PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM

New! isn’t always better…but it’s most certainly new.  And after a 3-9 season that saw the end of the Randy Edsall regime, new is exactly what the Maryland football team is hoping to sell.  DJ Durkin is more than ready to go…and the Terrapin faithful hope this coaching hire is more Bobby Ross than Mark Duffner.  You see, new isn’t always successful in College Park.  This is the school’s 10th coaching hire in the last 50 years–and only Ross and Ralph Friedgen were able to post a winning record in their first year at the helm.

Durkin from the moment he took over the program that fall has projected an image of energy and intensity.  That has trickled down in to summer workouts, according to senior offensive tackle Michael Dunn:  “you walk in the mornings at 6:30am…the music’s blasting and everybody’s yelling.  The biggest difference is the energy level- people are really upbeat here, ready to go.  Everybody wants to go out and win.”  Dunn’s part of an offensive line that returns three starters and helped the running game churn out over 200 yards per game in 2015 (3rd best in the Big Ten).

The quarterback question was solved when coach Durkin named Perry Hills the team’s starting quarterback after the fifth year senior beat out fellow fifth year senior Caleb Rowe for the nod.  Offensive coordinator Walt Bell admires Hills’ grit, saying “Perry is one of the toughest kids I’ve coached mentally and physically. He’s not a blazer but he’s a good, physical runner…and he throws a really nice deep ball.”  Hills knows he’s going to have to minimize his mistakes this fall-last year he threw 13 of the team’s Division I-high 29 interceptions:  “the problem with the picks…sometimes you’re trying to force the ball to make something happen.  Not playing smart. Through practices the coaches do a really good job doing ball security, right reads and making good decisions and just taking care of the football.” How well that translates to the field will be anyone’s guess.

Offensive coordinator Walt Bell directed Arkansas State’s offense last fall;  the Red Wolves ranked 12th in the  nation in scoring.  Expect an up-tempo attack that capitalizes on the team’s depth at the skill positions.  Bell says “with the pace that we play, it’s gonna take three runningbacks and eight wideouts to play every game-regardless of who we’re playing and how we’re playing.”  Senior Levern Jacobs led the team in receiving last fall, but coaches are sky-high on Malcolm Culmer’s improvement from spring workouts.

The running game will take a while to find itself as senior Wes Brown serves a 3-game suspension for an unspecified violation of the code of conduct.  As a true freshman Brown teased fans with a 121 yard performance against NC State;  he hasn’t reached the century mark since.  Transfer Trey Edmunds can sympathize- he gained 132 yards against Alabama in the first game of his career only to fizzle over the next three years at Virginia Tech.  He’ll compete for carries with sophomore Ty Johnson (7.1 yards per carry in 2015) until Brown returns.

The defense returns five starters to a unit that ranked 103rd in stopping the pass…even with Yannick Ngakoue notching a school-record 13.5 sacks.  Will highly-touted freshman Adam McLean live up to his billing?  Jermaine Carter Jr. (8th in the Big Ten in tackles last year) anchors the linebacking corps.  William Likely remains the most exciting player when he’s returning kicks and a work in progress when he’s in pass coverage.  New defensive coordinator Andy Buh is encouraged, saying “they’re eager to learn and in line with our philosophy. We’re pleased with how fast they’re learning and their ability to fix mistakes quickly.”

The schedule begins with Howard (1-10 in 2015) September 3rd before a pair of road games in the sunshine state: FIU and UCF are both coming off of losing campaigns as well, with the Knights coming off of an 0-12 campaign.  The Big Ten opener brings Purdue to College Park for homecoming…and that will probably be the last time the Terps will be favored until their season finale against Rutgers.

Best Case- Perry Hills is everything the coaching staff says he is, the Terps blaze through their non-conference slate and pull off an upset or two in Big Ten action…going 7-5 to qualify for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Worst Case- they wilt in the Sunshine State heat and are upset by Purdue on Homecoming… setting up a long fall that ends with a 2-10 thud.  Rutgers brings back Ralph Friedgen just for the November 26th game…and the Scarlet Knights romp.

 

 

Advertisements