2018 Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview
Head Coach: DJ Durkin
2017 Record: 4-8; 2-7 Big Ten
2017 Bowl: N/A
Odds to win Big 10: +25000
Odds to win Big 10 East: +12500
Odds to win National Title: +50000
Kasim Hill’s talents look to transform the Maryland Terrapins’ offense: It will be reliant on a powerful, dual-threat quarterback, and Hill is pretty much the prototypical QB for a pro-style offense. But Hill will not be rushing alone— senior Ty Johnson returns as the No. 6 leading rusher in the Big Ten last year, and beyond him, there is more talent in the backfield, namely Lorenzo Harrison and Anthony McFarland (who sat last season out with a broken fibula).
Last year’s starting QB returns, too, and Tyrell Pigrome seems fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered.
But that talent would not flourish if not for Maryland’s much improved and impressive offensive line. It is the best it has been in many seasons, and tackle Derwin Gray returns as an All-Conference selection last season. Terrance Davis, Brendan Moore, and Marcus Minor all will figure prominently, as well. Also, the tight ends this season should be far more active in the offense, as Avery Edwards will get plenty of throws his way this season.
Beyond these factors, also keep an eye on FB Tayon Fleet-Davis, as he and both WRs Taivon Jacobs and DJ Turner are all going to be a part of Maryland’s passing game. The Terrapins ranked just No. 115 in the nation last year with only 161 yards per game via the pass, but that should improve dramatically. The entire offense should. Maryland averaged a mere 24.1 points per game last season while its defense was something of a disaster. Now, onto that…
Defensively, Maryland was nothing short of pathetic in 2017. It surrendered 37.1 points per game (No. 119) while proving ineffective at stopping both the pass (No. 71, 228 yards per game) and rush (No. 92, 190 yards per game). Improvement is largely dependent upon health.
The Terrapins are going to need “Buck” end Jesse Aniebonam to stay healthy after suffering a broken foot in last season’s opener (which caused him to miss the season). Aniebonam had nine sacks in 2016, but without him there was almost no one to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks, never mind the lack of tackling when teams ran the football. The fact that Aniebonam had a second surgery in late spring hardly bodes well for the defensive unit.
Byron Cowart is on the other side opposite Aniebonam, and Cowart impressed in the spring. He came from Auburn, and he was once a top recruit. Adam McLean is improving in the middle, and Lawtez Rogers is a younger player to keep an eye on. LB positions are short on depth and talent. However, Isaiah Davis is great on the weak side while Illinois graduate transfer student Tre Watson will hopefully somehow replace Jermaine Carter in the middle. Antoine Brooks Jr. and Darnell Savage Jr are the highlights of the secondary. It also returns CB junior Tino Ellis, while adding FSU Transfer student Marcus Lewis on the other corner.
Maryland is in search of its kicker, with Wade Lees the most likely candidate, though he has not shown a ton through his first two seasons. He did average 39.2 yards and is good at limiting returns— a mere 33 of 136 punts he has kicked through his first two seasons have been returned.
Joseph Petrino looks to be the placekicker, though Mike Shinksky and Paul Inzerillo will contend for the gig. Maryland’s own returns could be dominant, with both McFarland, Turner and Javon Leake all seeing opportunities and all packing massive talent for the special teams’ units.
Injuries have been the bane of Durkin through his first two seasons in College Park. He has fared well considering (.400 winning percentage), and he has had some nice recruiting classes—had they managed to stay healthy, especially. Hill is figured to be a major talent at QB, and the Terrapins have the OL to get him the opportunities he needs to flourish.
The ground game should be exceptional given the strength of Maryland’s OL, and Durkin worked hard along with Matt Canada to shore up the pitiful defensive efforts shown last season.
Maryland should be a rather massive improvement, though it might not necessarily transfer directly to the win column, or at least not dramatically so. Expect a modest but impressive improvement from Durkin’s club this year. The schedule is also soft for the first four weeks of the season, providing the Terrapins a chance at an impressive start before it meets Michigan on October 6th.
Prediction: 7 wins