The Terrapins could still get a bowl berth despite being in a rebuilding season.
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Once considered annual contenders, the Maryland Terrapins have since fallen on hard times. Last season was their first winning season under head coach Randy Edsall, who appears to have the program moving back in the right direction.
Now set to play in the Big 10, Maryland will be facing lofty expectations to live up to their new conference’s high standards. Can the Terrapins up their game or will their flaws be further flaunted by the increased level of competition?
With that in mind, here’s a look at the offensive, defensive and schedule outlooks for Maryland heading into the season.
The Maryland offense will run through senior quarterback C.J. Brown in 2014. While he’s still a work in progress as a passer, Brown is a dangerous runner who has enough of an arm to take advantage of the weapons around him.
Speaking of weapons, Brown could end up throwing to one of the deadliest wide receivers in the nation if Stefon Diggs can get healthy and stay there in 2014. The electric pass catcher was already on pace for a big season in 2013 before breaking his leg, but should be in for a tremendous 2014 campaign that sees him emerge as a legitimate first-round talent. Deon Long also returns from a broken leg, and Levern Jacobs should also be a significant factor in the passing game.
The Terrapins’ running game will be led by Brandon Ross, the 2013 rushing yards leader. However, a spring injury forced him to concede some carries to Jacquille Veii, who should also see plenty of touches throughout 2014. Look for Wes Brown to also be a significant part of the ground game.
The offensive line returns four starters, including outstanding senior center Sal Conaboy.
The Maryland defense returns nine starters, led by the exciting Andre Monroe. The starting defensive end has battled injuries throughout his career with the Terrapins, but should be headed for a huge season after notching 17 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks last year. Darius Kilgo should also be a dominant force from the nose tackle spot in 2014.
While the Terrapins will certainly feel the loss of outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield, the linebacker corps should be a solid group in 2014. Matt Robinson emerged as a playmaker last season after switching from safety, and will be counted on to hold down the edge. Cole Farrand and L.A. Goree form a formidable duo at inside linebacker, and should both push for (Honor Mention) All-Big 10 honors this season.
Maryland will also be missing Dexter McDougle, but have an exciting young cornerback in Will Likely. He stepped up last season as a true freshman, and could develop into an outstanding cover man in 2014. The Terrapins also boast a reliable safety duo of Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon, who combined for 163 tackles in 2013.
The Terrapins are headed for a rude awakening when they finally get into the heart of the Big 10 schedule. While early-season showdowns with James Madison and USF should start their year out on the right foot, it’s going to get increasingly harder as the season progresses.
Maryland faces two early-season, non-conference games against West Virginia and Syracuse before starting conference play against Indiana. The battle with the Hoosiers should be a good litmus test of how well they’ll be able to compete in the Big 10. Then the going gets rough.
From there, the Terrapins host Ohio State and Iowa, go on the road against Wisconsin and Penn State, and then finish up a grueling six-game stretch against Michigan State and Michigan. Considering their talent level, they’ll be lucky to come out of that handful of games at 2-4. The season comes to a merciful end against fellow Big 10 newcomer Rutgers, where the Terrapins should be able to earn a win.
It’ll be a shocker if Maryland wins enough games to be bowl eligible this season, let alone gets into a position to contend for a Big 10 title.