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Maryland Football: 2017 Terrapins Preview and Prediction

Ty Johnson, Maryland Football

Ty Johnson, Maryland Football

Maryland went to a bowl game in head coach DJ Durkin’s first season, but can the Terrapins take that next step this fall? Six starters return on both sides of the ball, including some offensive weapons and defensive playmakers, but the talent is either lacking or unproven at other key positions, namely quarterback. Maryland is heading in the right direction under Durkin, but still lags behind the top teams in a loaded Big Ten East.

Previewing Maryland Football’s Offense for 2017

Quarterback Caleb Henderson looks tailor-made to step in and run Maryland’s warp-speed attack. He’s big and strong and has the ability to run, and he has a couple of years under his belt in a similar system at North Carolina. Sophomore Max Bortenschlager looked good in the spring, and the position looks deep for a program that has had troubles here in the past.

Running back is in even better shape with Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison returning. Johnson set a school record with 9.1 yards per rush and had over 1,000 yards, and Harrison’s 7.2-yard average was the best ever for a Maryland freshman. They’ll operate behind an offensive line that has three starters returning and experience at the other two spots. The right side is intact with tackle Damian Prince and guard Terrance Davis, both emerging stars. Steady center Brendan Moore also returns, and there are inklings that left tackle Derwin Gray is due to bust out.

D.J. Moore headlines a speedy and versatile receiving corps. He has scored nine touchdowns in two years. Taivon Jacobs, back from a knee injury, can stretch the field, and prodigal Jacquille Veii, who transferred back to Maryland after a year at Towson, should be a star in the slot.

Previewing Maryland Football’s Defense for 2017

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Jesse Aniebonam and his 9.0 sacks are back at Buck end, but he was getting a push in the spring from early enrollee Bryce Brand. That’s good news, because the Terrapins need all the big bodies they can get. Opponents were grinding down the Terps defense by the end of the season. Kingsley Opara and Cavon Walker both return in the interior. Playing in coordinator Andy Buh’s exotic packages, the Terrapins registered 2.9 sacks per game. Keep an eye on 6'4", 315-pound freshman Breyon Gaddy.

Jermaine Carter Jr. is a sideline-to-sideline middle linebacker who has led the team in tackles the last two seasons. He’s hoping to have converted quarterback/fullback Shane Cockerille back alongside him if Cockerille gets out of DJ Durkin’s doghouse. The second-leading tackler was suspended for the Quick Lane Bowl and again in the spring. Converted defensive back Isaiah Davis will move in if necessary. Strong-side linebacker Jalen Brooks was playing his best football in the spring.

JC Jackson had some growing pains at corner after transferring in from Florida. He should be steadier, and youngsters like Tino Ellis and Deon Jones will also get a chance. Nickel back RaVon Davis is essentially a returning starter. Darnell Savage is a hard-hitting safety. Look for either fifth-year senior Denzel Conyers or freshman flash Markquese Bell to nail down the other safety job.

Previewing Maryland Football’s Specialists for 2017

Adam Greene was 9-of-14 on field goal attempts but failed to hit one longer than 37 yards. He is battling kickoff specialist Mike Shinsky for the job. Aussie rugby punter Wade Lees was up and down but allowed just 20 returns all year on 72 punts. Moore averaged 22.3 return yards on kickoffs, and Veii should handle punt returns. Durkin isn’t afraid to use his special teams units as a momentum-changing weapon.

Final Analysis

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If the Terps could ever match Durkin’s enthusiasm level with experience and talent on the field, Maryland might contend in the Big Ten’s scary East Division. Despite a largely uplifting debut (double the wins from 2015 and a bowl appearance) for Durkin in College Park, the still young and inexperienced Terrapins aren’t quite there yet. They still have depth issues, they’re unproven at key spots, and they’re just not as talented as division rivals like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. Durkin won’t let them want for want-to, though, and with more of his players around, Maryland should be worth watching.

National Ranking: 57

Big Ten East Prediction: 6