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Maryland Football: 2018 Terrapins Preview and Prediction

Ty Johnson, Maryland Football

Ty Johnson, Maryland Football

Injuries -- especially at the quarterback position -- wreaked havoc on Maryland last year. After a 3-1 start, the Terrapins finished 2017 by losing seven out of their last eight games. With better luck in 2018, Maryland could be the Big Ten's most improved team. An offensive line that returns all five full-time starters is expected to take a significant step forward, and Lorenzo Harrison and Ty Johnson return to lead a dynamic ground attack. Uncertainty remains at quarterback, but Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill have both flashed potential when healthy. A defense that allowed 37.1 points per game will receive instant help from three Power 5 transfers and the return of pass rusher Jesse Aniebonam from injury. Maryland's upside is limited in the rugged East Division, but a winning record is a reasonable expectation.

Previewing Maryland Football's Offense for 2018

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Maryland Football/Big Ten Magazine

The Terrapins are sporting a brand new pro-style offense, and more important, they're bringing along some healthy quarterbacks. That's the most-needed change for a program that stumbled to a 4-8 record after the top two signal callers were done for the year by Week 3. Kasim Hill, a prototype pro passer, and explosive mighty-mite Tyrrell Pigrome are both back, and Hill projects under center -- yep, instead of the shotgun -- in new coordinator Matt Canada's scheme. Hill can lean on a proven rushing attack spearheaded by the one-two punch of Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison, who accounted for 1,497 rushing yards.

Johnson and Harrison will operate behind a veteran line that returns all five starters, including All-Big Ten tackle Derwin Gray, and has become deeper and more talented. In fact, it's the deepest Maryland line in some time, and that's another important ingredient in a winning Big Ten recipe. Less hurry-up this year, too, means hanging onto the ball to help a suspect defense.

DJ Moore's cleats won't be filled any time soon, but Taivon Jacobs can make plays in the passing game. A load of young receivers and backs can catch on quickly. Oh, and welcome back talented tight end Avery Edwards, who caught one pass in two years in the old offense but figures to get busy. Ditto fullback Tayon Fleet-Davis, who will also have a role.

Previewing Maryland Football's Defense for 2018

Jesse Aniebonam's return at Buck end could be as important to the defense as healthy QBs are to the offense. Aniebonam, coming off a 14-TFL, nine-sack season, broke his foot in the opener a year ago, and it fractured the front line. In 12 games, Maryland had just 16 sacks, 14 of those in three games. Byron Cowart, who started his career at Auburn, is on the other side, and there are a lot of big bodies vying for time in between the ends.

All-Big Ten linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr., who was seemingly in on every Terp tackle for three years, is gone, but Illinois grad transfer Tre Watson turned coaches' heads in the spring. Outside linebacker Isaiah Davis started nine games.

The secondary, headlined by headhunters Antoine Brooks and Darnell Savage, is the highlight of a porous returning defense. The Terps were last in the Big Ten in allowing 37.1 points per game and were 13th in total defense (419.4 ypg). Brooks, a former linebacker, was honorable mention all-conference as a nickel back, as was the hard-hitting and appropriately named Savage. Florida State transfer Marcus Lewis and returning starter Tino Ellis are the corners.

Previewing Maryland Football's Specialists for 2018

Mike Shinsky, with one career field-goal attempt, came out of spring with the kicking job, though incoming freshman Joseph Petrino should challenge. Junior Aussie punter Wade Lees averaged 39.2 yards per boot. Burners like Javon Leake and Anthony McFarland can make a difference on returns for new special teams coach Matt Barnes.

Final Analysis

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DJ Durkin's endless enthusiasm was tested last year. Injuries crippled a promising team that upset Texas in the opener. The Terrapins got pounded by the Big Ten's biggest bullies. Now there's a second straight top-30 recruiting class in tow, five new coaches, a new state-of-the-art indoor practice/sports medicine facility in New Cole Field House, and a whole new offense with some healthy quarterbacks. Big Ten foes may not have to "Fear the Turtle" just yet, but they'll have to start paying attention.