There are few programs in the Big Ten that like to be as bold as the Maryland Terrapins do. No other program outside of Nike’s play-thing called Oregon has the ability to be as bold as the Terps do. Such is the case when rival athletic apparel giant Under Armour has its founder amongst your alumni base.
Last season saw the all-red look for the Terps uniforms come in the mix. Meanwhile we’ve seen historical uniforms and the state flag proudly displayed on helmets for a few years now. But, when it comes to the team on the field, there haven’t been a lot of bold moments.
However, we’re all about focusing on the field in 2017 here. So, what do we see happening for the Terps? Well, we’ve got some bold predictions in store.
Maryland Will Lead the Big Ten in Rushing
Most people who follow the Big Ten are likely to name Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin atop the Big Ten rushing leader board from last season. Coming in fourth place? That would have been the Maryland Terrapins out of left field.
Can this group take it up another notch after just one year in Walt Bell’s offense? Personally, I think they have the most dangerous group of running backs in the conference this season and I’m boldly predicting that means the No. 1 rushing offense in the Big Ten.
This prediction is two-fold — partly because of the talent at the position and partly because the offense is going to need to lean on the run game again. The fact that Maryland enters the 2017 season with another unsettled situation at quarterback lends itself to leaning on the run game even more.
Having Ty Johnson, who led the nation in yards per carry (100 or more carries) last season, back is certainly a help to this idea. That average was 9.1 yards per carry and then there are two sophomores who provide some quality depth in Lorenzo Harrison II and Jake Funk. It all adds up to a team that is ready to make a big jump in the running game.
Kasim Hill Won’t Win Starting Job, But Will Play in 2017
When you listen to offensive coordinator Walt Bell, it is clear he hasn’t been overly impressed with the quarterbacks on the roster right now. Most are taking that to mean incoming freshman Kasim Hill has the inside track on being the starting quarterback right out of the gate.
While it could happen, I don’t think that is the ideal situation for everyone involved. In an ideal world, Hill would be able to sit for a year and learn the offense and get up to the speed of the college game. But, that scenario is going to depend on the play of Tyrrell Pigrome and Caleb Henderson.
Here’s how I see the quarterback situation playing out. Henderson will be named the starter for the opener against Texas and he’ll play in the first few weeks. However, the confidence won’t be there and the coaching staff is going to be forced to play Hill and let him take his lumps.
After all, what is better? A stagnant passing game for a second straight season or a boom or bust quarterback with a high ceiling? Ultimately, Henderson makes way for Hill before the coaching staff would like.
Will it add up to a more explosive offense today or will it mean a quarterback who takes his lumps and sets himself up for success in the next three years? I’m going with the latter, and that should be perfectly find with Bell and Co.
Maryland Will be in Top Half of Total Defense
Last season saw the Terps rank 12th in the Big Ten in total defense (11th in rushing defense, 9th in passing defense). Naturally it would be hard to be worse than what was seen last season, but with a much more difficult schedule ahead it could realistically happen.
Durkin came to Maryland after a successful few years as a defensive coordinator at Michigan and even filling in as Florida’s interim head coach in 2014. We’d expect a quick turnaround for this group and that’s exactly what I see happening in 2017.
Two factors come in to play for me. One is the fact that there is some true talent back in names like defensive end Jessie Aniebonam and linebacker Jermaine Carter up front. The other is the fact that recruiting has bolstered the talent level quickly.
Durkin added two four-star defensive tackles to his group in the 2017 class, which should give this team the depth needed to be much more stout up front. There is also the fact that two big time cornerbacks joined the team as early enrollee’s in January — four-star and No. 22 ranked cornerback Deon Jones, along with three-star Fofie Bazzie from famed Cardinal Gibbons in Fort Lauderdale. Durkin also added a stud JUCO transfer in Alex Woods, who was a January enrollee as well.
It is hard to say that with the recruiting efforts of the past few seasons that the talent pool hasn’t gotten significantly better on defense. That alone should help, even if most of this group is going to be young.
Expect Durkin’s coaching along with the increased talent level to matter and get this group in to the top half of Big Ten defenses this upcoming season.