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The big 2014 Maryland football preview: Healthy Terps are dangerous Terps

In an injury-free utopia, Randy Edsall's Maryland Terrapins could be deep, experienced, and all sorts of athletic in 2014. They'll need to be just that, as their first Big Ten schedule is daunting.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. An ode to randomness

Combined with injuries in other areas and a wealth of transfers -- head coach Randy Edsall didn't really make many friends in his first 12 months in College Park -- Maryland was incredibly, ridiculously young last season. And the evidence is clear in the players listed below. There are three sophomore quarterbacks with experience. The three leading returning running backs are sophomores. The three leading returning receivers are sophomores. Four of the six offensive linemen with starting experience are either sophomores or juniors. The top four returning defensive linemen are either sophomores or juniors. The top four returning linebackers are juniors. The top three returning safeties are either sophomores or juniors. It's staggering.

Through this lens, one fact becomes rather incredible: Maryland actually improved in 2012.

Last year's Maryland preview was suitably focused on injuries. Any time you finish the season with a true freshman linebacker at quarterback, chances are good that health will be the overriding theme. That Maryland managed to improve even slightly in 2012 was a positive sign for the future, especially considering that, in theory, injuries luck would probably be more on the Terps' side the following season.

And technically it was. Quarterback C.J. Brown did miss another couple of games, but he was around to finish the season. The lines remained mostly intact. It could have been worse.

But the Terps' were still pretty snake-bitten. They boasted two five-star receivers, and both were lost for the season midway through. They were still forced to dip into the third string for healthy linebackers (granted, they were playing linebacker, not quarterback, this time). They still lost a potential starting cornerback before the season began. And while we're at it, they still saw their starting running back get suspended for the season. Karma still didn't smile on College Park.

In terms of injuries, the last two years have been bad enough that I actually found myself wondering if Maryland is doing something wrong from a strength and conditioning perspective. There's no evidence of that, and no evidence of some sort of mineral in the tap water that weakens bones and ACLs. All we know is Maryland's been on the negative side of the injuries line for two straight years, and in theory -- in theory! -- it doesn't always remain that way.

We also know that Maryland figured out a way to improve again despite this.

2. In an injury-free utopia...

...Maryland could actually be very good this year. Ignore everything you know about recent injuries, and see what the Terrapins return. A well-seasoned dual-threat quarterback. Starting running backs from both 2012 and 2013. The aforementioned five-star receivers (Stefon Diggs and Deon Long), plus the three exciting receivers who thrived in their absence. Five players with starting experience on a solid offensive line. The top five tacklers on a solid defensive line. Eight of last year's top 10 linebackers. Five of last year's top six defensive backs, plus the aforementioned 2012 starter (Jeremiah Johnson). A smattering of well-touted freshmen and redshirt freshmen. Basically everybody from a top-20 special teams unit.

From a pure athleticism-and-potential standpoint, few teams in Maryland's new conference boast more talent than the Terps. And if the injury dice ever fall in favor of Randy Edsall's squad, they're a candidate for a pretty impressive breakthrough. If.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 63
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug Florida International 125 43-10 W 33.4 - 19.2 W
7-Sep Old Dominion N/A 47-10 W 33.0 - 19.8 W
14-Sep Connecticut 93 32-21 W 33.8 - 27.1 W
21-Sep vs. West Virginia 76 37-0 W 19.7 - 13.2 W
5-Oct at Florida State 1 0-63 L 21.3 - 27.7 L 6.8
12-Oct Virginia 79 27-26 W 38.9 - 37.6 W 4.2
19-Oct at Wake Forest 81 10-34 L 29.6 - 37.7 L 0.0
26-Oct Clemson 16 27-40 L 29.1 - 26.1 W -0.7
9-Nov Syracuse 75 3-20 L 15.8 - 26.6 L -4.2
16-Nov at Virginia Tech 27 27-24 W 31.7 - 23.3 W -1.2
23-Nov Boston College 65 26-29 L 17.3 - 29.3 L -3.9
30-Nov at N.C. State 92 41-21 W 33.8 - 24.9 W -0.5
27-Dec vs. Marshall 52 20-31 L 34.0 - 26.1 W 0.5
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -3.6% 75 -0.3% 64 +2.6% 17
Points Per Game 26.2 84 25.3 56
Adj. Points Per Game 28.6 63 26.1 51

3. Fade and rally

For a while, it appeared as if the breakthrough could come in 2013. Maryland began the season 4-0, and while the victims of that run were far from spectacular, the Terps were treating them like bad teams. They won their first four games by an average score of 40-10, and after a ritual slaughter at Florida State (not the only one the Seminoles dished out in 2013), they survived some terrible fumbles luck against Virginia (Maryland recovered zero of the game's four fumbles) to survive.

But against Wake Forest, Deon Long broke his tibia and fibula and Stefon Diggs broke his fibula (again, something in the water in College Park...), and a mini-collapse began. The Terps fell to 5-4. But they rallied.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Maryland 30.0, Opponent 19.8 (plus-10.2)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): Opponent 31.1, Maryland 26.9 (minus-4.2)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Maryland 29.2, Opponent 25.9 (plus-3.3)

Maryland's defense dominated Virginia Tech, and C.J. Brown had a great rushing day against a stout Tech defense, and the Terps upset the Hokies in Blacksburg. They handled a bad NC State team in Raleigh as well and finished 7-5. The bowl game against Marshall wasn't particularly pleasant, but they lost more because Marshall played great. And besides, finishing 7-6 with a nowhere-near-full-strength squad was once again a sign of improvement.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.37 5 IsoPPP+ 111.9 17
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.9% 96 Succ. Rt. + 102.5 50
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 31.1 93 Def. FP+ 96.4 94
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.9 90 Redzone S&P+ 86.4 107
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 27.6 ACTUAL 28 +0.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 77 36 51 52
RUSHING 84 39 42 70
PASSING 49 33 63 39
Standard Downs 31 36 22
Passing Downs 53 80 10
Q1 Rk 33 1st Down Rk 30
Q2 Rk 45 2nd Down Rk 55
Q3 Rk 50 3rd Down Rk 77
Q4 Rk 102

4. Start and finish

Even despite the unexpected, tibia-related turnover in the receiving corps, Maryland was able to create quite a few big plays in 2013. Diggs and Long combined to average 16.3 yards per catch, and in their absence, Levern Jacobs, Nigel King, and Amba Etta-Tawo combined to average a healthy 14.3. Both Brandon Ross and Albert Reid showed solid next-level explosiveness. C.J. Brown knew what to do in the open field as well. The ingredients for a great offense were very much on display.

The problem was that Maryland was pretty awful at both starting and finishing drives. The Terps' explosiveness was muted by mediocre efficiency numbers and far too many three-and-outs, and despite strong running, a dual-threat at quarterback, and a decent line, the Terps had one of the worst red zone offenses in the country. Brad Craddock was asked to attempt 17 field goals of under 40 yards, and Maryland averaged only 3.9 points per trip inside the opponent's 40. That's not going to cut it.

That so much talent returns is exciting; it's only going to matter if the Terps start and finish better.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
C.J. Brown 6'3, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 166 282 2242 13 7 58.9% 22 7.2% 6.8
Perry Hills (2012) 6'2, 205 So. 3 stars (5.5) 97 169 1336 8 7 57.4% 24 12.4% 6.0
Caleb Rowe 6'3, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 63 130 984 5 3 48.5% 6 4.4% 6.9
Shane Cockerille 6'2, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Will Ulmer 6'0, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Brandon Ross RB 5'10, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 166 776 4 4.7 5.2 39.2%
C.J. Brown QB 6'3, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 118 736 12 6.2 8.4 37.3%
Wes Brown (2012) RB 6'0, 200 So. 4 stars (5.8) 90 382 2 4.2 3.3 N/A
Albert Reid RB 5'9, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 70 294 2 4.2 6.4 25.7%
Jacquille Veii RB 5'9, 181 So. 2 stars (5.4) 39 142 0 3.6 4.4 35.9%
Caleb Rowe QB 6'3, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 14 74 0 5.3 4.0 42.9%
Kenneth Goins Jr. FB 5'9, 225 So. 2 stars (5.4) 9 48 0 5.3 1.7 55.6%
Levern Jacobs WR 5'11, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 7 19 0 2.7 5.9 42.9%
Stefon Diggs WR 6'0, 195 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 7 45 0 6.4 4.4 71.4%
Ricardo Young QB 4 7 0 1.8 1.9 25.0%

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Levern Jacobs WR 5'11, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 71 46 640 64.8% 18.2% 54.4% 9.0 85 9.5 88.7
Nigel King WR 6'3, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 59 33 450 55.9% 15.1% 41.9% 7.6 20 6.2 62.3
Stefon Diggs WR 6'0, 195 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 56 34 587 60.7% 14.3% 67.4% 10.5 163 11.4 81.3
Amba Etta-Tawo WR 6'1, 190 So. 3 stars (5.5) 55 31 500 56.4% 14.1% 51.2% 9.1 98 8.8 69.3
Deon Long WR 6'0, 195 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 55 32 489 58.2% 14.1% 48.9% 8.9 81 8.8 67.8
Dave Stinebaugh TE 32 15 204 46.9% 8.2% 56.5% 6.4 -12 5.9 28.3
Brandon Ross RB 5'10, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 26 18 173 69.2% 6.6% 30.4% 6.7 -37 5.9 24.0
Malcolm Culmer WR 5'11, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 13 5 59 38.5% 3.3% 57.1% 4.5 -22 5.2 8.2
Albert Reid RB 5'9, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 10 5 57 50.0% 2.6% 42.9% 5.7 -12 7.1 7.9
Kenneth Goins Jr. FB 5'9, 225 So. 2 stars (5.4) 8 4 56 50.0% 2.0% 100.0% 7.0 1 3.7 7.8
Jacquille Veii RB 5'9, 181 So. 2 stars (5.4) 6 5 18 83.3% 1.5% 100.0% 3.0 -36 1.4 2.5
Daniel Adams WR 6'2, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Marcus Leak WR 6'0, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Andrew Isaacs TE 6'2, 250 So. 4 stars (5.8)
P.J. Gallo TE 6'2, 250 So. 3 stars (5.5)
DeAndre Lane WR 5'7, 165 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Taivon Jacobs WR 5'9, 155 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Juwann Winfree WR 6'2, 180 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

5. Simply loaded out wide

I use "Injuries hurt in the present tense but help in the future tense" enough in these previews to qualify it for cliché status. But I say it because it's frequently true. Take, for instance, Maryland's receiving corps. Thanks to injuries, it now runs five-deep. Diggs and Long were as good as advertised over the first half of the season, averaging 10.5 and 8.9 yards per target, respectively. Their injuries briefly hamstrung the offense, as did Brown's, but new guys began to step up. Nigel King caught 10 passes for 141 yards against Clemson and Wake Forest. Levern Jacobs caught eight for 158 against Clemson and seven for 100 against Marshall. And in the final five games, Amba Etta-Tawo caught 20 for 387 yards.

So now Maryland returns five players who were targeted between 55 and 71 times in 2013; four of the five averaged at least 8.9 yards per target. Catch rates do need to improve -- only one of the five caught better than 61 percent of his targets last year -- and we'll see what happens with ball distribution, but the potential here is off the charts, especially considering that junior Marcus Leak surged in the spring as well.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 105.7 2.53 3.31 37.2% 61.5% 25.2% 98.6 3.5% 9.6%
Rank 44 117 56 86 100 123 70 35 101
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
De'Onte Arnett LG 23
Sal Conaboy C 6'3, 290 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 22
Mike Madaras LT 16
Ryan Doyle LT 6'4, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13
Michael Dunn RT 6'5, 295 So. NR 13
Andrew Zeller RG 6'4, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 7
Moise Larose LT 6'6, 305 So. 3 stars (5.5) 1
G.T. Harraka RG 0
Nick Klemm RT 0
Silvano Altamirano LG 6'2, 295 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Evan Mulrooney LG 6'4, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Jake Wheeler RT 6'7, 305 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Stephen Grommer C 6'4, 290 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0
JuJuan Dulaney RG 6'2, 290 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Damian Prince OL 6'5, 300 Fr. 5 stars (6.1)
Derwin Gray LT 6'5, 300 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)

6. Costly glitches

Maryland started a mostly new line in 2013 -- it had a modest 30 career starts heading into the season -- and, all things considered (inexperience, wretched 2012 performance), put up decent numbers. Considering brief injury troubles at quarterback and two sophomores and a freshman at running back, the line could certainly have done worse than ranking 44th in Adj. Line Yards and 70th in Adj. Sack Rate.

With better experience this time around (55 career starts, not including the one from Moise Larose, who's suspended for the year), along with the potential addition of a pair of stud freshmen, one can expect the line to improve a bit on these numbers.

That said, these numbers were perhaps inflated a bit. Brown's passing-downs scrambles boosted the passing downs rushing numbers, and some relatively quick passing on standard downs helped the sack rates. The line had the tendency to let defenders in the backfield at inopportune times. Mobile quarterbacks tend to have higher sack rates, but a 9.6 percent sack rate on passing downs is way too high. Young running backs tend to dance a bit too much make mistakes in the backfield, but Maryland's 25.2 percent stuff rate (run stops behind the line) was almost the worst in the country. Plus, the short-yardage numbers were poor as well. Experienced skill position personnel will help these numbers a bit, but the line needs to be less error-prone for the offense to reach what really is vast potential.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.12 49 IsoPPP+ 102.6 48
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.3% 33 Succ. Rt. + 98.8 58
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.2 42 Off. FP+ 99.5 68
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.1 61 Redzone S&P+ 104.6 41
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.1 ACTUAL 21.0 +2.9
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 44 49 58 63
RUSHING 46 42 39 81
PASSING 57 64 83 45
Standard Downs 35 52 24
Passing Downs 84 70 105
Q1 Rk 33 1st Down Rk 54
Q2 Rk 61 2nd Down Rk 100
Q3 Rk 66 3rd Down Rk 38
Q4 Rk 110

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 107.8 2.80 2.04 36.3% 51.3% 19.7% 102.1 5.5% 7.8%
Rank 35 43 2 36 3 54 59 41 41
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Andre Monroe DE 5'11, 275 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 33.5 4.2% 17.0 9.5 0 1 2 0
Quinton Jefferson DE 6'3, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 33.0 4.1% 7.5 3.0 0 0 1 0
Darius Kilgo NT 6'3, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 26.5 3.3% 6.5 2.0 0 1 0 0
Keith Bowers NT 6'1, 275 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 22.0 2.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Roman Braglio DE 6'2, 265 So. 3 stars (5.6) 10 5.0 0.6% 3.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Zeke Riser DE 9 4.0 0.5% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Alex Walker DE 4 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nate Clarke NT 6'3, 305 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 8 2.0 0.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Kingsley Opara DE 6'3, 285 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Malik Jones DE 6'4, 260 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Chandler Burkett DE 6'3, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cole Farrand ILB 6'3, 245 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 61.5 7.7% 4.5 0.5 0 0 1 0
Matt Robinson OLB 6'3, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 58.0 7.3% 10.0 0.5 0 4 1 0
L.A. Goree ILB 6'2, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 57.5 7.2% 4.5 1.0 0 1 1 0
Marcus Whitfield OLB 13 38.5 4.8% 15.5 9.0 0 3 2 0
Alex Twine OLB 6'0, 235 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 37.5 4.7% 2.5 0.0 0 1 1 0
Abner Logan ILB 6'1, 235 So. 4 stars (5.8) 12 29.5 3.7% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Shawn Petty ILB 13 18.5 2.3% 3.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil OLB 6'2, 255 Sr. NR 6 13.0 1.6% 3.5 3.0 1 0 0 0
Yannick Ngakoue OLB 6'2, 250 So. 4 stars (5.9) 13 8.0 1.0% 4.5 2.0 1 0 1 0
Cavon Walker OLB 6'2, 235 So. 3 stars (5.5) 13 5.5 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Clarence Murphy OLB 6'2, 250 Sr. 3 stars (5.6)
Avery Thompson OLB 6'2, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)
Brock Dean ILB 6'0, 220 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Jalen Brooks ILB 6'1, 230 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jermaine Carter, Jr. ILB 6'0, 235 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jesse Aniebonam LB 6'5, 240 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Tyler Burke LB 6'4, 240 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

7. A stout front seven

The Maryland defense regressed a bit in 2013, from 50th in Def. F/+ to 64th, but that was perhaps to be expected. The Terps had to replace five front-seven starters who had combined for 46 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks, and 15 passes defensed in 2012, and when combined with unexpected shuffling at linebacker (eight players averaged at least one tackle per game, and only two of them played all 13 games), regression was almost inevitable.

That said, the slip was minor. The defense was still decent, and the front seven still made plays. Andre Monroe came back after missing 2012 and spent a good portion of the season in the backfield. Darius Kilgo proved an agile, interesting force at nose tackle. And outside linebackers Matt Robinson and Marcus Whitfield combined for 26 tackles for loss.

Maryland replaced play-makers with play-makers, and while Whitfield is gone, virtually everybody esle of consequence returns, and despite Abner Logan's suspension, there is a lot of high-profile younger talent (Yannick Ngakoue, Nate Clark, Jesse Aniebonam, Roman Braglio) that could make an impact. The run defense was a strength last year (especially in short-yardage situations) and should be again.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Sean Davis S 6'1, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 83.0 10.4% 1.5 0.5 2 3 1 0
William Likely CB 5'7, 175 So. 4 stars (5.8) 13 60.5 7.6% 4.5 0 1 6 0 0
Isaac Goins CB 13 52.5 6.6% 1 1 2 4 0 0
Anthony Nixon S 6'1, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 49.0 6.1% 3 0 0 0 0 0
Jeremiah Johnson
(2012)
CB 5'11, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 37.5 5.7% 5 1.5 0 8 1 0
A.J. Hendy S 6'0, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 26.0 3.3% 1 0 1 2 0 0
Alvin Hill CB 5'11, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 19.0 2.4% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Dexter McDougle CB 4 13.5 1.7% 0 0 3 2 0 0
Zach Dancel S 6'0, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.1) 12 7.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jarrett Ross CB 5'9, 195 So. 3 stars (5.6) 12 6.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Washington CB 5'8, 180 Sr. NR
Undray Clark CB 5'9, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Milan Collins S 6'1, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Elvis Dennah S 6'2, 205 So. 2 stars (5.3)

8. A Likely star

The big issue for Maryland's defense in 2013 came through the air. If the Terps couldn't get pressure on the quarterback (or even if they could), there were big plays for the taking.

When you look at the personnel, this makes sense. Corners Dexter McDougle (shoulder) and Jeremiah Johnson (two), the leading tacklers in the secondary a year earlier, combined to play six games with a shoulder injury and fractured toe, respectively. That thrust then-freshman William Likely into the forefront. Plus, both starting safeties were sophomores. A young secondary is always going to be prone to breakdowns; Maryland's sure was.

Youth turns into experience, and with Johnson's return there are now three juniors and two seniors among Maryland's top six returnees.

The biggest star might be a sophomore, though. Likely struggled at times but showed glimpses of his four-star potential. He made 4.5 tackles for loss, a good number for any cornerback, much less a small freshman. Plus, he defensed a team-leading seven passes.

The pass defense will still probably be behind the run defense, but the breakdowns should diminish. And for whatever it's worth (probably not much), the secondary was the best unit in the spring game.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Nathan Renfro 6'1, 205 Jr. 75 40.8 9 20 18 50.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Brad Craddock 6'0, 180 Jr. 69 61.5 12 1 17.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Brad Craddock 6'0, 180 Jr. 37-38 16-17 94.1% 5-8 62.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
William Likely KR 5'7, 175 So. 28 26.0 0
Stefon Diggs KR 6'0, 195 Jr. 12 23.4 0
William Likely PR 5'7, 175 So. 16 12.8 1
Stefon Diggs PR 6'0, 195 Jr. 2 -0.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 17
Field Goal Efficiency 43
Punt Return Efficiency 99
Kick Return Efficiency 6
Punt Efficiency 39
Kickoff Efficiency 24
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 112

9. Great unit! Now cut down on the field goal attempts

Likely was also an immediate hit on special teams. His emergence will allow Maryland to use Stefon Diggs more sparingly in the return game, which can't be a bad thing.

Plus, there's not a lot of reason to think that an A+ coverage unit -- notice that Nathan Renfro's punting average and Brad Craddock's touchback rate on kickoffs were both pretty mediocre; then note that Maryland was top-40 in both kick and punt efficiency -- will regress to any major degree.

Throw in Craddock's return as place-kicker, and you've got a lovely unit overall. And if Craddock doesn't have to kick as many short field goals, Maryland's really in business.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug James Madison NR
6-Sep at South Florida 86
13-Sep West Virginia 71
20-Sep at Syracuse 67
27-Sep at Indiana 47
4-Oct Ohio State 4
18-Oct Iowa 34
25-Oct at Wisconsin 15
1-Nov at Penn State 37
15-Nov Michigan State 13
22-Nov at Michigan 32
29-Nov Rutgers 78
Five-Year F/+ Rk -5.0% (72)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 43
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -7 / -9.5
TO Luck/Game +1.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 18 (9, 9)

10. A top-40 team wins seven or eight games

Maryland football is in a pretty weird place overall. The negative feelings of the 2011 debacle (the Terps fell from 9-4 in Ralph Friedgen's last year to 2-10) and subsequent transfer fest have still lingered, and Randy Edsall appears to be on at least a little bit of a hot seat despite the wealth of injuries and two straight years of improvement.

Plus, the Terps face a conference slate that features Rutgers, Iowa, and Indiana instead of Wake Forest, Clemson, and NC State, and the ongoing ACC divorce has remained nasty. The Terps are in an unfamiliar new conference, and the roster has been constantly young and unfamiliar over the past two seasons.

On paper, though, there's quite a bit to like about the 2014 Terrapins. Injuries have produced depth of experience, and there are play-makers throughout the offensive skill positions and defensive front seven. The quarterback is experienced, the secondary is deeper than it was last year, and the offensive line has at least a little bit of upside. There are no clear, obvious holes, and with reasonable health (if that's even possible in College Park), Maryland could threaten to not only improve for a third straight year (that's almost a given), but improve by quite a bit.

They'll need to. The Big Ten was either really nice or mean to the Terps, giving them home games against Ohio State and Michigan State and road trips to Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin right out of the gates. A strong, top-40 caliber team might only go 7-5 without some bounces. But with a bounce or two and another road upset, a healthy Maryland team could threaten to reach 9-3. There is quite a bit of opportunity here, but now would not be a good time for another swath or injuries or any other causes for regression.

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