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B1G 2018: Maryland Preview

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Taking a look at what the Maryland Terrapins will look like this year.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Texas John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

Considering Maryland’s record last year and our general “go in order of last to first”, this is very late but it is what it is. Maryland had a very forgettable season last year, going 4-8 in an injury riddled season to key players after what was a very memorable start in their victory over Texas.

I’ll take the time here to briefly hit on Jordan McNair. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Maryland OL Jordan McNair tragically died following a two week battle in the hospital resulting from complications after a pre-season workout session of apparent heatstroke. There are many questions surrounding that day and an investigation is currently ongoing. I won’t even begin to speculate what happened but you’re more than willing to google the story for more details. It’s tragic that anyone’s life is taken that early and especially so for the parents. Maryland will be playing for McNair this season and the team is just returning to workouts following the tragedy.

Let’s take a look at what they’ll look like this year:

The Offense

The Highs: Maryland returns a plethora of talent at running back — Ty Johnson, Lorenzo Harrison, Anthony McFarland to name a few — and new offensive coordinator will look to take advantage. Both Johnson and McFarland have elite speed with McFarland having the agility to go with it, so odds are that McFarland will be featured heavily as the sweep man in Canada’s jet sweep heavy offense. Add in a senior laden offensive line that has two tackles who will most likely be drafted next year and the run game could be very, very good.

The Questions: Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome are both returning from ACL years this year, so all eyes will be on them during the summer entering the Texas game as they return to full contact. Will they be ready? Are there any set backs? Both showed they were difference makers in their short action last year and Maryland needs them to return at that level in order to compete this season. Kasim Hill is thought to be the favored starter given his better ability throwing the ball but as seen below Pigrome had much improved accuracy to go along with his ability to scramble and run the ball, which is a huge X factor when trying to defend him. If his accuracy is still there from the Texas game, he will be hard to beat out.

Aside from that, Maryland needs to replace 1st round draft pick D.J. Moore at WR, who dominated the catches last season and throughout his career as he had to adjust to so many different QBs throwing to him (thanks AMDQBHG). Taivon Jacobs and Jeshaun Jones stand to move into the starting WR roles with DJ Turner starting at the slot position. There are so many young RS Freshman WRs this year that it would be dumb to speculate which will step up, but 2017’s 5 WR haul in recruiting will be expected to start contributing.

The Defense

The Highs: Maryland’s secondary should once again be its strength....if the pass rush can give them some help. Last year Maryland had an above average secondary that was overshadowed by the defensive line’s inability to establish any semblence of a pass rush, leaving them stranded in coverage for seemingly forever until someone popped open. Florida State transfer Marcus Lewis will step in for JC Jackson, who departed for the NFL, while Tino Ellis continues to start on the opposite corner. Darnel Savage is a lock to start at one safety position while it appears that Antoine Brooks has made the transition from the hybrid nickel/LB position into the other safety spot. If that doesn’t occur, expect Deon Jones and Antwaine Richardson to battle it out for that last starting spot.

The Questions: The pass rush. Linebackers. Stopping the run. There are so many questions on the defensive side of the ball for Maryland but it all relates to the front seven. The defensive line is going to look completely different this year as Jesse Aniebonam returns from his torn achilles (maybe), Byron Cowart has transferred in from Auburn and is eligible immediately, and last year’s interior DL recruits are all expected to push for rotational if not starter minutes. Adam McClean is expected to finally break into the DL rotation if he can keep the work ethic going and the three RS Freshmen (Cam Spence, Breyon Gaddy, Brandon Gaddy) will all be pushing for rotational minutes as well as challenging for the other DT spot.

The linebackers are Maryland’s biggest weakness and some of that is due to scheme. Maryland has been insistent on running a 4-2-5 in DJ Durkin’s tenure with not so great results. Illinois grad transfer Tre Watson is a lock to start while Isaiah Davis and Brett Shepard will battle it out for the other starting position with Antoine Brooks playing a hybrid nickel/LB role.

The real question here, of course, is whether Andy Buh really has any say left as the defensive coordinator. His defensive schemes have left a lot to be desired and often leave gaping holes across the middle of the field for opposing teams to pick apart. Maryland brought in Chuck Heater as their safety’s coach in the off-season, and many believe he is the DC in waiting of sorts or perhaps is already being used as a QC on what Buh is doing. Count me in for one vote for this 4-2-5 and Andy Buh experiment to end...

Special Teams

Maryland brought in freshman kicker Joseph Petrino, who was rated the #10 kicker in the country but also possesses the ability to hit long field goals. He has shown, albeit in practice, that he can drill both a 60 yarder with his main kicking foot as well as a 50 yarder with the opposite. Let’s hope it translates to a more consistent kicking game for Maryland, who has been searching for a kicker replacement ever since Lou Groza award winner Brad Craddock graduated.

The Schedule

Maryland’s schedule once again ranks in the Top 10 in the country thanks to its trek through the Big Ten East as well as having Texas to start things off. Let’s take a look:

ESPN

There’s a very good chance that Tom Herman will take Maryland a bit more seriously when Texas faces the Terrapins in 2018. The opener against Texas will be tough, but the other 2 non conference games should be manageable. 2018 also represents the first time Maryland won’t have an FCS team on the football schedule in quite some time.

In conference play Maryland gets Illinois (home), Iowa (road), and ‘parity scheduling’ opponent Minnesota (home) in the crossovers. Given that Maryland is breaking in a new Offensive Coordinator, getting 2 quarterbacks back from season-ending injury, and is coming off an underwhelming 2017 defensive performance (especially against the run); the Terps could finish anywhere from 2-7 to 5-4 in conference play.

Getting to 6 wins (or perhaps more) would show that things are back on track in College Park as DJ Durkin continues cleaning up the mess left behind by Randy Edsall. Another sign of things being on the upswing will be ending the embarrassing blowouts against the Big Ten’s upper tier. Anything less than this will raise some questions as to whether or not DJ Durkin is another coach in the Ron Vanderlinden mold of really good recruiter who can’t quite figure things out on game day.

When Talking to a Maryland Fan

Mention the Cole Fieldhouse indoor practice facility, Old Bay, and KenPom Rankings.

Do not mention the Angry Maryland Quarterback Hating God (AMQBHG)! Period! Also, don’t mention Mike Krzyzewski, Dwayne Haskins, or Mark Turgeon’s ‘offense’.