The wait is almost over.
Technically the offseason hasn’t quite ended yet, but the annual appearance for every program at Big Ten media days serves as an unofficial kickoff for the season -- and a welcome reminder that football is nearly back. The event opens next Monday in Chicago with the coach and three players from every team in the league reporting for two days of questions, answers and some predictions sure to go wrong by the time September rolls around.
To help set the scene in advance, this week Big Ten blog is rolling through a list of the hottest topics each team will be addressing from the assembled media. Up next: Maryland, which will have defensive back William Likely, linebacker Jermaine Carter and offensive lineman Michael Dunn joining coach DJ Durkin in Chicago.
1. What can the Big Ten expect from a Durkin-led team?: As with any new coach taking the podium for the first time, the former Michigan defensive coordinator will be asked often about the style of play he prefers, how he plans on changing the culture and his timetable for building a winning program. Durkin might also be drawn into some comparisons between Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh given his experience working with both, which might be annoying to a coach trying to market his own program but could provide a bit more exposure than the Terrapins may have otherwise received coming off such a disastrous season.
2. Can the quarterbacks take a massive step forward?: Maryland left spring practice with the intention of leaving the quarterback competition in August, but that battle will still prominently feature a pair of passers who were historically inept last season and a significant factor in the program’s struggles. Collectively Maryland tossed 29 interceptions a year ago, and any climb up the standings under Durkin is going to have to start with improvement from the most important position on the field. How are the Terps planning to handle the race during training camp between Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe, and when do they want to make a decision on the starter?
3. How much time will Likely see on offense?: Any rebuilding effort for a defense that allowed nearly 35 points per game figures to lean heavily on Maryland’s star cornerback, but he’s also shown some flashes of potential on offense and his prowess with the football in his hands is already well known from his work on special teams. There’s perhaps a fine line to be walked with a player who is going to see a high volume of snaps already without adding in offensive duties. But Likely has a special set of skills, and how Durkin is thinking about using them could be an interesting subplot in Chicago.