Full disclosure, there have been some teams in this preview series where the hardest part of the whole thing has been finding which video clip I wanted to open the preview with, but this was not one of those previews. Crab cakes and football may be what Maryland does, but lately, at the college level at least, the crab cakes have significantly outshown the football. Randy Edsall is entering his fifth year and the program is entering their second year in the Big 10, and it is getting to the point where Edsall needs to get this team from “moving in the right direction” to “right where we need to be”.
Stefon Diggs and Deon Long were the most recognizable names, and the biggest stars of this program for the last few seasons at receiver, but both are gone now. Even so, the receiving corps is still probably the strength of the offense. Levern Jacobs has been reinstated after being suspended for the entire 2014 season. Jacobs caught 46 passes for 640 yards in 2013. Amba Etta-Tawo sits atop the preseason depth chart at one of the other receiver spots. Etta-Tawo only caught 10 passes last season, but turned those ten receptions into 222 yards. Junior Malcolm Culmer also finds himself as a WR1 entering training camp, despite only catching one pass for five yards last season.
Maryland also returns three starting linemen who have 20 or more starts on their career resume. Michael Dunn, Ryan Doyle and Andrew Zeller are all experienced linemen, and Doyle and Zeller should make up a solid combination at the guard spots. Dunn has experience at both tackle positions, and it seems logical and likely that he would play the all-important left tackle spot this season. Evan Mulrooney and Damian Prince are the other two starters heading into training camp, with Mulrooney being a center and Prince the right tackle.
Quarterback is a much less settled position for the Terps than it was a few weeks ago. Former Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman is a graduate transfer, and as such, is eligible to suit up immediately. He will be competing in training camp against last season’s backup Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills. Rowe is currently listed as the starter, but Garman is by far the most experienced of the group.
OC Mike Locksley runs a pass-first offense, but even so running the ball is important. The Terrapins do return a pair of backs who combined to get to 750 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. That’s nothing to really brag about, but it’s more than some teams can say. Wes Brown and Brandon Ross should be the primary features in the backfield this season with the loss of C.J. Brown. Wes Brown and Ross do need to work on ball security though as they coughed the ball up seven times last season, and lost four of them.
William Likely and Sean Davis may not be “Legion of Boom” caliber corners, but they are still mighty good. Likely, in particular, was a quarterback’s nightmare last season with six interceptions and nine pass break-ups. Davis didn’t have any picks, but did break up eight passes and was just shy of a hundred tackles. Anthony Nixon also returns at safety where he had an interception to go along with four pass break-ups last season, and the Terrapins should benefit at the other safety position from the return of A.J. Hendy. Hendy was suspended for all of 2014, but had an interception and two pass break-ups in 2013.
On the other side of the experience coin, the defensive line is losing four of its top five tacklers from last season, including both starting defensive end. The one returning member of that group is DE Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue proved to be a playmaker for the Maryland defensive front last season recording 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Both of those totals were good for second on the team. However, of the guys that will be lining up beside him, none of them had more than ten tackles last season. Roman Braglio is expected to be the other end, and he only had 9.5 tackles, but at least 2.5 of them were sacks.
No returning linebacker recorded a single tackle in the backfield last season. That is both a true and alarming statistic for Terps’ fans. Jermaine Carter had 22.5 tackles as a freshman, but none of those were a sack or a tackle for loss. The next leading returning tackler at linebacker is another sophomore Jalen Brooks. Brooks had 16.5 tackles last season. The expectation is that the two of them will be joined by junior Abner Logan, who had four tackles in seven games last season.
There are just way too many question marks surrounding this team for me to think they get significantly above .500, if at all. I actually think they miss out on the postseason this year, and it might mean the end of the Randy Edsall era. That being said, Edsall has recruited well including landing a commitment from next year’s class that is being considered a potential “program changer”. Dwayne Haskins is currently listed as the 5th ranked pro-style quarterback according to 247Sports. By virtue of his recruiting, Edsall may have bought himself a few more years of leniency, but he can’t count on that forever. Eventually, those improving recruiting rankings have to turn into tangible progress or someone will be getting the axe.