<
>

2015 season preview: Maryland Terrapins

8/11/2015

Previewing the 2015 season for the Maryland Terrapins.

2014 record: 7-6 (4-4 Big Ten; lost to Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl)

Key losses: QB C.J. Brown, WR Stefon Diggs, WR Deon Long, WR Marcus Leak, RB/WR Jacquille Veii, OL Sal Conaboy, OL Silvano Atlamirano, DL Keith Bowers, DL Darius Kilgo, DL Andre Monroe, LB Cole Farrand, LB L.A. Goree, LB Matt Robinson, DB Jeremiah Johnson

Key returners: RB Brandon Ross, RB Wes Brown, WR Levern Jacobs, OL Michael Dunn, OL Andrew Zeller, OL Ryan Doyle, DL Yannick Ngakoue, DL Quinton Jefferson, DB Sean Davis, DB William Likely, DB Anthony Nixon, K Brad Craddock

Instant-impact freshman: This probably would have gone to defensive lineman Adam McLean had he not injured his knee, but we will go with offensive lineman Quarvez Boulware instead. McLean should have a normal recovery and eventually be a big contributor, but pulling in Boulware was a big get for the program. A four-star lineman from Washington D.C., Boulware had offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Clemson and plenty of others outside of Maryland. Keeping him home was a win for the staff and the future offensive line.

Class of ’16 update: The Terps scored the biggest recruiting victory of the Randy Edsall era by landing in-state ESPN 300 quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who is the No. 2-ranked pocket-passer in the country. Haskins is going to give them a face-of-the-program type of quarterback and has already given the staff an extra recruiter. Maryland currently has 18 commitments on board and has the potential to reel in some big fish thanks to Haskins, ESPN 300 linebacker Keandre Jones and four-star receiver Tino Ellis, who are all committed.

Biggest question mark: Can this front seven survive the Big Ten? The Terrapins return only one starter among the front seven in Yannick Ngakoue, and he's transitioning from outside linebacker to a traditional defensive end. With a new 4-3 scheme and a new defensive coordinator, this entire front seven will have to transition quickly and efficiently to hold up in the B1G. The Terps allowed an average of more than 200 rushing yards per game last season -- one of just 30 FBS teams to do so -- and half of their conference matchups this season come against top-20 rushing offenses. Maryland has a plethora of young talent, but it will need the underclassmen to step up immediately.

Most important game: Versus Penn State on Oct. 24 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Maryland came out on top last season, 20-19, and Edsall said immediately afterward: "Let the rivalry begin." This might not be a rivalry just yet -- but it's getting there. And it's clear this game is important for a multitude of reasons. Edsall said as much about recruiting when asked last month at Big Ten media days. "Anytime you beat teams on the field, it helps you in recruiting," he acknowledged. Another win this season would only add to that momentum and might even dent James Franklin's talk of dominating the region.

Upset special: At Rutgers on Nov. 28 at High Point Solutions Stadium. Maryland allowed a 25-point lead to slip away last season, and you can bet it doesn't want a repeat again this season. Rutgers has its share of question marks this season, too, and the Terps have a lot of young talent that should be more than ready by the time the final week of the regular season rolls around. The Terps' experienced secondary could also give Rutgers' top offensive threat, Leonte Carroo, a challenge. So there's a few reasons to think Maryland could match up well here.

Key stat: 15. Those are the number of teams -- not players, FBS teams -- that William Likely had as many or more interceptions than. The junior cornerback earned All-Big Ten honors for grabbing six interceptions last season, which was as many as the Wisconsin Badgers (6) and one more than the Michigan Wolverines (5). He also returned two picks for touchdowns; no individual in the nation had more.

Prediction: 5-7. The Terps don't want to call this a rebuilding year, but there are simply too many question marks to label them a contender this season. They're trying to replace a starting quarterback, last season's top four receiving targets and nearly an entire front seven. Outside of a good secondary, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to like right now. Again, that could change with the young playmakers -- such as LB Jermaine Carter Jr., who should be something special -- but all of that takes time. And, with less than a month to kickoff, that's a luxury the Terps just don't have.