The Terps are 6-18 in two seasons under head coach Randy Edsall. Edsall needs a strong season before the team’s move to the Big Ten, but even with a losing record heading into year three, he’s not on the hot seat. His first season was a 2-10 bust, but he gets a reprieve on last year’s 4-8 finish after injuries forced the Terps to play a linebacker at starting quarterback.
Maryland’s goal in 2013 is to get to a bowl game. The Terps lose key defenders, but they have young playmakers on offense, and they’ll have a shot at getting back to a bowl if they can keep a quarterback healthy.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs lived up to that “1″ on the front of his jersey last year. A Maryland native, Diggs was a huge recruiting coup for Edsall, and he was a huge part of the offense as a true freshman. The three-time ACC Rookie of the Week led the Terps in receptions (54), receiving yards (848), and touchdowns (6) and was second in the ACC in all-purpose yardage (172.4 yards per game) and kick return yardage (28.4 yards per return), with two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Other than Diggs, the Terps’ offense didn’t have much going on in 2012. Losing quarterback after quarterback was part of the problem, but the run game averaged just 103 yards per game, and the offensive line allowed an ACC-worst 39 sacks.
Fifth-year junior quarterback C.J. Brown is atop the post-spring depth chart, but he’s still rehabbing his knee. True sophomores Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe, also on the way back from torn ACLs, and transfer Ricardo Young are listed as co-backups, but Young took the majority of the first-team reps this spring with the others still out. Depending on how strong Brown looks this fall, Young could challenge for the starting role sooner rather than later.
The team has three viable options at running back. First-stringer Brandon Ross led the team in rushing last year with 390 yards and one touchdown, but he didn’t emerge until late in the season after Wes Brown, the team’s leading rusher to that point, suffered an ankle injury. Also in the mix is Albert Reid, who fell out of the rotation last year but bounced back with a strong spring.
Maryland’s hoping a stable quarterback situation and improved run game will also benefit the receiving corps. JUCO transfer Deon Long led the nation in receiving at Iowa Western Community College last year. Sophomore Nigel King was battling Marcus Leak for the WR3 spot, but Leak’s sudden departure from the university cemented King’s spot in the lineup.
The defensive line must replace veteran leaders Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, who combined for 104 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five pass breakups and four fumble recoveries last season. Sophomore Quinton Jefferson, who had 13 tackles in ten appearances in 2012, steps in for Vellano, with Keith Bowers taking over on the other side. Nose tackle Darius Kilgo, who logged 40 tackles last year, is the lone returner.
Inside linebacker Cole Farrand led the Terps in tackles last season, and L.A. Goree is slated to replace Demetrius Hartsfield on the other side. Matt Robinson, a converted safety, will start at SAM linebacker, opposite Marcus Whitfield.
In the secondary, Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson have the cornerback positions locked down. Anthony Nixon will start at safety, while Sean Davis and A.J. Hendy will continue to battle for the other starting safety position in preseason camp.
The Terps ease into the season with home games against Florida International and Old Dominion before traveling to UConn, Edsall’s old stomping grounds. They wrap up non-conference play against West Virginia at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, on Sept. 21 and then have a bye before kicking off their final ACC schedule at Florida State. There’s also a tough stretch in November, when they host Clemson and Syracuse back-to-back and then go on the road to play Virginia Tech.