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1. Survive and advance
Randy Edsall inherited a program that had gone 9-4 the year before he arrived, and he proceeded to go 6-18 in his first two years. His roster suffered serious attrition, and he took some justifiable PR hits in the process.
For two years now, we've been attempting to anticipate the death knell. Every win is viewed as fending off the grim reaper; every loss is met with affirmation.
But in anticipating death, we have ignored signs of life.
Edsall's first 12 months were a disaster in just about every way. His first Terps squad looked good against Miami and West Virginia and got whipped by Temple and Wake Forest in a mortifying 2-10 campaign. Then the offseason came, and "20-odd transfers" left the program.
His second team suffered so many injuries that a true freshman linebacker ended up playing quarterback, handing to a freshman running back, and throwing to a freshman receiver; despite improving to 4-8, the product on the field was, in a relatively forgivable way, even worse.
But from ashes came a reasonably sturdy foundation. From 4-8 and 100th in the F/+ rankings, Maryland improved to 7-6 and 77th. The Terps moved to the Big Ten and held steady despite a woeful home-field advantage, winning another seven games and improving to 62nd.
For the first time since 2002-03, Maryland has won at least seven games in back-to-back years. Edsall and his staff have recruited at a top-40 level over the previous two seasons and just scored a "potential program-changing commitment" for 2016 that probably gives Edsall more slack when it comes to on-the-field results this fall.
Edsall is not safe; he's still going to show up on hot seat lists, and he's still 20-30 in four seasons. His team played four top-30 teams (in terms of F/+) and lost by an average score of 47-17. With a new quarterback, new(ish) receivers, new defensive coordinator, and new defensive alignment, he cannot afford to take much of a step backward.
But he's surviving. And with every year you don't get fired, you have another opportunity to get your house in order. Recruiting is hinting at a future, and all Edsall has to do is stay out of the way.
The 2015 season is about survival. There is either experience, upside, or both within every unit, and all six home games are against teams projected 35th or worse. Get to six or seven wins, continue to check names off of the dream recruiting list, and don't do anything that impacts a future that appears to be growing brighter.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 62|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|6-Sep||at South Florida||123||24-17||W||69%||11.4||91%|
|1-Nov||at Penn State||45||20-19||W||76%||16.4||83%|
|Points Per Game||28.5||68||30.2||89|
2. You see what you want to see
I have enjoyed the addition of the percentile chart to this year's preview series, as it can affirm or refute what you were thinking about how a team plays from month to month or against certain levels of competition. We all took standardized tests, so we're all familiar with the percentiles concept.
Sometimes, however, it can offer too many viewpoints to be helpful. With 12 to 15 games, trend-spotting is going to be a dicey proposition regardless -- this data is more effectively used to ask questions than provide answers -- and Maryland offered up all sorts of trends.
For instance, if you wanted to craft a "started strong, then faded" narrative, you've got ammo.
- Average Percentile Performance (first 5 games): 77% (record: 4-1)
- Average Percentile Performance (last 8 games): 44% (record: 3-5)
The 61st percentile is approximately a top-50 level of play; after clearing that bar (sometimes by quite a bit) in each of the first five games, Maryland did so in only three of its final eight. Considering the injuries -- star receiver Stefon Diggs missed the final three games of the regular season, defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson and linebacker Cavon Walker were lost for the season after three games, cornerback Alvin Hill was lost after four -- it would make sense that Maryland played its best ball in September.
But there's also this:
- Average Percentile Performance (at home): 54% (record: 2-4)
- Average Percentile Performance (on the road): 66% (record: 5-1)
- Average Percentile Performance (vs. F/+ top 40): 29% (record: 0-5)
- Average Percentile Performance (vs. No. 41-80): 69% (record: 4-0)
- Average Percentile Performance (vs. No. 81-plus): 79% (record: 3-1)
Whatever trend you're looking for, you've got it. Knowing about Maryland's injuries, its playing style, and its home field, all of these things make a certain amount of sense. But they could all be true, or they could all be a product of noise. Your choice.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.5%||102||Succ. Rt. +||104.6||52|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||31.4||95||Def. FP+||99.0||77|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.8||33||Redzone S&P+||109.4||41|
|Q1 Rk||64||1st Down Rk||64|
|Q2 Rk||26||2nd Down Rk||24|
|Q3 Rk||63||3rd Down Rk||87|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Caleb Rowe||6'3, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8475||34||54||489||5||4||63.0%||1||1.8%||8.8|
|Perry Hills||6'2, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8540||5||10||86||1||0||50.0%||0||0.0%||8.6|
|Shane Cockerille||6'2, 222||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8659|
|6'2, 205||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8109||152||277||2041||12||12||54.9%||31||10.1%||6.2|
|Gage Shaffer||6'7, 205||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8414|
3. A pass-first offense that didn't pass very well
Mike Locksley is one hell of a recruiter. That much we know. He brought more star recruits to New Mexico than anybody could have been expected to do, and he's the most well-regarded recruiter on Edsall's staff.
We still don't know much about him as a coach. He was Illinois' offensive coordinator from 2005-08 and got blue-chip talent like Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn onto the field, and he did manage to get the Illini into the Off. S&P+ top 30 twice. And in his third year as Maryland's O.C. in 2014, with the closest thing yet to a healthy offense, he got the Terps from 100th to 68th in the same category.
You can debate whether the ratings are good enough, but there's potential competence. (We won't talk about his actual performance as New Mexico's head coach, other than mentioning that, in terms of F/+ ratings, his 2011 UNM squad was the worst FBS team of the last 10 years.)
If the talent level is high enough, you don't need to be the world's greatest tactician. And it appears there is talent despite the loss of receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. He's got a former four-star at running back, three wideouts who averaged at least 8 yards per target in their latest seasons, four former four-stars in the receiving corps, three former four- or five-stars and three two-year starters on the line ... he's got intriguing personnel.
Now does he have a quarterback? C.J. Brown was a bit of a square peg in a round hole the last couple of years, a run-first quarterback in a pass-first offense, but he was still dangerous. He almost single-handedly made Maryland's run game efficient, and he was handling the offense pretty well until a back injury.
- First 5 games: 57% completion rate, 13.6 yards per completion, 2.3% INT rate
- Next 5 games: 49% completion rate, 9.8 yards per completion, 4.0% INT rate
His injuries did give us a few looks at young quarterbacks like Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills through the years, and both showed reasonable levels of promise. Rowe has twice torn his ACL and missed spring ball because of a tear last October (he's a medical redshirt candidate, so while he's listed as a senior, he could have two years left); he's also got some gunslinger tendencies, aiming downfield with positive (14.5 yards per completion in parts of three years) and negative (4.4 percent INT rate) effects. He seems to have more of the pro-style feel, but that doesn't automatically make him an upgrade.
And if/when he gets hurt again, we know that the backup will have either some semblance of experience (Hills or recent Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman) or upside (athletic Shane Cockerille).
If Rowe is able to stay on the field and shows reasonable command of an offense suited to his skills, Maryland might be able to avoid drop-off. That's definitely an if, but it's not unrealistic.
|Wes Brown||RB||6'0, 210||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9374||103||356||6||3.5||3.0||30.1%||2||1|
|Brandon Ross||RB||5'10, 210||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||85||419||4||4.9||5.6||37.6%||5||3|
|Kenneth Goins Jr.||FB||5'9, 230||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8471||14||62||0||4.4||5.6||28.6%||0||0|
|Caleb Rowe||QB||6'3, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8475||12||9||0||0.8||3.1||8.3%||1||0|
|Joe Riddle||RB||6'1, 210||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8019|
|Ty Johnson||RB||5'10, 173||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8569|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Levern Jacobs (2013)||WR||5'11, 180||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8089||71||46||640||64.8%||18.2%||54.4%||9.0||85||9.5||88.7|
|Marcus Leak||WR||6'0, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8425||37||20||297||54.1%||9.5%||56.8%||8.0||47||8.1||41.1|
|Amba Etta-Tawo||WR||6'1, 200||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8256||25||10||222||40.0%||6.4%||28.0%||8.9||87||8.1||30.7|
|Brandon Ross||RB||5'10, 210||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||23||14||212||60.9%||5.9%||56.5%||9.2||41||9.2||29.4|
|Wes Brown||RB||6'0, 210||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9374||23||21||198||91.3%||5.9%||43.5%||8.6||-42||7.9||27.4|
|Juwann Winfree||WR||6'2, 195||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9010||14||11||158||78.6%||3.6%||42.9%||11.3||30||9.8||21.9|
|Kenneth Goins Jr.||FB||5'9, 230||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8471||12||7||54||58.3%||3.1%||91.7%||4.5||-32||2.8||7.5|
|Derrick Hayward||TE||6'5, 235||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8458||9||2||25||22.2%||2.3%||55.6%||2.8||-8||2.6||3.5|
|Andrew Isaacs||TE||6'2, 240||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8621||4||2||3||50.0%||1.0%||75.0%||0.8||-22||0.6||0.4|
|P.J. Gallo||TE||6'3, 250||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8614||3||2||13||66.7%||0.8%||33.3%||4.3||-11||3.5||1.8|
|Malcolm Culmer||WR||6'0, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8207||3||1||5||33.3%||0.8%||33.3%||1.7||-9||1.1||0.7|
|DeAndre Lane||WR||5'8, 180||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7820|
|Taivon Jacobs||WR||5'10, 165||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8444|
|Will Ulmer||WR||6'0, 194||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8747|
|D.J. Moore||WR||5'10, 185||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8872|
4. Still plenty of options
If the quarterback situation is at least stable -- Maryland reminds us each year that you might need more than one -- there does appear to be plenty of upside at the skill positions. Losing Diggs and Long is in no way a good thing, but the two combined to suffer three significant injuries in the last two years; as with quarterback and just about every other position, injuries have created depth at receiver.
If Levern Jacobs returns to his 2013 form after missing 2014 because of suspension, and if someone like Amba Etta-Tawo is able to generate consistency, the receiving corps should still be at least middle-of-the-pack in the Big Ten. And if young former star recruits like Juwann Winfree, tight end Andrew Isaacs, and perhaps redshirt freshman Taivon Jacobs or incoming freshman D.J. Moore can provide at decent second-string options, the depth could make even a mediocre quarterback look pretty good. [Update: Winfree was suspended, then transferred.]
Running back has less certainty. Yes, Wes Brown is a former four-star, but he has yet to live up to that rating, and while Brandon Ross was explosive, he fumbled five times.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Michael Dunn||RT||6'5, 306||Jr.||NR||NR||26|
|Ryan Doyle||RT||6'4, 307||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8257||23|
|Andrew Zeller||RG||6'5, 315||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8257||20|
|Evan Mulrooney||C||6'4, 299||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8252||0|
|Stephen Grommer||C||6'5, 306||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8172||0|
|Mike Minter||RG||6'3, 310||So.||NR||NR||0|
|JaJuan Dulaney||OL||6'3, 295||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8432||0|
|Damian Prince||RT||6'3, 325||RSFr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9858|
|Derwin Gray||LT||6'5, 315||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9250|
|Brendan Moore||C||6'3, 292||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8210|
|Quarvez Boulware||OL||6'2, 280||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9039|
|EJ Donahue||OL||6'5, 320||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8867|
|Ellis McKennie||OL||6'3, 305||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8358|
5. Take your pick: experience or upside
When blue-chip quarterback Dwayne Haskins committed earlier in May, Testudo Times wrote about the foundation Maryland is putting in place. Blue-chip linemen are a big part.
Damian Prince, Derwin Gray, and Quarvez Boulware were all big-time recruits; Prince, in fact, was among the top 20 or 30 players of 2014. But all three are either true or redshirt freshmen, and the Maryland depth chart could also feature up to four seniors and a junior with far greater experience and not nearly the upside. Obviously you play for the present tense, but the mix between the guys with higher floors and the ones with higher ceilings is interesting, especially when the experienced players didn't blow anybody away last year.
Maryland's line stats were damaged by facing one of the tougher slates of defensive lines in the country -- Ohio State, Stanford, Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan -- but the Terps still got no push in short-yardage and couldn't protect a hard-to-protect quarterback (mobile QBs usually end up with higher sack rates). One hopes Prince will start at the very least.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||40.1%||53||Succ. Rt. +||104.8||47|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||31.5||33||Off. FP+||102.0||38|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.2||43||Redzone S&P+||103.9||48|
|Q1 Rk||47||1st Down Rk||58|
|Q2 Rk||65||2nd Down Rk||54|
|Q3 Rk||80||3rd Down Rk||44|
6. A change might (or might not) do you good
In 2014, Maryland had the best Def. S&P+ rating of the Edsall era. The Terps had improved each year, from 75th to 50th to 47th to 42nd; they had plenty of issues in run defense but played efficient pass defense, harassed the quarterback on passing downs, and played pretty well in scoring opportunities. This wasn't a breakthrough season as much as the culmination.
In 2015, the Terps start over. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart left to become part of Mike Riley's staff at Nebraska, and Maryland must replace almost all of its defensive ends and linebackers.
Linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski has moved to the coordinator chair, and he and Edsall elected to move to more of a 4-3 alignment. Hey, if you're going to make a change, you might as well do it when you're already facing turnover.
The front seven probably isn't going to be any worse against the run, but a good pass rush was part of Maryland's strong pass defense, and losing 10-sack Andre Monroe isn't great. Still, with players like Yannick Ngakou and Roman Braglio (combined: 8.5 sacks), the pass rush has a chance, and if the secondary gets any help from the front seven, it could be fantastic.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Yannick Ngakoue||DE||6'2, 250||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8933||13||31.0||3.8%||13.5||6.0||0||2||1||0|
|Roman Braglio||DE||6'3, 267||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8485||13||9.5||1.2%||2.5||2.5||0||0||0||0|
|Jesse Aniebonam||DE||6'4, 248||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9404||13||9.5||1.2%||1.0||0.5||0||1||0||0|
|Quinton Jefferson||DT||6'3, 287||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8479||3||6.0||0.7%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|David Shaw||DT||6'4, 308||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7984||7||2.5||0.3%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Azubuike Ukandu||DT||6'0, 306||Jr.||NR||NR||2||2.0||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kingsley Opara||DT||6'4, 308||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8417|
|Malik Jones||DT||6'4, 269||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8126|
|Chandler Burkett||DE||6'4, 237||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8058|
|Adam McLean||DT||6'3, 280||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9419|
|Keiron Howard||DT||6'4, 280||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8472|
|Oseh Saine||DT||6'3, 280||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8229|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jermaine Carter, Jr.||ILB||6'0, 240||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8185||13||22.5||2.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||2||0|
|Jalen Brooks||OLB||6'2, 234||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8156||12||16.5||2.0%||0.0||0.0||0||2||0||0|
|Cavon Walker||OLB||6'2, 254||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8209||2||5.5||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Avery Thompson||OLB||6'3, 230||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7998||13||4.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Abner Logan||OLB||6'1, 240||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8923||7||4.0||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jefferson Ashiru||OLB||6'2, 230||Sr.||4 stars (5.6)||0.8160||9||47||3.5||0.5||1||0||0||0|
|Brock Dean||ILB||6'0, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8188|
|Tyler Burke||ILB||6'3, 247||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8363|
|Gus Little||ILB||6'3, 225||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8489|
|Brett Zanotto||ILB||6'0, 210||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8407|
7. Wholesale turnover
When you're talking about a team in the offseason, you're talking about who it lost or who it returns. Most of the time, those two create the same story line. But sometimes they don't.
Maryland loses its quarterback, two star receivers, a three-year starting center, and almost its entire front seven. Bad!
Maryland returns two quarterbacks with starting experience, its top two rushers, its No. 1 and No. 3 receivers from 2013, three two-year starting offensive linemen, a prolific junior end, three linebackers who were (when healthy) part of last year's rotation, and most of an awesome secondary. Good!
It takes spin to create optimism for the front seven, but end does appear well-stocked with Yannick Ngakoue and other high-upside underclassmen, and between junior Cavon Walker and sophomores Jermaine Carter Jr. and Jalen Brooks, the linebacking corps does have three guys who were contributors. It could be worse.
It could also be better. Those listed as defensive tackles made a combined 10.5 tackles last year, and star recruit Adam McLean is recovering from a knee injury. Granted, the knee injury is to Maryland what the two-year mission is to BYU -- you know it's going to happen, and just hope the player doesn't get too far out of shape -- and getting it out of the way early was prescient on McLean's part. But he could have been useful this year.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Sean Davis||CB||6'1, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8492||13||97.5||11.9%||4||1||0||8||1||0|
|William Likely||CB||5'7, 175||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8856||13||74.5||9.1%||4||1||6||9||1||0|
|Anthony Nixon||S||6'0, 205||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8342||13||49.5||6.0%||0.5||0.5||1||4||0||0|
|A.J. Hendy (2013)||S||6'1, 207||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9225||13||26.0||3.3%||1||0||1||2||0||0|
|Alvin Hill||CB||6'0, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8125||4||10.5||1.3%||0||0||1||3||0||0|
|Jarrett Ross||CB||5'9, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8382||12||9.5||1.2%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|Josh Woods||CB||6'1, 196||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8495|
|Elvis Dennah||S||6'2, 210||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7923|
|Milan Collins||DB||6'0, 205||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8354|
|Daniel Ezeagwu||CB||6'0, 200||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8320|
|Denzel Conyers||DB||6'2, 216||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8430|
|Darnell Savage, Jr.||CB||5'11, 160||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8435|
8. No worries about the secondary
If that means a solid pass rush, the secondary will cruise.
Corner William Likely has been one of the country's best aggressive corners over the last two years, recording 8.5 tackles for loss, seven picks, and 15 break-ups for his career. Safety Sean Davis moves to corner, and Alvin Hill was putting together a solid 2014 campaign before he got hurt. Seniors Anthony Nixon and A.J. Hendy (who missed 2014 because of suspension) provide experience at safety, too.
This unit could be an issue in 2016, but it will be a serious strength in 2015. If the front seven is competent, the secondary could head up another top-50 defense.
|Brad Craddock||6'0, 189||Sr.||75||62.5||29||1||38.7%|
|Brad Craddock||6'0, 189||Sr.||44-44||7-7||100.0%||11-12||91.7%|
|William Likely||KR||5'7, 175||Jr.||16||31.0||1|
|William Likely||PR||5'7, 175||Jr.||19||11.1||1|
|Special Teams F/+||7|
|Field Goal Efficiency||1|
|Punt Return Efficiency||4|
|Kick Return Efficiency||44|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||101|
9. Special teams should be a strength again
Brad Craddock (place-kicking) and Likely (returns) were so good last year that Maryland finished seventh in special teams efficiency despite a shaky coverage unit. Craddock was asked to take a ton of long field goals and made almost every one of them, and Likely was even better in returns than Stefon Diggs. That these two return means the Terps will be good in special teams again.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|26-Sep||at West Virginia||40|
|10-Oct||at Ohio State||2|
|14-Nov||at Michigan State||9|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-6.8% (74)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||36 / 43|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||0 / 4.3|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||-1.7|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||11 (6, 5)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||7.2 (-0.2)|
10. Another minor bowl and excitement on the horizon
Your view of Maryland really does depend on whether you focus on departures or returns. The Terps are full of both.
If the quarterback position never settles (or stays healthy), and if the run defense actually gets worse, Maryland could struggle, and with only two of five road games coming against teams projected worse than 40th and only five total games against teams projected worse than 60th, a Maryland team that regresses could struggle to hit more than about 5-7 or 6-6.
But this season is only so much about this season.
Maryland's recruiting is improving, and the Terps could return between 14 and 17 starters in 2016 while welcoming their best signing class yet. Randy Edsall has been through some self-inflicted hell in his four years in College Park, but if he can simply tread water in 2015, the future is beginning to look awfully bright.