Welcome back. Last week we began a series taking a look at one good reason each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs like Maryland that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order.
The series continues today with one good reason why …
Maryland will go bowling: The defense is legit. It starts with first-team all-conference lineman Joe Vellano, who could play both noseguard and end in first-year coordinator Brian Stewart’s new 3-4 scheme. Nine starters return on defense, and the Terps rotated enough players up front last year that there will be plenty of experience returning. Senior Demetrius Hartsfield, who ranked second in the ACC and fifth nationally in tackles with 108, leads a talented group of linebackers. The secondary will lean on junior cornerback Dexter McDougle, who had 44 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups before suffering a season-ending injury last year. Senior safety Eric Franklin made 106 tackles last fall. The secondary has to replace two starters, and the Terps need to build depth at every position, but overall, the defense should be a strength at Maryland this year.
Why it won’t: Too much turnover. A total of 25 players have left the program since Randy Edsall was hired. Not only has the sheer volume of departures hurt the depth, it’s also hurt the starting lineup. Maryland has to replace three starters on the offensive line, including both tackles. Max Garcia started 12 games at left tackle last year, and quarterback Danny O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin. The Terps still have C.J. Brown, who started five games last year, but there is no experience behind him. Maryland also hired two new coordinators and is switching to a 3-4 scheme on defense. Coordinator Mike Locksley will run a pro-style offense with spread principles. For the second time in two seasons, Maryland will have to adjust to new coordinators, schemes and terminology. The Terps also need to find a new leading rusher. Starting fresh isn’t a bad idea after a 2-10 finish, but instead of building something in College Park, it seems like Edsall is still picking up the pieces this year.