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Maryland Terrapins Football Preview: A look at the 2016 offense

With D.J. Durkin taking over for Randy Edsall as the Maryland Terrapins head coach there was bound to be change. That change certainly comes on offense, as gone is Mike Locksley and his…well, what can you really call it, offensive scheme.

In its place is a much more high-powered spread option attack under young but inspired offensive coordinator Walt Bell. His offenses at Arkansas State were amongst the most high-powered in the country.

Translating that to the Big Ten level will be interesting, as well will be finding the right blend of his philosophies and the talent he has on hand. Will there be enough for Bell to turn around what was one of the worst offensive performances from any Big Ten team in a very long time?

Let’s take a look at the Terps offense for 2016.

 

Quarterback

Many teams go as the quarterbacks go, and that certainly was the case in 2015 as both Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe struggled badly in the throwing department. The two combined to throw for more interceptions than touchdowns and did so separately as well. Not exactly a good look to say the least.

Both are back and looking to improve upon things in 2016, but with Bell’s system in place and far less running required from the quarterback there is plenty of change happening within the Terps quarterback room.

The leader after the spring was Hills, but it wasn’t by much and both demonstrated they had plenty of work to get done. It appeared as if Hills’ work in the offseason with former NFL QB Gus Ferrotte had paid off though.

Rowe didn’t do himself any damage at all this spring and arguably has the better arm to fit in to the system Bell is installing, but needs to do better in the decision-making area of the game.

Don’t be surprised to see some intrigue behind Tyrrell Pigrome, a 3-star athlete out of Alabama that will play quarterback at Maryland. He’ll be behind in terms of the playbook, but can the Terps pass up on his skill set if he can grasp the offense quickly enough?

It is anyone’s guess as to how this all plays out in camp, but there simply can’t be a repeat of last year at quarterback or this team is in some serious trouble.

Running Back

No doubt about it, Maryland’s run game was its saving grace in 2015, as the Terps ranked as the fourth most improved rushing offense in the country from 2014 to last season. However, the biggest reason for that, running back Brandon Ross, went and graduated.

That leaves returning quarterback Perry Hills as the leading returning rusher off the 2015 team. However, much of that won’t matter with the new offense in play and its changing look. Gone will be the power run game out of the spread and in is a more nimble approach to the run game.

Wes Brown will be back for his senior season after rushing for 317 yards and three touchdowns.

The more intriguing prospect is Ty Johnson, who averaged a whopping 7.1 yards per carry on just 35 carries for the season. He did bust loose for three touchdowns and after the spring appeared to be the one that fits best in the backfield of Bell’s offense.

Johnson appears to be the answer, but he can’t do it alone and there’s plenty of time for Va Tech transfer Trey Edmunds to get himself back in the mix as well. All told, this team appears to have the rushing attack needed to really help keep opposing defenses guessing.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

As the offense transitions, it is a good time to be a wide receiver on the Terps roster. It also helps the transition that this group is pretty good and pretty deep as well. Just don’t look at the stats, because there’s more to this group than the poor numbers of 2015. It had way more to do with those throwing the ball than those catching it.

That said, look to junior Taivon Jacobs to become a star in this new style of offense. We saw it happen all spring long and it bore out in the spring game as well. However, the real star in this group is sophomore D.J. Moore, who can flat-out burn. In an offense like that of Walt Bell that is a tool he can really use.

Maryland also has deep threats in seniors Malcolm Culmer and Lavern Jacobs, the latter of which led the team in receptions last season and is sitting on the second team heading out of spring ball. That’s how loaded this group could be.

Don’t be surprised to see a major jump in the number of big plays put up by this group in the new offensive scheme and to see their talents finally used to the best of their abilities for a change.

As for tight end, Avery Edwards could be a very useful tool but may not be as involved as in the previous offense depending on Bell’s decision on use of the position in his offense in general.

Offensive Line

One of the biggest reasons for the jump in the run game last season was a much improved talent pool to work with at offensive line. Credit Edsall for identifying and finding a way to solve the long-term problem up front.

That talent and most importantly, the development up front in the run game was on display in a big way during the spring. Unfortunately, this group also displayed some big time issues in the pass protection area — the same concern as the team entered 2015. This group gave up 12 sacks alone in the spring game for reference.

Some of that can be attributed to three new starters and a whole lot of youth and change happening within the group. However, the pieces are there for experience to finally kick in and leading the charge is redshirt sophomore Damian Prince at right tackle. He is one of the most highly touted offensive linemen to come to Maryland in some time and expecting him to bust out as a star is not out of the question. After all, he started all of last season and is one of the most experienced linemen the Terps have in 2016.

Lining up next tim on the right side is likely to a big question, as senior Maurice Shelton and redshirt sophomore Will McClain are battling it out.

The theme of redshirt sophomores taking over should be evident by now, but the center of this group is going to be another of them in Brendan Moore.

Giving this group some experience and less youth will be the left side of the line as junior Mike Minter is set to start at left guard and senior Michael Dunn is a likely starter at left tackle.

 

Our Projected Starters

WR: Taivon Jacobs, Jr.
WR: D.J. Moore, So.
WR: Malcolm Culmer, Sr.
LT: Michael Dunn, Sr.
LG: Mike Minter, Jr.
C: Brendan Moore, So.
RG: Will McClain, So.
RT: Damian Prince, So.
TE: Avery Edwards, So.
QB: Perry Hills, Sr.
RB: Ty Johnson, So.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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