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1. A clean karmic slate
As Iowa fans (running backs), as Missouri fans (offensive line), etc., we can complain about our teams' bad injury luck. And to be sure, injuries, either of the "that's the one guy we couldn't afford to lose" variety or sheer volume of losses (especially to one position unit), derail the hopes of quite a few college football teams in a given year.
It's one of the maddening parts of the projections process, really: You know that no matter how many ways you find to make your numbers as accurate as humanly possible, a certain number of teams in a given year are going to get knee-capped.
That said, for all the fanbases complaining about how roster damage screwed their teams last year ... only Maryland was starting a true freshman linebacker at quarterback last year. Maryland wins first prize. Let's recap the carnage for posterity. It was amazing.
- Danny O'Brien, once the conference's freshman of the year, transferred to Wisconsin in the offseason.
- Assumed starter C.J. Brown tore his ACL in mid-August.
- Freshman Perry Hills tore his ACL in mid-October.
- Sophomore Devin Burns injured his foot in the same game and was lost for the season.
- Freshman Caleb Rowe tore his ACL the next week.
- Freshman linebacker Shawn Petty then had his redshirt torn off for the ninth game of the year against Georgia Tech. His backup was a freshman tight end.
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.
2. They improved
Granted, the improvement was slight (from 92nd in the F/+ rankings to 86th). And granted, that the Terrapins improved might say more about the awful 2011 team than it does the 2012 team. But with (almost literally) no quarterback and freshmen and sophomores as far as the eye could see, Maryland improved dramatically on defense and doubled its win total, from two in 2011 to four in 2012.
The timing is still a little bit off. The defense that improved so much last year could suffer with the loss of a few key seniors. But despite the on-field product, Edsall has recruited at a top-50 level, he has a bona fide star in receiver Stefon Diggs (and he may have found Diggs a partner this year), and a team that is infinitely more experienced overall in 2013 will be even more experienced in 2014. Somehow, the future is actually rather bright for a team that has won four or fewer games in three of the last four seasons.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 86|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||William & Mary||7-6||W||13.1 - 21.1||L|
|8-Sep||at Temple||36-27||W||17.3 - 21.2||L|
|15-Sep||Connecticut||21-24||L||19.3 - 23.9||L|
|22-Sep||at West Virginia||21-31||L||21.5 - 20.0||W|
|6-Oct||Wake Forest||19-14||W||10.2 - 20.7||L|
|13-Oct||at Virginia||27-20||W||16.3 - 23.6||L|
|20-Oct||N.C. State||18-20||L||31.2 - 22.8||W|
|27-Oct||at Boston College||17-20||L||16.9 - 23.5||L|
|3-Nov||Georgia Tech||13-33||L||19.1 - 36.3||L|
|10-Nov||at Clemson||10-45||L||11.3 - 28.5||L|
|17-Nov||Florida State||14-41||L||23.4 - 27.0||L|
|24-Nov||at North Carolina||38-45||L||32.2 - 31.1||W|
|Points Per Game||20.1||109||27.2||56|
|Adj. Points Per Game||19.3||120||25.0||38|
3. But on the bright side, the offense never had a chance anyway
If you're going to suffer two decades' worth of quarterback injuries, you might as well do it when your offense is going to stink regardless. And if you're going to suffer a decent amount of turnovers luck, you might as well do it when your team hasn't yet put the pieces together.
Even without the quarterback situation, Maryland's offense was going to feature far too many freshmen and sophomores to have much of a ceiling. And one can almost find encouragement in the fact that, even as quarterbacks were falling left and right, the Terps' offense improved over the second half of the year. Granted, it went from amazingly bad to just bad, but that's still improvement.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 6 games): Opponent 21.8, Maryland 16.3 (minus-5.5)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 6 games): Opponent 28.2, Maryland 22.4 (minus-5.8)
In all, Maryland actually came within sniffing distance of bowl eligibility. While three of their wins were by a touchdown or less, four of their losses were, too. A bowl game would have been an incredible reward for a team that persevered with a 10-man offense, but winning four games and simply fielding a team (and almost winning at North Carolina in the finale) was enough of a sign that, through everything, Maryland might have begun to point in the right direction.
|Q1 Rk||124||1st Down Rk||121|
|Q2 Rk||117||2nd Down Rk||114|
|Q3 Rk||117||3rd Down Rk||96|
4. Let's just not even look at these stats
We learned almost nothing about what the Maryland offense is supposed to be last year. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley prepared in the 2012 offseason for life with a quality run-pass threat at quarterback in Brown. Hills tried to run but wasn't very good at it. Rowe showed potential as a passer with decent mobility, but his stay wasn't long. And Devin Burns was run-first and run-second but his stay was even shorter. And for the final month of the season, Maryland basically attempted to avoid passing whenever possible.
In all, looking at the stats above without knowing any of the context, you might actually react with, "Damn, it's like they had a linebacker playing quarterback or something." So let's just move on.
With Brown once again the presumptive starter (KNOCK ON WOOD), here's what we know about the Maryland offense at this point:
A. There will be zone reads. Locksley has long been a fan of the run, and most of the QBs on the roster are indeed potential dual-threat guys. At least, they were with healthy knees. And despite Wes Brown's yearlong suspension following a summer arrest, the backfield is still a bit interesting, primarily because of the presence of sophomore Brandon Ross, who showed quality explosiveness at times last season. If the line improves at all -- not a given -- the run game could bounce back nicely, if only by default.
B. Maryland might have the best pair of receivers in the conference. They will also need some touches, through either jet sweeps, quick passes, or play-action.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Perry Hills||6'2, 215||So.||*** (5.5)||97||169||1,336||57.4%||8||7||24||12.4%||6.0|
|C.J. Brown (2011)||6'3, 210||Sr.||*** (5.6)||82||166||842||49.4%||7||6||8||4.6%||4.5|
|Shawn Petty||6'1, 235||So.||** (5.3)||39||84||500||46.4%||6||2||12||12.5%||4.1|
|Caleb Rowe||6'3, 210||So.||*** (5.6)||25||44||290||56.8%||2||3||1||2.2%||6.3|
|Ricardo Young||6'0, 195||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Shane Cockerille||6'2, 205||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Wes Brown||RB||6'0, 210||So.||**** (5.8)||90||382||4.2||3.3||2||-6.0|
|Brandon Ross||RB||5'10, 210||So.||** (5.3)||85||390||4.6||5.7||1||-3.5|
|Perry Hills||QB||6'2, 215||So.||*** (5.5)||46||157||3.4||1.7||3||-5.6|
|Shawn Petty||QB||6'1, 235||So.||** (5.3)||46||118||2.6||1.8||1||-10.9|
|Albert Reid||RB||5'9, 205||So.||*** (5.6)||36||92||2.6||3.2||0||-11.1|
|Stefon Diggs||WR||6'0, 195||So.||***** (6.1)||20||114||5.7||4.1||0||+2.8|
|Caleb Rowe||QB||6'3, 210||So.||*** (5.6)||10||42||4.2||2.1||0||-1.2|
|Joe Riddle||RB||6'0, 200||RSFr.||** (5.4)|
|Stefon Diggs||WR||6'0, 195||So.||***** (6.1)||80||54||848||67.5%||10.6||28.7%||57.5%||10.6||97.6|
(2011 New Mexico)
|WR||6'0, 190||Jr.||***** (6.1)||74||47||809||63.5%||10.9||22.1%||63.5%||N/A||N/A|
|Nigel King||WR||6'3, 210||So.||*** (5.7)||18||9||125||50.0%||6.9||6.5%||55.6%||7.0||14.4|
|Levern Jacobs||WR||5'11, 185||So.||*** (5.5)||9||7||50||77.8%||5.6||3.2%||44.4%||5.3||5.8|
|Tyrek Cheeseboro||WR||5'11, 195||So.||*** (5.7)|
|Dave Stinebaugh||TE||6'3, 250||Sr.||*** (5.6)|
|Malcolm Culmer||WR||5'11, 190||So.||** (5.4)|
|Daniel Adams||WR||6'2, 215||So.||*** (5.7)|
|Amba Etta||WR||6'1, 190||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|P.J. Gallo||TE||6'2, 250||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Andrew Isaacs||TE||6'3, 230||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Taivon Jacobs||WR||5'11, 165||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
5. Stumbling into the league's best 1-2 punch
It seems like a match made in heaven, really. First, you've got Stefon Diggs, the blue-chipper who stayed close to home and, in spite of all the general awfulness around him, thrived as a true freshman.
With Marcus Leak also lost with injury, the second-most targets went to Kevin Dorsey and his brutal 34 percent catch rate. Tight end Matt Furstenburg contributed 42 percent. In all, the Maryland quarterback carcasses combined to complete 50 percent of their passes to players not named Stefon Diggs … and Diggs still managed a 68 percent catch rate and averaged a robust 15.7 yards per catch. (He threw in 114 rushing yards to boot and may have been the best quarterback on the roster in November; only, sacrificing him to the angry quarterback-hating gods would have been an awful idea, and Edsall wisely chose against it.) Considering the degree of difficulty, Diggs very well may have been one of the two or three most impressive receivers in the country last year. With a healthy quarterback (and only one of them), there's no telling what he might be able to accomplish. And with a five-star junior lining up opposite him, the sky's the limit.
If there's one thing Deon Long knows, it's how to thrive on an awful offense. Locksley's New Mexico teams were horrendous, but Long still produced in 2011; his 10.9 yards per target even topped Diggs' 10.6 last year. (As a frame of reference, anything over 9.0, really, is quite good. Diggs and Long are both former five-star recruits, and they both have yet to play with a healthy, solid supporting cast. If the backfield is solid, these two guys could be amazing.
(We'll just end the receivers conversation there, as Maryland might not actually have a third one. If healthy, Diggs and Long could combine for something ridiculous, like two-thirds of Maryland's targets. And that might be a great thing. If they stay healthy. If they stay healthy. If they stay healthy.)
(Okay, fine, Nigel King might be worth watching as the No. 3 guy. But Diggs and Long are still going to combine for a ridiculous target rate.)
|Bennett Fulper||LG||31 career starts|
|Justin Gilbert||RT||18 career starts|
|Josh Cary||LG||12 career starts|
|De'Onte Arnett||LG||6'4, 295||Sr.||**** (5.9)||11 career starts|
|Mike Madaras||LT||6'5, 295||So.||*** (5.7)||8 career starts|
|Sal Conaboy||C||6'3, 290||Jr.||*** (5.7)||8 career starts|
|Evan Mulrooney||C||6'4, 295||Jr.||** (5.4)||6 career starts|
|Nick Klemm||RT||6'5, 305||Sr.||** (5.2)||4 career starts|
|Andrew Zeller||RG||6'4, 300||So.||*** (5.5)||2 career starts|
|Ryan Doyle||LT||6'4, 300||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Silvano Altamirano||LG||6'2, 290||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Jake Wheeler||RT||6'7, 300||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Maurice Shelton||RG||6'3, 290||RSFr.||NR|
|Michael Dunn||RT||6'5, 295||RSFr.||NR|
6. The line must improve
We probably didn't actually learn much about the Maryland line in 2012. On runs, it was blocking for freshmen and one-legged quarterbacks. On passes, it was blocking for linebackers. The Alabama line would have struggled to produce meaningful numbers with this set of skill position players last year.
Still ... the line stats above are really terrible. Awful. And some of that has to have been on the line, one that must now replace its three most experienced starters. Former four-star signee De'Onte Arnett and some sophomores and juniors will certainly see improved stats just because of the players around them; but despite the excitement about players like Diggs and Long, the line could derail any hopes for major progress.
|Q1 Rk||47||1st Down Rk||26|
|Q2 Rk||32||2nd Down Rk||49|
|Q3 Rk||78||3rd Down Rk||61|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Darius Kilgo||NT||6'3, 310||Jr.||*** (5.5)||12||31.5||4.8%||5||1.5||0||1||1||1|
|Andre Monroe (2011)||DE||5'11, 280||Jr.||** (5.4)||9||12.5||1.6%||7.5||5||0||0||0||0|
|Quinton Jefferson||DE||6'3, 275||So.||*** (5.5)||10||9.5||1.4%||0.5||0||0||0||1||2|
|Keith Bowers||DE||6'1, 275||Jr.||*** (5.5)||9||8.0||1.2%||2||1||0||1||0||0|
|Nate Clarke||NT||6'3, 300||So.||**** (5.8)|
|Alex Walker||NT||5'11, 290||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Roman Braglio||DE||6'2, 260||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Ty Tucker||DE||6'2, 265||RSFr.||** (5.3)|
7. Poor timing
A switch to Brian Stewart's attacking 3-4 defense paid off instantly for a Maryland defense that had quite a bit of experience in the front seven. Injuries slowed the progress down (of course they did), as did the simple fact that the D knew it was going to get no help from the O, but in players like Joe Vellano (one of the more under-appreciated players in the country), Darius Kligo, Darin Drakeford and Kenny Tate, Maryland had some personnel perfectly suited for new positions in a 3-4 structure.
Unfortunately, Vellano, Drakeford, and Tate are all gone. Last year's defense with this year's offense could have made one hell of a combination -- one that could definitely have gotten Maryland to a bowl game -- but while the offense looks to take a step forward, the defense might give away those gains.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Cole Farrand||ILB||6'3, 245||Jr.||** (5.4)||12||62.5||9.5%||6||0||0||3||3||1|
|L.A. Goree||ILB||6'2, 240||Jr.||*** (5.7)||8||39.5||6.0%||3||0||0||1||1||0|
|Matt Robinson||OLB||6'3, 240||Jr.||*** (5.5)||5||23.5||3.6%||1||0||1||1||1||0|
|Alex Twine||OLB||6'0, 235||Jr.||** (5.4)||12||15.0||2.3%||2||0||0||1||0||0|
|Marcus Whitfield||OLB||6'3, 250||Sr.||*** (5.5)||12||8.5||1.3%||0.5||0.5||0||2||0||0|
|Bradley Johnson||ILB||6'1, 240||Sr.||*** (5.7)||7||4.0||0.6%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Avery Thompson||OLB||6'2, 220||So.||** (5.3)||10||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Shawn Petty||ILB||6'1, 235||So.||** (5.3)|
|Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil||OLB||6'2, 250||Jr.||NR|
|Abner Logan||ILB||6'1, 235||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Brock Dean||ILB||6'0, 220||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|Yannick Ngakoue||LB||6'3, 240||Fr.||**** (5.9)|
8. Rebuilding the pass rush
Now, this isn't an all-hope-is-lost situation. Kligo is back, and he'll get help from former four-star recruit Nate Clarke at nose. Andre Monroe returns and could provide a solid threat from the end position. And thanks in part to injuries, there are still seven linebackers with experience, including Cole Farrand, a solid run defender.
But recent recruiting will be tested; if interesting freshmen or redshirt freshmen like Roman Braglio, Abner Logan and Yannick Ngakoue can help Maryland continue to get pressure on the quarterback, then the rest of the front seven falls into place nicely. But only five Terps logged more than 1.5 sacks last year; all five are gone. They're starting from scratch in that regard.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Dexter McDougie||CB||5'10, 195||Sr.||*** (5.6)||12||64.5||9.8%||3||0||0||5||0||0|
|Jeremiah Johnson||CB||5'11, 190||Jr.||*** (5.6)||12||37.5||5.7%||5||1.5||0||8||1||0|
|Anthony Nixon||S||6'1, 205||So.||*** (5.5)||12||33.5||5.1%||0||0||1||3||0||2|
|Sean Davis||S||6'1, 190||So.||*** (5.5)||12||10.5||1.6%||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Isaac Goins||CB||5'11, 190||Sr.||** (5.4)||9||9.5||1.4%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|A.J. Hendy||S||6'0, 205||Jr.||*** (5.7)||8||3.5||0.5%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Alvin Hill||CB||5'11, 195||So.||*** (5.5)||6||1.0||0.2%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tony Perry||CB||5'7, 170||Sr.||NR||1||1.0||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Zach Dancel||S||6'0, 195||So.||** (5.1)|
|Undray Clark||S||5'9, 195||So.||*** (5.6)|
|William Likely||CB||5'7, 175||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Jarrett Ross||DB||5'11, 190||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Milan Collins||DB||6'1, 195||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
|Nathan Renfro||6'1, 205||So.||75||39.7||5||17||15||42.7%|
|Brad Craddock||6'0, 180||So.||1||23.0||0||0||0||0.0%|
|Brad Craddock||6'0, 180||So.||52||59.9||5||9.6%|
|Brad Craddock||6'0, 180||So.||23-25||6-10||60.0%||4-6||66.7%|
|Brendan Magistro||5'10, 180||So.||3-3||1-1||100.0%||0-0||N/A|
|Stefon Diggs||KR||6'0, 195||So.||25||28.5||2|
|Levern Jacobs||KR||5'11, 185||So.||6||17.0||0|
|Brandon Ross||KR||5'10, 210||So.||3||20.0||0|
|Stefon Diggs||PR||6'0, 195||So.||22||10.0||0|
|Special Teams F/+||61|
|Field Goal Pct||86|
|Kick Returns Avg||24|
|Punt Returns Avg||60|
9. A one-man special teams unit
Maryland was awful in punt coverage, awful in kickoff coverage, and below average in terms of field goal kicking. But the Terps ranked almost dead in the middle of FBS in Special Teams F/+ because of one guy: Stefon Diggs, who was decent as a punt returner and spectacular as a kick returner.
The punting and kicking could improve with experience (and with enough healthy bodies to actually put decent athletes on coverage units), but Diggs is still the one-man field position weapon. The 2013 season will be an interesting test of how much you can put on one 6'0, 195-pound frame. The addition of Deon Long will help, as will the sophomore running backs, but the more touches Diggs gets, in all aspects of the game, the better it is for Maryland ... right up until his body reaches its breaking point.
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|5-Oct||at Florida State||19|
|19-Oct||at Wake Forest||81|
|16-Nov||at Virginia Tech||23|
|30-Nov||at N.C. State||61|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||71|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||45|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-10 / -3.5|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||12 (7, 5)|
10. There are wins to be found
Let's pretend for a moment that the Maryland offense rebounds to around 60th in Off. F/+ this year, right around where it was in Ralph Friedgen's last season as head coach (2010). Diggs, Long, [Random Healthy QB], and company combine to overcome a shaky line and move the ball a bit.
And let's pretend that the three- and four-star newcomers to the defensive rotation are good enough to offset any major regression, and the Maryland defense also ranks right around 60th. Both of these assumptions are ambitious but not impossible.
A team ranked around 60th in the country could win around six to eight games against this schedule. And a team ranked around 70th or 80th could still manage five or six.
The Edsall era in College Park could not have gotten off to a worse start. The 2011 team saw a ton of transfers and a complete collapse on the field. The 2012 team saw some of the worst injury luck imaginable. But while there are still plenty of issues to be found, especially in the trenches, Edsall has put together an interesting, young two-deep, interesting enough that 6-8 wins is a realistic ambition and young enough that it will still be pretty young in 2014.
I'll conservatively set the bar at six wins for 2013, with the acknowledgement that injuries could quickly derail some thin units once again. But through all of last season's travails, Maryland showed some promise. And it could show more in 2013.
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