Previewing Maryland’s Offense for 2016
New coach D.J. Durkin wants to build around defense and special teams, but he is going to have to improve the Maryland offense to be competitive in the Big Ten’s bully-filled East Division. The good news is that a bigger, bulkier offensive line helped push the Terrapins to 200.7 yards rushing per game last year, the third-best total in the bruising Big Ten. The Terrapins return four of their top five rushers, including quarterback Perry Hills and running back Wes Brown.
The hard-charging Brown will probably split time with speedy Ty Johnson, Virginia Tech transfer Trey Edmunds, and maybe a host of other candidates including Kenny Goins, Jr., and Jake Funk. Hills, though he started eight games, is no shoe-in for his job, with prettier passer Caleb Rowe on his heels. The tough-as-nails Hills, the better run/pass option, seems the better fit in new offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s high-speed option attack.
Seven of the top eight receivers return, and sophomore D.J. Moore is a candidate for a breakout campaign. Brothers Levern and Taivon Jacobs can also excel if Hills, Rowe or incoming freshman Tyrrell Pigrome can get them the ball. Avery Edwards could be a star at tight end. Ditto Damian Prince at tackle.
Previewing Maryland’s Defense for 2016
, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.
New defensive coordinator Andy Buh was a late addition, but he’s a Durkin disciple and will implement the preferred 3-4 scheme. High-motor Roman Braglio returns at one end, and uber-athletic Jesse Aniebonam will play the hybrid rush end/linebacker position. It will be nice if true freshman Adam McLean lives up to the hype and can help anchor the middle, where D-line coach Mike London has a lot of bodies but not a lot of high-end talent. Middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. is a stud, coming off a team-high 103 tackles and 14 tackles for a loss. Jalen Brooks has some experience on the flanks around him.
The secondary is a primary concern with just Will Likely back. Likely was an All-Big Ten corner and an All-America return man. There’s some experience returning, though don’t be surprised if a youth movement gets under way under the new coaching staff. Sophomore Darnell Savage Jr. will start opposite Likely.
Previewing Maryland’s Specialists for 2016
Likely’s 18.2-yard punt return average ranked second in the country, and he had two scores. Junior Adam Greene got his kicking foot wet last year, hitting 3-of-5 field goals and all 11 PATs. The hope is that former Australian Rules footballer Wade Lees can shore up the punting, a perennial problem. Durkin envisions winning some games with improved special teams under coach Pete Lembo.
Durkin has turned up the energy level in College Park, and there was a spring in the team’s spring practice step. The unexpected resignation of defensive coordinator Scott Shafer during spring practice was a blow — Shafer was one of the three former head coaches Durkin had on staff — but the bigger issue for Maryland this year is just finding enough talent to compete in an unforgiving league. Five of the Terrapins’ seven conference losses were by more than two scores, and border rival West Virginia laid a 45–6 whipping that got Randy Edsall fired midseason.
Durkin came aboard too late to salvage all of a promising recruiting class, but he did land some help. And the Terrapins need it after posting only two winning seasons in the last five years. Playing smarter — fewer miscues on offense, a more determined defense and improved special teams — can help, and that’s the plan. Like all rebuilding plans, it will work better when Durkin gets a chance to bring in more players that fit his system.