Big Ten: Matt Robinson

Maryland Terrapins season preview

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
10:30
AM ET

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Previewing the 2014 season for the Maryland Terrapins:

2013 overall record: 7-6 (3-5 ACC)

Key losses: De'Onte Arnett, OL; Dave Stinebaugh, TE; Dexter McDougle, DB; Marcus Whitfield, LB

[+] EnlargeC.J. Brown
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty ImagesC.J. Brown returns to lead Maryland's prolific passing attack.
Key returnees: C.J. Brown, QB; Stefon Diggs, WR; Deon Long, WR; Sal Conaboy, OC; Andre Monroe, DE; Cole Farrand, LB; Sean Davis, S

Instant impact newcomer: OL Damian Prince. It's not often that a freshman offensive lineman enrolls over the summer and is expected to make an immediate impact. But, then again, rookies like Prince -- a 6-foot-3, 300-pound four-star prospect -- don't come around often, either. He will see time this season, and he could start as early as the opener. Newcomer OL Derwin Gray could win out the right tackle job, too.

Projected starters

Offense: QB: C.J. Brown, Sr., 6-3, 218; RB: Brandon Ross, Jr., 5-10, 210; FB: Kenneth Goins Jr., So., 5-9, 230; OT: Michael Dunn, So., 6-5, 300; OG Silvano Altamirano, Sr., 6-2, 290; OC: Sal Conaboy, Sr., 6-3, 295; OG: Andrew Zeller, Jr., 6-4, 310; OT: Ryan Doyle, Jr., 6-4, 300; TE: Andrew Isaacs, So., 6-2, 245; WR: Stefon Diggs, Jr., 6-0, 190; WR: Deon Long, Sr., 6-0, 185; WR: Marcus Leak, Jr., 6-0, 210.

Defense: DE: Quinton Jefferson, Jr., 6-3, 285; NT: Darius Kilgo, Sr., 6-3, 319; DE: Andre Monroe, Sr., 5-11, 282; OLB: Matt Robinson, Sr., 6-3, 245; ILB: Cole Farrand, Sr., 6-3, 245; ILB: L.A. Goree, Sr., 6-2, 245; OLB: Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, Sr., 6-2, 250; CB: Will Likely, So., 5-7, 175; CB: Alvin Hill, Jr., 5-11, 195; S: Sean Davis, Jr., 6-1, 200; S: Anthony Nixon, Jr., 6-1, 200.

Specialists: K: Brad Craddock, Jr., 6-0, 185; P: Nathan Renfro, Jr., 6-1, 205.

Biggest question mark: Can the running attack take off with this offensive line? The strength of this offense is obviously the passing attack, but the running game also needs to pick up some slack so the offense isn't so one-dimensional. In 2013, Maryland's line allowed an average of 7.08 tackles for loss a game -- only 14 FBS teams fared worse -- and the rushing offense ranked just 83rd nationally. The good news is Maryland boasts several options at running back and most of the line returns. The bad news? Those returnees weren't all that effective last season. If that part of the offense can even come close to matching the ability of that pass attack, the Terps could surprise a lot of people.

Most important game: Nov. 1 at Penn State. Maryland wants to earn respect in the Big Ten, and there would be no better way than upending a regional rival that's 35-1-1 all time versus the Terps. Maryland last beat PSU in 1961, and the Lions have won or tied the past 29 meetings. This is a statement game, and Maryland could show it belongs in the B1G with this.

Upset special: Nov. 1 at Penn State. That's right. It's the most important game -- and it's the upset special. The Nittany Lions still have a lot of question marks, and if Maryland's going to pounce on PSU this would be the year to do it, before the sanctions wane and the Lions return to full strength. Defensive end Andre Monroe could be in for a memorable performance, and if Penn State's secondary doesn't improve dramatically from last season, it could have its hands full against Diggs and Long. If pass-happy Indiana could take advantage last season, there's a chance Maryland could take advantage this season.

Key stat: Over the past two seasons, Diggs has averaged 156 all-purpose yards per game. Among returning players in the FBS, only one player has averaged more.

What they're wearing: With the backing of Under Armour, Maryland's a bit like the Oregon of the East when it comes to uniforms. Terrapins coach Randy Edsall said during Big Ten media days that his team would be debuting one new uniform this season -- but no date has been announced for when that might be unveiled.

In the meantime, here's a look at Maryland's jerseys with the new Big Ten patch:

Team's top Twitter follows: Head coach Randy Edsall (@RandyEdsall) is a good follow, as long as you don't mind a lot of motivational quotes. Quarterback C.J. Brown (@C_Brown16) is an active Tweeter, and wideout Stefon Diggs (@stefon_diggs) is a must-follow who says what he feels. The Maryland Athletics account (@umterps) and official football account (@MarylandPride) are also worth looking into. As far as covering the team, the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Barker (@sunjeffbarker) is on top of the news and SB Nation's Testudo Times (@testudotimes) is worth a follow for their commentary.

They said it: “We want to make noise. We want to go out there and win and compete and make Maryland even more relevant than it already is -- and show that we do belong.” -- quarterback C.J. Brown

Stats & Info projections: 6.42 wins

Wise guys over/under: 6.5 wins

Big Ten blog projection: Six wins. Maryland is a better team than last season, but its Big Ten schedule is absolutely brutal. It faces four of the five best teams in the B1G -- Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa -- so it doesn't exactly have an easy path to a bowl game. Seven or eight wins certainly isn't out of the question, but we'll first see if the Terps can make it through September unscathed.

B1G awards watch list roundup

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
3:00
PM ET
College football preseason awards watch lists are, at best, little more than a summertime curiosity these days and, at worst, an easy punchline.

For one, there are far too many awards -- only country music likes to give itself as many trophies as this sport. There are often way too many players on these lists -- the Rimington Trophy list, for example, includes 64 players, or basically half the starting centers in the FBS, and 10 from the Big Ten alone. And, of course, eventual winners of these awards sometimes come out of nowhere, making the preseason lists even more meaningless.

We relegated almost all the watch list releases to tweets, but if you're interested, we thought we'd compile all the Big Ten players who were nominated in one place. If nothing else, you can come back to this page in December and perhaps have a good chuckle. Here you go:

Maxwell Award (Player of the Year)
Walter Camp (Player of the Year)
  • Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
  • Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Northwestern
  • Shilique Calhoun, DE Michigan State
  • Stefon Diggs,WR, Maryland
  • Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
  • Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
  • Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
  • Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Defensive Player)
  • Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
  • Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
  • Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
  • Frank Clark, DE, Michigan
  • Blake Countess, DB, Michigan
  • Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
  • Kurtis Drummond, S, Michigan State
  • Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
  • Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan
  • Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Outland Trophy (Interior lineman)
Davey O’Brien Award (Quarterback):
  • Connor Cook, Michigan State
  • Devin Gardner, Michigan
  • Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
  • Braxton Miller, Ohio State
  • Joel Stave, Wisconsin
Doak Walker Award (Running back)
Butkus Award (Linebacker)
Rotary Lombardi Award (Lineman/Linebacker)
  • Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Northwestern
  • Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
  • Austin Blythe, C, Iowa
  • Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
  • Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
  • Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
  • Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
  • Ron Havenstein, T, Wisconsin
  • Kaleb Johnson, G, Rutgers
  • Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan
  • Brandon Scherff, T, Iowa
Biletnikoff Award (Wide receiver)
Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive back)
  • Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern
  • Blake Countess, Michigan
  • Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
  • Jordan Lucas, Penn State
  • Trae Waynes, Michigan State
Mackey Award (Tight end)
Rimington Trophy (Center) Lou Groza Award (Kicker)
Ray Guy Award (Punter)

Finally, watch this list of my preseason awards watch list, uh, awards:

Most nominated: Thanks to his inclusion on multiple defensive award lists as well as one player of the year recognition, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory leads the way with four nods.

Biggest "snubs:" We use the word "snub" very, very lightly here. Still, it was a mild surprise not to see Venric Mark on the Doak Walker list (he was, after all, nominated for the Maxwell) or for Maryland defensive lineman Andre Monroe to not show up anywhere. Apparently, Monroe's 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss last year weren't good enough to get him on the same list as dozens of other less productive players.

Weirdest list: The Butkus Award folks, bless them, either know something we don't or really swung and missed this year. Neither Maryland's Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil nor Ohio State's Curtis Grant were on anybody's radar for a major award, and you could make a very strong argument that neither is even the best linebacker on his own team (the Terps' Matt Robinson and the Buckeyes' Joshua Perry would have made more sense here). And then there's the omission of Rutgers' Steve Longa, who had 123 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. Just plain odd all around.

Just happy to be nominated: Northwestern's Chi Chi Ariguzo and Michigan's Devin Funchess are both outstanding players who should be in strong contention for all-conference and quite possibly All-America honors this season. But they have about as good a chance of winning a national player of the year award (which almost always goes to quarterbacks or running backs, anyway) as I do. Funchess was nominated for both the Maxwell and Walter Camp award, which means he has a great public relations man. Meanwhile, Wisconsin's Joel Stave isn't even guaranteed to start at quarterback this season for the Badgers, yet he found himself on the Davey O'Brien watch list. As usual, it doesn't hurt to cover all the bases when compiling a preseason watch list.
It goes against the offensive lineman's credo to crave attention. Despite his size, he would rather go undetected, often a strong indicator that he's doing his job well.

Indiana's offensive linemen are no exception. They don't seek out the spotlight. But it's time to recognize what they've been doing the past few years, because few seem to notice.

[+] EnlargeIndiana Hoosies' offensive line
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsIndiana's offensive line has quietly become one of the premier units in the Big Ten.
Let's be as clear as possible: Indiana's offensive line is the most underrated unit in the Big Ten.

You might disagree, but I doubt you've actually paid attention to Indiana's line. Maybe because it's Indiana. Maybe it's because the Hoosiers run an up-tempo spread offense rather than a traditional, road-grading one that typically shines a brighter light on the five men up front. Whatever the reason, the Hoosiers line rarely gets much love.

But it's a huge reason why Indiana has had the Big Ten's No. 2 offense in each of the past two seasons. Despite two true freshman starters in 2012, Indiana led the Big Ten in fewest sacks allowed: one for every 31.8 pass attempts. Last season, the line overcame several major injuries -- IU started nine linemen and used seven different lineups -- and prevented sacks in six games. The offense averaged more than 300 pass yards and more than 200 rush yards for the first time in team history.

"When I came in with Coach [Kevin] Wilson, both of us having an offensive line background, we wanted to build a unit that has great flexibility, the ability to run the ball," Hoosiers offensive line coach Greg Frey told ESPN.com "Our goal, as it is with any offensive line, is to control the game. We’re going to pick up that third-and-1. If you need more time to throw, we're going to give you more time."

Strong offensive lines are normally stocked with veterans, but Indiana has excelled with youth. Five Hoosiers linemen have earned freshman All-Big Ten honors since 2011, including two in each of the past two seasons. Tackle Jason Spriggs and guard Dan Feeney both earned freshman All-America honors in 2012, when they set team freshman records by starting all 12 games.

Indiana lost Feeney to a foot injury days before the 2013 season and lost two other starters, Peyton Eckert and David Kaminski, to season-ending injuries in October. But others stepped up, players such as Collin Rahrig, a former walk-on who started 10 games at center, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Ralston Evans, who suffered a major knee injury before the 2011 season and appeared in only one game in 2012, started all 12 games at right tackle last season.

"When we were at Michigan, coaches came up and said, 'Who the hell is this right tackle you’ve got?'" Frey said. "I said, 'Don't tell me. Tell him he did a good job.' These guys work hard. There’s a good culture there."

Indiana returns 130 career offensive line starts, most in the Big Ten and third most in the FBS behind Appalachian State and UTSA. Frey, who previously coached lines at Michigan, West Virginia and South Florida, thinks this could be his deepest group.

It's a close group, too, one that spends a lot of time together off of the field. If a Bloomington restaurant offers a food special, the Hoosiers' linemen are quick to find it.

Frey doesn't change his expectations for the line in 2014. They've always been high.

"The ability to be a leader or a presence on the team, that part of it changes," he said. "There’s some credentials there, a little bit of background, some personal expectations.

"We have more voices there who are respected."

But will the group gain respect? It will take more than yards and points.

"They realize the more you’re winning in college football, the more people know about you," Frey said. "Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but you'd like to see the fruits of their labor be recognized. Everybody likes to be recognized a little bit.

"Hopefully as we go on, that will naturally happen."

Indiana's offensive line tops my list of the Big Ten's most underrated position groups. Here are four others ...

Minnesota's secondary: Jay Sawvel does an excellent job with Minnesota's back four. Fourth-round draft pick Brock Vereen will be tough to replace, but safety Cedric Thompson had a good spring and Eric Murray could become an elite cornerback this season. Derrick Wells adds a playmaking presence at corner and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who opened last season as a starting cornerback, returns from injury.

Penn State's running backs: Quarterback Christian Hackenberg grabs the headlines and justifiably so, but he'll need help in the backfield from a talented group of ball-carriers. How many people know Zach Zwinak has nearly 2,000 career rush yards? Bill Belton had an excellent spring and could be the offense's top playmaker, and junior Akeel Lynch has a nice speed-power mix.

Northwestern's receivers/tight ends: I've stumped for this group and while it hasn't quite blossomed, a two-quarterback system and a shift from a pass-heavy attack didn't help. Northwestern should be much more pass-heavy with Trevor Siemian as its sole signal caller. Christian Jones and Tony Jones are proven veterans, Rutgers transfer Myles Shuler fills a void in the slot and Kyle Prater is finally healthy. Tight end Dan Vitale is poised for a breakout season.

Maryland's linebackers: The Terps return three of four starters who combined for 233 tackles last season. Cole Farrand is a strong leader, and Matt Robinson provides a spark on the outside. Maryland will miss the disruptive Marcus Whitfield but returns five of its top six linebackers from 2013. If the group stays healthy -- a big if given Maryland's recent misfortune -- it could be very good.
The unofficial start of summer came this past weekend, but we're dreaming about the fall. With that in mind, we're looking at the most indispensable players on each Big Ten team.

By indispensable, we don't necessarily mean best. We mean the players who would be hardest to replace between now and the start of the season if they got hurt/suspended/decided to try out for "America's Got Talent." That could be because of their value to the team or because of a lack of depth at their position.

We'll pick two players from each team, usually offense and defense, but not always. Big Ten newcomer Maryland is up next.

[+] EnlargeMatt Robinson
Mark Goldman/Icon SMIMatt Robinson made a very successful move from safety to linebacker for the Terps, posting 10 tackles for loss last season.
Matt Robinson, LB, Sr.

The Terrapins returns plenty of experience at linebacker with three returning starters, but Robinson is the biggest difference-maker with his playmaking ability. As Maryland tries to replace Marcus Whitfield (15.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, two forced fumbles last season), Robinson's presence will be critical. He recorded 10 tackles for loss, four pass breakups and a forced fumble as a junior, starting 10 games at outside linebacker after moving from safety last spring. Like many of his Maryland teammates, Robinson has battled several injuries in his career but showed last season how he can impact games when healthy. The Terps would miss Robinson's speed and production if he's not on the field this fall.

Sal Conaboy, C, Sr.

Almost any center who makes starts in each of his first three seasons will earn indispensable designation as a senior, and Conaboy is no exception. Maryland has some uncertainty at both the tackle and guard positions as junior-college tackle Larry Mazyck didn't qualify and Moise Larose was suspended by the school for a year. The Terrapins likely will be counting on young players, including blue-chip incoming recruits Damian Prince and Derwin Gray, for significant playing time. They certainly need Conaboy to stay on the field and provide leadership from the middle of the line. Conaboy started all 13 games last season, seven in 2012 and two in 2011, and made the Rimington Trophy preseason watch list. An academic All-ACC selection who serves on Maryland's leadership council, Conaboy provides stability for the line on an offense that boasts plenty of depth at the skill positions.
When Maryland coach Randy Edsall announced the team's 2014 leadership council on Monday, his list included six holdovers from the previous year. Least surprising among the incumbents: linebacker Cole Farrand.

[+] EnlargeCole Farrand
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty ImagesCole Farrand will be more vocal in his final season, which marks Maryland's first in the Big Ten.
It's not just that Farrand plays a position of leadership, middle linebacker, or that he produces on the field (162 tackles the past two seasons). He embraces the responsibility that goes along with his role.

"More this year than last year, I'm looking to take a leadership position, especially because I'm a senior," Farrand told ESPN.com last week, before the leadership council was named. "It's my duty to step up."

It was Farrand's duty to speak up in 2013 when Maryland dropped four of five games following a 4-0 start. The Terrapins looked particularly listless in a 20-3 home setback against Syracuse, throwing two interceptions and fumbling five times (losing two). Injuries once again had hit Maryland especially hard.

The leadership council convened to address the team's lack of fire. Farrand told the media that week, "I feel like we're letting a lot of people down. ... I think everybody felt after the Syracuse game that the Maryland football team maybe wasn't that into it. It's a terrible thing to say but we definitely need to pick up the intensity."

Maryland responded the following week with a 27-24 overtime win at Virginia Tech, the Terrapins' first win in Blacksburg since 1949 and their first against the Hokies since 1990. The defense recorded a season-high 11 tackles-for-loss as Maryland became bowl-eligible.

"We came together and said, 'Look, we can't have the team look like this,'" Farrand said. "It was kind of embarrassing going out there and getting beat the way we were. That wasn’t the team we wanted to be. Myself and the other members of the leadership council got up there and talked to everybody. The other players got the picture that we were a better team than we were showing."

Farrand thinks Maryland can have a very good team, the best in his career, as the Terrapins make their Big Ten debut this fall. Nine starters return on defense, including three of the four top linebackers in Farrand, L.A. Goree and Matt Robinson.

Maryland must replace outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield, who produced nine sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss last season. But Farrand likes the depth of the group as young players like Jalen Brooks, Jermaine Carter and Yannick Ngakoue stood out to him this spring.

The Terrapins use a 3-4 alignment, which is catching on around the Big Ten, but remains a unique look.

"I'm sure other teams are watching film, but they haven't seen us yet, so they don't know exactly how Maryland football plays," Farrand said. "It's definitely going to be an advantage going into a new conference."

During his final spring at Maryland, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Farrand worked on refining his game, little things like rip moves against offensive linemen to gain a step or two on a ball-carrier. He also has been more vocal, trying to create a mood of both fun and hard work, which Farrand believes go together.

The Sparta, N.J., native stuck with Maryland even after the school made a coaching change weeks before he was set to sign. He has been through two losing seasons and last season's mini-rebound. A new league awaits Maryland, and in Farrand's view, a potential breakthrough.

"There's a lot of urgency," he said. "It's my last go-round. I'd be happy to go out with a bowl game win, and I'd love to see Maryland in the first Rose Bowl in the first year in the Big Ten.

"We're headed in a great direction."
We're taking snapshots of each position group with each Big Ten team entering the spring. Up next: the linebackers.

Illinois: The Illini lose an All-Big Ten player in Jonathan Brown but still have decent overall depth at linebacker. Mason Monheim started every game at middle linebacker in 2013, and Mike Svetina started all but one game at the star position. Both players return as juniors. Svetina will move into Brown's spot on the weak side, while the other position could be filled by T.J. Neal, who recorded 38 tackles last season. Ralph Cooper has logged significant reps as a reserve, and Eric Finney gives Illinois some flexibility after playing the star position (safety/outside linebacker).

Indiana: This becomes a more significant position under coordinator Brian Knorr, who plans to use a 3-4 alignment. Indiana should have enough depth to make the transition as it returns two full-time starters from 2013 -- David Cooper and T.J. Simmons -- as well as two part-time starters in Forisse Hardin and Clyde Newton, who started the final four games of his freshman season. Like Simmons and Newton, Marcus Oliver played a lot as a freshman and provides some depth. The key here will be converting all the experience into sharper, more consistent play.

Iowa: If you're of the mindset that Iowa always reloads at linebacker, you can rest easy this spring. If not, keep a very close eye on what happens as the Hawkeyes begin replacing one of the more productive linebacker groups in team history: James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens. There are high hopes for sophomore Reggie Spearman, who played in 10 games as a freshman last fall. Spearman, junior Travis Perry and senior Quinton Alston enter the spring as the front-runners to take over the top spots. The biggest challenge could be building depth behind them with Cole Fisher and others.

Maryland: The good news is the Terrapins return three productive starters from 2013 in Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree and Matt Robinson, who combined for 233 tackles, including 19 for loss. The bad news is Maryland loses its top playmaker at the position in Marcus Whitfield, who recorded nine sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss last season. But the overall picture is favorable, and the depth should be strong when Alex Twine and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil return from their injuries. Young players such as Abner Logan (37 tackles in 2013) will push for more time.

Michigan: There are a lot of familiar faces in new positions as Michigan not only has shuffled the roles of its defensive assistant coaches, but also its top linebackers. Standout Jake Ryan moves from strong-side linebacker to the middle, while junior James Ross III moves from the weak side to the strong side and Desmond Morgan shifts from the middle to the weak side. Joe Bolden, who had 54 tackles last season, can play both outside and inside, and players such as Ben Gedeon, Royce Jenkins-Stone and Allen Gant add depth. The talent is there for a big year if the position switches pan out.

Michigan State: It won't be easy to replace the Big Ten's top linebacker tandem in Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, not to mention Rose Bowl hero Kyler Elsworth, but Michigan State has some promising options. Ed Davis appears ready to step in for Allen after recording four sacks as a sophomore. Junior Darien Harris and two redshirt freshmen, Shane Jones and Jon Reschke, will compete at middle linebacker. Returning starter Taiwan Jones is back at the star position, and Mylan Hicks should be in the rotation. Depth is a bit of a question mark here entering the spring.

Minnesota: The Gophers lose key pieces in all three areas of the defense, and linebacker is no exception as two starters (Aaron Hill and James Manuel) depart. Minnesota will lean on Damien Wilson, who started in 12 games at middle linebacker in his first season with the Gophers and recorded 78 tackles. Junior De'Vondre Campbell seems ready to claim a starting spot after backing up Manuel last season. There will be plenty of competition at the strong-side linebacker spot, as Nick Rallis, De'Niro Laster and others are in the mix. Jack Lynn is backing up Wilson at middle linebacker but could work his way into a starting spot on the outside with a good spring.

Nebraska: Optimism is building for the Blackshirts in 2014, thanks in large part to the returning linebackers. The three players who finished last season as the starters -- David Santos, Michael Rose and Zaire Anderson -- all are back, as Rose will lead the way in the middle. Josh Banderas and Nathan Gerry also have starting experience and return for 2014. If younger players such as Marcus Newby develop this spring, Nebraska could have the Big Ten's deepest group of linebackers, a dramatic departure from the Huskers' first few years in the conference. Good things are happening here.

Northwestern: The top two playmakers return here in Chi Chi Ariguzo and Collin Ellis, who combined for seven interceptions and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2014. Northwestern's challenge is replacing the leadership Damien Proby provided in the middle. Ellis has shifted from the strong side to the middle, and Northwestern has moved safety Jimmy Hall from safety to strong-side linebacker. Drew Smith and Hall will compete for the third starting spot throughout the offseason. Sophomores Jaylen Prater and Joseph Jones should provide some depth.

Ohio State: Coach Urban Meyer has made it clear that Ohio State needs more from the linebackers, so it's a huge offseason for this crew, which loses superstar Ryan Shazier. The Buckeyes return starters at the outside spots in Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, although competition will continue throughout the spring and summer. Redshirt freshman Darron Lee surprisingly opened spring practice Tuesday working with Grant and Perry on the first-team defense. Camren Williams appeared in all 13 games as a reserve and will be part of the rotation, along with Trey Johnson. Meyer said last month that the incoming linebacker recruits won't redshirt, which means an opportunity for mid-year enrollee Raekwon McMillan.

Penn State: Linebacker U is looking for more bodies at the position after struggling with depth issues throughout 2013. The Lions lose leading tackler Glenn Carson but bring back two players, Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman, who started most of the season. The new coaching staff is counting on Hull to become a star as a senior. Brandon Bell, who appeared in nine games and recorded 24 tackles as a freshman, will compete for a starting spot along with Gary Wooten. Penn State hopes Ben Kline can stay healthy as he provides some experience, and incoming freshman Troy Reeder could enter the rotation right away.

Purdue: Expect plenty of competition here as Purdue loses leading tackler Will Lucas and must get more consistent play from the group. Joe Gilliam started for most of the 2013 season and should occupy a top spot this fall. Sean Robinson also brings experience to the field, and Ryan Russell could fill more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role this season. Redshirt freshman Danny Ezechukwu is an intriguing prospect to watch this spring as he aims for a bigger role. Ezechukwu is just one of several younger players, including decorated incoming recruit Gelen Robinson, who have opportunities to make a splash.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights return a good deal of production here with Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder, who combined for 219 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and five sacks. Quentin Gause also is back after racking up 53 tackles (8.5 for loss) in a mostly reserve role last season. Gause likely will claim the starting strong-side linebacker spot as Jamal Merrell departs. The starting spots are seemingly set, so Rutgers will look to build depth with Davon Jacobs, who had 30 tackles as a reserve last season, and L.J. Liston, both sophomores.

Wisconsin: Do-it-all linebacker Chris Borland is gone, along with Ethan Armstrong and Conor O'Neill, so Wisconsin must replace three of its top four tacklers from 2013. Derek Landisch and Joe Schobert can be penciled in as starters, along with Michael Caputo, who played mostly safety last season but should slide into one of the outside spots. Marcus Trotter brings experience to the rotation. The spotlight will be on younger linebackers such as Vince Biegel, who had 25 tackles last season, as well as dynamic sophomore Leon Jacobs and Alec James, a decorated recruit who redshirted in 2013.

Big Ten's lunch links

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
12:00
PM ET
Alright, alright, alright ...

Maryland's impending move to the Big Ten in July presents an opportunity for the program to reinvent itself. Some would say it's not a bad idea after a 13-24 start to the Randy Edsall era.

But the Maryland team that makes its Big Ten debut on Sept. 27 at Indiana won't have a dramatically different design from the squad that played in the ACC last season or the season before. The Terrapins don't want to be Big Ten wannabes. They want to be themselves in 2014 -- hopefully a healthier and better version of themselves.

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
Doug Kapustin/MCT/Getty ImagesRandy Edsall's Terps will play in the B1G's East Division with Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State.
"We're going to be who we are," Edsall told ESPN.com. "We're not going to change and say everybody in the Big Ten does this or that. We're going to try to make people adapt to us. We're not going to adapt to them."

So who are these Terrapins?

They run a no-huddle, spread offense that boasts one of the Big Ten's best returning receiving corps. Maryland returns five players who recorded at least 450 receiving yards in 2013, including Stefon Diggs, the one-time Ohio State recruiting target, and Deon Long. Both Diggs and Long were averaging more than 15 yards per reception before both suffered broken legs in an October loss to Wake Forest.

Injuries wiped out many of Maryland's top contributors in 2013 and played a role in the Terrapins' pedestrian offensive rankings (75th in total yards, 84th in scoring). But they return almost all of their top skill players, including quarterback C.J. Brown, a sixth-year player who missed two seasons (2010 and 2012) because of injury. Four starting offensive linemen also return.

"We've got some playmakers on offense [who] can really make things happen," Edsall said. "We've got some very talented wide receivers, our quarterback is really good, a dual threat. The biggest thing is we've got to stay healthy and continue to get better."

Edsall will lean on offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who held the same position in the Big Ten at Illinois from 2005 to 2008. The Illini led the Big Ten in rushing in both 2005 and 2007 and in passing in 2008.

Maryland will use a hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme built around pressure. Although the Big Ten long has been dominated by 4-3 defenses, Wisconsin employed the 3-4 last season and had some success. Indiana likely will use an odd-man front under new coordinator Brian Knorr.

A Terrapins defense that, like the offense, suffered more than its share of injuries in 2013 returns a nice core that includes linebackers Cole Farrand (84 tackles) and Matt Robinson (10 tackles for loss) and nose tackle Andre Monroe (9.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss).

"We've played good defense," Edsall said of a unit that ranked 44th nationally in yards allowed. "We still need to get better."

Edsall and his staff started preparing for the Big Ten move following Maryland's bowl game in December. The Terrapins will play 10 new opponents in 2014 (West Virginia and Syracuse are holdovers from 2013), including three Big Ten teams -- Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin -- that they have never faced.

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AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyMaryland returns almost all of its top skill players in 2014, including quarterback C.J. Brown.
Nebraska faced some challenges when it moved from the Big 12 to the Big Ten in 2011, and Huskers coach Bo Pelini acknowledged last week that the recruiting adjustments are still happening.

"You have to acquire data," Pelini said. "That happens over three years."

How quickly can Maryland settle into its new league?

"Any time you change conferences, it will be different," said Danny O'Brien, who played quarterback at Maryland from 2009 to 2011 before transferring to a Big Ten school in Wisconsin, where he played in 2012. "My experience in the Big Ten, the front sevens are really good. A lot of teams can stop the run. It's a different style, and you get some weather situations that influence things a bit.

"They're playing different teams, so the game plans will change accordingly, and on the other side, teams are playing Maryland for the first time."

O'Brien remembers Maryland being a physical team, and he doesn't think the Terrapins will be intimidated by the new environments. Maryland visits Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan this fall.

"I don't see that being a huge adjustment," O'Brien said. "There are some huge, loud stadiums in the Big Ten, but you have Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech [in the ACC]. Football is big everywhere."

How Maryland fans react to their team's new league will be a subplot of the move. Rutgers fans are overjoyed to be escaping the American, and many Nebraska fans had become annoyed with Texas' constant power plays. Terrapins fans, meanwhile, didn't want to leave the ACC, where Maryland is a charter member and has long-term rivalries.

Maryland even launched a public relations campaign that tried to boost perception about the B1G move, as the school anticipated an initial backlash.

"Just like anything, the fans and donors and alumni, any time there's change, it takes a little bit of time," Edsall said. "But since it's been announced, everybody sees the benefits to some of our athletic programs. The first day that they put tickets out, they sold 1,000 new season tickets. So when people see the schedule and the division we're in, that gets you excited."

Edsall echoes the excitement of playing in what appears to be a loaded East Division, which includes Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State.

"When they came out with the divisions, people said, 'Whoa,'" Edsall said. "I looked at it and said, 'That's great.'"

The Big Ten move will have financial benefits for an athletic program that cut seven teams in 2012, and it also should boost football. Maryland will be the only Big Ten program without an indoor practice facility, but initial plans are under way to construct one in the coming years.

"We don't have a 100,000-seat stadium," Edsall said. "We have a 54,000-seat stadium, but it gets really loud. We're never going to be Ohio State or Michigan because we don't have those same resources. But what we can do is be Maryland and do the things we need to do to make us the best we've been."

The best that they can be, in Edsall's mind, is themselves.

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