgo, a mammoth nose tackle; and Quinton Jefferson, a versatile SDE in Maryland's 3-4 base alignment. There is depth along the line, and experience in that depth as well, that allows Maryland to interchange defensive linemen for certain situations as well as to keep them fresh. It's a very good thing.
The same can be said for the linebackers, who bring back two of four starters but have a ton of depth behind the starters as well. Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil and Yannick Ngakoue (same position) will bring the pass rush from the jack linebacker (OLB) position, with freshman Jesse Aniebonam coming in for pass rushing situations as well. Senior Matt Robinson, a converted safety, will man the other OLB position and provide excellent coverage on opponents TEs and RBs out of the back field (I don't think the B1G does that thing, that's too much passing right?).
The secondary, while returning all starters outside of Dexter McDougle, who missed almost all last season before being drafted by the Jets, is thin behind its starters. This is the biggest question mark I'd give Maryland and the most area of concern if an injury occurs. Starting corners Jeremiah Johnson and Will Likely are one of the better starting tandems in the B1G if I had to rate it, but the depth behind them is very inexperienced. Alvin Hill and Jarrett Ross are competing for the Nickel corner spot, and right now it looks like Hill's job to lose. Hill looked good towards the end of last season in spot play, and has had a great spring, but he doesn't have a ton of starting experience either. He is a big unknown, but if he pans out it does alleviate concerns in the secondary to have a proven nickel corner to step in. Similarly with Safety, career backup AJ Hendy is a great option if needed, but he has slid between nickel/dime corner and backup safety almost his entire career. Not that he is bad at this either, but with the injury bug Maryland has had the past few seasons, I feel like he may already be used if something were to happen. If a safety goes down, this may be the biggest concern on defense.
I'll go out on a limb here and say my pre-season defensive MVP is Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil. If he comes back from his injury with the explosiveness he showed in the first half of last season, B1G defenses be on guard. Cudjoe-Virgil is a very skilled pass rusher who will disrupt your quarterback all day if you sleep on him. The pressure he provides may be key in Maryland's defense succeeding or failing this year as it will force unwanted turnovers or quicker releases than necessary in pass situations.
Special teams. Yeah. Maryland's kicker, Brad Craddock, is an Australian native who just learned to play football two years ago. His freshman year was pretty erratic in terms of accuracy, but there was a vast improvement from 2012 to 2013. If this improves, Craddock may be one of the best kickers in the B1G next year. He was extremely consistent as the season progressed, which was a bright spot considering how bad the special teams unit was in 2012.
Maryland has, um, a lot of scholarship kickers and punters. I don't really understand it, because not one of the punters is really that good. In fact, I'm not actually sure who our punter is going to be this season, so just avoid punting when talking to the boss, because that would imply you are talking bad situations, right? Ok, good.
For kick and punt returns, Stefon Diggs was the man his freshman year, and the first half of last year. He did split time with Will Likely in attempts to get him off of the special teams unit to avoid injuries, but Likely's early season fumbles caused Diggs to see the field more than fans wanted. Likely got that under control last year after Diggs was injured, and is the returner for the foreseeable future. He lit up VT with a return for a TD in the game that sealed bowl eligibility last year, and is electric with the ball in his hands.
Just don't talk about Randy Edsall, this will save you. It's a polarizing topic, and people either like or dislike. There is no middle ground whatsoever, and it is best avoided.
Mike Locksley, former New Mexico head coach and Illinois Offensive Coordinator, is the Offensive Coordinator at Maryland. Locksley isn't particularly known for is offensive coordinator skills as much as his recruiting skills in the DC area. Locksley is an average coordinator if I were to rate it, preferring a spread system with a lot of zone read aspects. He is an outstanding recruiter, and is the man responsible for bringing Stefon Diggs to Maryland. He has tremendous pull in the DMV, and that is the main reason he is on the staff.
Brian Stewart, former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, is the defensive coordinator for Maryland. He employs a 1 gap 3-4 defensive scheme, and was responsible for Top 10 defenses in Dallas. He fell victim to Jerry Jones protecting the head coach for an awful performance at the end of the season, and moved to the University of Houston for a short stint before coming to Maryland. Stewart is a pure defensive coordinator who is catching up on the recruiting circuit, but he is widely respected by fans at Maryland in his short tenure with the defense being one of the bright spots in 2012 and 2013.
ON THE SCHEDULE
Maryland's out of conference schedule is manageable, and I would expect us to go 3-1 to 4-0. The only game I could possibly see us losing would be looking past Syracuse. Maryland lost to the Orange last year in the Carrier Dome, and has setup a home and home with them now that they've moved out of the ACC. Maryland destroyed WVU last year at M&T Bank Stadium 37-0, and I won't accept anything less this year. Fucking inbreeds. Sorry, that's another day.
The in-conference schedule is pretty brutal. We open with Indiana, which I think is a should win game, but then are dealt OSU, PSU, MSU, Michigan, and Iowa (not in that order). Maryland could easily go anywhere from 0-6 to 3-3 in that stretch, and it is the defining part of the season. If they can pull 2 wins out of this six game stretch, they'll likely have become bowl eligible in that process. Maryland ends with Rutgers, and they have no pass defense. It is a win.
If you're talking to a Maryland fan...
Don't mention: The entirety of 2011 - 2012, ACLs, The 90s (sorry Nebraska), Len Bias (OFF LIMITS).
Monday: Cocktail Party Preview
Tuesday: Smartest Guy in the Room
Wednesday: Potluck Part One
Thursday: Potluck Part Two/Smoking Room
Friday: Keeping the Enemy Close