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B1G 2020, Maryland Potluck #3: Sour Defense, Sweet Recruiting?

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Can Mike Locksley’s recruiting and Jon Hoke’s defense cobble together a defense anything better than dead last?

Chicago Bears v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The formula for most of these potlucks is pretty simple. Depending on my mood (or what narrative my BIASED JOURNALISM wants to develop), either introduce (1) the positives, then switch to the negatives, or (2) the negatives, then note that it’s Ohio State and they’ll still win the Big Ten.

Maryland tends to be more sour than sweet.

The Food

In honor of that, let’s head down to the Baltimore FlowerMart and grab, I guess, whatever the hell one of these is?

No one knows where the springtime tradition of the lemon stick — a thick stick of peppermint candy jammed into the center of a split lemon — came from. It’s nonetheless a huge part of Baltimore’s FlowerMart, an annual flower-filled sale of all things gorgeous and fragrant. The joys of the lemon stick are simple: Suck on the stick, which tastes more and more lemony as it dissolves. Find them at vendors all over the market, which is usually held in early May, or make one yourself. (link)

I just...Maryland, I don’t think that’s it. But maybe the writers disagree! Tell me about the FlowerMart’s lemon stick:

(1) Woudja?
(2) Give us a “Farmers’ Market favorite,” if you have one, OR a goofy candy combination that shouldn’t work but, somehow, does.

pkloa: No, I’d skip that lemon stick. There’s too much good in this world for me to want to throw it all away. Now, a combo that works wonders is M&Ms with peanuts. Simple and delicious.

BMan31: Nah. That doesn’t look even remotely appetizing. I’m not a fan of mixing flavors. I’m the nutjob that likes separating my Skittles into the different colors (BRING BACK LIME DAMNIT). My wife is the Farmers’ Market person so getcha some antiques and get off my yard.

Thumpasaurus: Well, I’ll try anything once, or twice, or enough times that I’m absolutely positive I hate it. Did you know that there’s a tremendous mixer option for Jagermeister? Try adding Jager to cream soda (any variety) some time. Tastes like birch beer. Gets you drunk.

Jesse: I’ve eaten dumber things in my life… as for my go-to farmers market food, it’s definitely tacos down here. Nothing like a great breakfast taco while you walk around buying vegetables and what not.

MNW: Absolutely not. Lemon and sugary mint sounds terrible.

If I want a farmers’ market food, I’m taken back to the Madison Farmers’ Market on the sidewalks ringing the Capitol. The now-wife and I would walk the couple miles from her place west of Camp Randall, eat a whole thing of that delicious spicy cheese bread from Stella’s, and waddle our way back.

Beez: I would absolutely eat that candy lemon thing. It’s got delicious peppermint AND it’s good for you because it has fruit so it’s actually healthy, right? I’m not sure I could or would want to consume that much acid in one go, though, so maybe it’s best enjoyed as a snack you share with someone you don’t mind sharing something like that with? For candy combos, I like to take a skittle and put it between to starburst and eat that together.

WSR: 100% yes. I love peppermint and I love lemon. What’s the worst thing that happens when you mix two awesome things? My favorite farmers market item is freshly roasted cashews. Cinnamon and sugar, please.

Poll

Lemon stick. Wouldja?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Sure!
    (28 votes)
  • 47%
    Nah.
    (25 votes)
53 votes total Vote Now

The Football

Anywho, football. Let’s look at the Maryland defense...and how about we start with the sweet?

There’s nowhere to go but up, and the Terps have some experience and talent—finally—for DC Jon Hoke (yes, that Hoke) to work with: All-Name Team candidate Ruben Hyppolite II, a 4* LB recruit wanted by Alabama, Michigan, and Penn State, should contribute immediately. S Antoine Richardson and LB Durell Nchami return from injury, LB Shaq Smith and S Nick Cross showed potential in 2019, and LB Ayinde Eley anchors the back seven.

Unfortunately, it bolsters a back seven that turned in the worst pass defense (271.3 ypg) in the Big Ten. And there’s the matter of the defensive line...my gods. No one on the Terps DL came up with more than one sack. (Seriously.) Even as Maryland was passable stopping the run, with time to throw, opposing quarterbacks looked forward to their dates with the Terps.

But these aren’t new problems. Even under Defense Guy DJ Durkin, the Terrapins have been little more than a mid-tier defensive outfit—and they’ve cracked the Top 30 in week-to-week S&P+ for defense just four times since joining the Big Ten. It’s easy to see on paper what the Maryland approach appears to be under Locks: Get enough Guys in the linebacking corps of the Maryland 3-4 to plug holes and stop the run, and continue to develop a secondary that can shut down the pass.

It’s just...uh...at some point we’ll need to see a little proof of concept.

In the meantime, though, let’s flip the script and start sour, then go sweet:

(1) How central do you see “defense” to the new Maryland identity under Mike Locksley, and
(2) Tell us about the defensive turnaround at your school, and apply those lessons to Maryland.

pkloa: #MOVEMENTS are designed to attract a flashy WR or QB, and sometimes that works. To build a great defense, you have to find the ugly bastards from the rural parts of the state. Alternatively, I’d recommend embracing the 3-4 and naming yourself Nose Tackle U.

BMan31: Purdue’s defense was so terrible last year thanks to injuries and lack of depth, I can assure you that defense has to be somewhat central to Maryland’s next step forward with Locksley. Purdue bringing in new DC Bob Diaco should improve the Boilers profile. Also moving to the 3-4 approach and maybe we won’t see Wisconsin’s RB dragging our D-line down the field as much.

Thumpasaurus: The 3-4 isn’t going to do much good when your nose tackle can’t eat two blocks without getting blasted into the second level, which is going to be a problem against Big Ten interior linemen. You’re then having your linebackers play on Heisman difficulty. A transition to 3-4 is among the roughest transitions there is.

If I were to apply the lessons of Illinois’ defensive turnaround to Maryland, it would involve getting even worse in 2020 despite that seeming impossible, then improving the run defense while remaining highly vulnerable to playaction passes and read-option plays. Fortunately, these are rarely used in the year 2020.

Jesse: Do I see defense essential to Locksley’s success? Maybe? I guess I’m still not sold on him being successful, but there is so much talent on the other side of the ball that maybe all the defense needs to do is suck slightly less.

As for the uh… defensive turnaround here. We’re better then we were before but it’s still not great. Moving to a 3-4 sucks if you don’t have OLB who can get after the QB. And like, it’s one of the big reasons Nebraska still hasn’t broken through. If they get their shit together, Nebraska is moving on up and I think Maryland is feeling similar.

MNW: I was ready to be done with DC Mike Hankwitz around 2011. The Wildcats’ defense was 84th in S&P+ in 2010 and 79th in 2011, then righted the ship for the 2012 campaign and has not been the Achilles heel of Northwestern football since.

Now, could I tell you what Hank—who will be seventy-fucking-three this December—did? Not a fucking chance. High-motor DEs like Corey Wootton, Dean Lowry, and Joe Gaziano have always been around, and perhaps it has been the development of next-level linebackers like Anthony Walker, Jr., or Paddy Fisher who have helped the ‘Cats on defense.

And maybe that’s it—a better linebacking corps. Feels like that’s the sexy position you can recruit to and really get players in who can make an impact. Hyppolite might be the start of something big for Locks: Get good players, hope that they can be coached up by...uh... [/checks card]

OK.

Beez: I don’t really have any faith in Locksley to do anything but recruit at a medium-high level. As a fan of Wisconsin and App State, two teams who punch WAY above their recruiting level on defense, I don’t think you can just recruit your way to a good defense. But…(segue)

Wisconsin’s big defensive “turnaround” came when Gary Andersen showed up and brought future Baylor head coach Dave Aranda with him. They promptly installed the 3-4 defense, and other than one season, the defense has been consistently one of the best in the country, even if you adjust for the fact that Wisconsin plays mostly bad opponents. In short, switch to a 3-4.

WSR: What Beez said about Locksley. His job is to get as much talent in place for his replacement and maybe hit some people with a turtle shell on the last lap. Will that inevitably involve defense? Sure.

Minnesota’s big defensive turnaround came when they hired a coaching staff that actually had some idea what defense was. For as horrifically overmatched as he was as a head coach, Tracy Claeys (supported by Jay Sawvel) knew how to take a pile of traffic cones, recruit some DBs and find some bodies at LB, and put together some rather tolerable chicken salad from what Tim Brewster left behind (and Glen Mason established as the program norm) defensively.

It was pretty neat adjusting to not feeling like 3rd down were some sort of stadium version of Hindu squats where you stand up for a couple seconds just to sit down.

Poll

Nowhere to go but up for Maryland’s defense?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Yeah! Good players = better defense. Middling in 2020.
    (17 votes)
  • 59%
    Sure! Rutgers exists! Welcome to 13th!
    (35 votes)
  • 11%
    14th again IS just a sideways move...
    (7 votes)
59 votes total Vote Now