A new era of Maryland Terrapins football is set to begin as D.J. Durkin will have his first spring practice as head coach of the team. Durkin will place Randy Edsall, who was 22-34 overall and 0-12 against ranked opponents in his three-plus seasons at College Park.
Mike Locksley replaced Edsall at the midway point of last season, but Maryland still finished 3-9. Durkin, who was Michigan's defensive coordinator in 2015, is taking on one of the most difficult coaching jobs in the Big Ten.
5 Storylines to Watch During Maryland’s Spring Practice
Seniors Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe both return and each quarterback has a lot of experience. But each also is coming off poor seasons, as Hills threw 13 interceptions and Rowe tossed 15 in 2015.
Former Gatorade Player of the Year Tyrrell Pigrome will likely push Hills and Rowe for the starting position once he enrolls. Also, redshirt freshman Gage Shaffer could be a candidate to receive a lot of snaps this spring.
Hills will likely begin the spring as the favorite since he is more mobile and athletic than Rowe.
2. The return of Wes Brown
After serving an indefinite suspension at the end of the 2015 season, many suspected that Brown had played his last game at Maryland. But as the Terrapins are set to begin spring practice, the running back is still with the program and is scheduled to practice with the rest of team.
With Brown back at Maryland, the team's backfield is one of the Terrapins’ strongest areas. Sophomore Ty Johnson, who was solid in spot duty, returns too. Maryland also will add graduate transfer Trey Edmunds (Virginia Tech).
3. Jacobs brothers could lead Maryland's offense
Maryland's passing attack was one of the worst in the Big Ten last season. The Terrapins finished second to last in the 14-team conference with just 174.3 yards passing per game. With a new high-tempo offense under the direction of coordinator Walt Bell, Levern and Taivon Jacobs could have career seasons.
Levern led Maryland in receptions (35) and receiving yards 425 last season, while Taivon was third with 21 catches for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
4. Rebuilding the first line of defense
Maryland's defensive line took a huge step back during the offseason as Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson both left early for the NFL. Ngakoue set the Maryland single-season sack record with 13.5 in 2015.
New defensive coordinator (and former Syracuse head coach) Scott Shafer does have some players that could step up and lead the way up front. Roman Braglio, Azubuike Ukandu and Jesse Aniebonam figure to get a lot snaps along the defensive line during the spring. Also, keep an eye on former 4-star recruit Adam McLean as well as Dion Goldbourne.
5. Other than Will Likely, who can step up in the secondary?
Likely returns as Maryland’s best player, as he’s not only the Terrapins’ best defensive back he also is a game-changing punt returner. He finished third in the nation last season, averaging 17.7 yards per punt return, including two for touchdowns.
The biggest question is who else can help Likely in the secondary? Freshman cornerback Antwaine Richardson has already enrolled and should play a lot this spring. Veterans Darnell Savage Jr., Alvin Hill and Josh Woods also could compete for a starting spot in the back end.
Maryland's Pre-Spring Outlook in the Big Ten
Finding the right chemistry is important for any first-year head coach and with D.J. Durkin it is no different. Maryland isn't expected to compete in the East Division next season, so there’s no disputing this is a rebuilding project. However, if Durkin can find a few playmakers on offense and along the defensive line and put together a solid offensive line, maybe the Terrapins can at least be competitive in a few of their conference games in 2016.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.