Making a bowl game was a highlight goal for the first year of the Maryland Terrapins’ D.J. Durkin era. That happened after a 6-6 regular season led to a berth in the Quick Lane Bowl.
With year two on the horizon, how does one top last season, especially in the rough and tumble Big Ten East division? Perhaps the answers lie in some more confident offensive play. But, is that something the Terps are capable of?
The answers will lie in the work this team puts in during the summer heading in to fall camp. What happens to be the setup Walt Bell and Co. will be working with?
Key Returning Players: Ty Johnson, RB; D.J. Moore, WR; Tyrrell Pigrome, QB; Damian Prince, OL
Key Players Lost: Levern Jacobs, WR; Michael Dunn, OL; QB Perry Hills
New Coache(s): Tyler Bowen, Offensive Line
Let’s take a look at the good and bad news for the Maryland Terrapins offense in 2017.
The Good News is…
Maryland returns one of the most explosive and dangerous running backs in the Big Ten. Ty Johnson ended last season with “just” 1,004 yards rushing, but he did it on just 110 carries. That resulted in Johnson leading the nation in rushing average (for those with 100 or more carries) at 9.1 yards per carry.
It certainly was a surprise season for the sophomore, but he won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season. That’s ok though, because he didn’t sneak up on people once Big Ten play started and it didn’t really matter. He ran for over 100 yards in just five games last season, so this year consistency needs to be king.
Some of that inconsistency can be chalked up to the fact that there were so many other running options last season. Now sophomore Lorenzo Harrison II also had a good start to his career, racking up 633 yards on just 88 carries and fellow sophomore Jake Funk could be in the mix for carries after putting up 136 yards on just 29 carries last season.
If you want to know where things are going to start for the Terps offense in 2017, look no further than the diverse and dangerous ground game that is developing in College Park, Md.
The Bad News is…
While the run game is going strong, quarterback is completely up in the air. The hope coming in to spring is that one of either Tyrrell Pigrome or North Carolina transfer and former four-star recruit, Caleb Henderson, would win the job.
That didn’t happen and now it appears the window is wide open for incoming freshman Kasim Hill to win the job through his play in the summer and in to fall camp.
There’s no doubt that in order for Walt Bell’s offense to take off, there needs to be a quarterback who can use his arm first. Henderson showed flashes, but also showed why he was beat out for the starting job at UNC in 2015. Pigrome is a great run-first option, but continues to show issues in terms of accuracy and ability to cut down on turnovers.
Hill seems to be the quarterback Bell and Co. want to win the job, but it is such a big leap for a true freshman quarterback. One has to wonder if they’ll take the year of growth and lumps while they know the run game is good and move on from there.
The Good News is…
D.J. Durkin identified the issues on his team quickly and is taking drastic steps to correct them. After just one season, Durkin pulled the plug on his first offensive line coach and went out and got up and coming coach Tyler Bowen in the mix.
Bowen returns to the school where he played his college ball and is in FBS football after spending the last two years as the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator last season at Fordham. He’s well versed in what Bell wants to accomplish, but most importantly is a highly regarded offensive line coach.
For all the success the Terps had in the run game, amazingly things could’ve been way better with more consistent play on the offensive line.
There is plenty of talent to work with, including anchor Damian Prince and a nice group of young players coming in to the program over the last two recruiting classes. Will it all add up to an improved unit in 2017? We’ll have to wait and see, but the foundation seems to be there.
The Bad News Is…
All of this may not matter much in 2017, and that is largely thanks to the Terps having a crazy schedule this season. Maryland took advantage of a really beneficial schedule in 2016, but this season won’t be as kind.
Texas and UCF are on the upswing and are certainly more quality non-conference opponents than Florida International and Howard. Even Towson is an increased FCS opponent as well. Adding Wisconsin to the West division games and having to play Northwestern at the height of its progress isn’t good news. Either is having to play at both Ohio State and Michigan State.
Perhaps the worst news for this offense is the fact that it will have to face Michigan, MSU and Penn State to finish off the season. Those are arguably three of the best defenses in the Big Ten and a win in one of those games is likely going to be necessary to get to .500 this season. I don’t like those odds.