Dienhart: Maryland Terrapins' offseason to-do list
Everything is new again in College Park, Maryland, as Maryland is taking the wraps off the DJ Durkin era. The former Michigan defensive coordinator replaces Randy Edsall, who got the program on solid footing but was unable to take Maryland to the next level with just two bowls after taking over in 2011.
Here is a look at Maryland’s to-do list.
1. Buy-in. The staff must continue to adapt to the personnel, so the spring was a critical time to develop chemistry for all parties. Durkin and Co., also have some key personnel issues to deal with. Players have to believe in the new regime. Maryland ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring defense (34.4 ppg) and 11th in total defense (421.2 ypg). The offense also has problems. No school in the nation turned the ball over more than Maryland’s 36. The line also has lots of room for improvement even though the Terps had the No. 3 rushing game in the Big Ten in 2015 (200.7 ypg).
2. Find a QB. The quarterback play in 2015 was—in a word–abysmal, as the Terps tossed a national-high 29 interceptions for a program that had a conference worst minus-18 turnover margin. The aerial attack was No. 13 in the Big Ten (174.3 ypg). Caleb Rowe, Perry Hills … Neither really was a standout in the spring game. Whoever wins the job must offer stability, make some plays and … avoid turnovers.
3. Adapt. There are new schemes on both sides of the ball that the new staff implemented in the spring. The offense of new coordinator Walt Bell operates at a rapid pace. There is a learning curve. And the players will need to be in top condition to maximize the benefits of this go-go attack. The defense—the area of expertise for Durkin, who was DC at Michigan before landing this gig–flashed some potential in the spring game. Then again, it was going against the Terp offense.
4. Develop wideouts. The staff knows it can count on Levern Jacobs, the squad’s No. 1 receiver last season. And, he picked up where he left off in the spring. It will be vital for the Terps to develop a down-field passing game to open up defenses for the ground game. Who will complement Jacobs?
5. Replenish the defensive line. Two yawning holes must be filled up front with Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson both leaving early for the NFL. (Each was drafted.) Ngakoue was a speedy force off the edge who set the program’s single-season sack record. The defense already is on its second coordinator under Durkin, as Scott Shafer stepped down for personal reasons a month ago and was replaced by Andy Buh. Keep an eye on Jesse Aniebonam, Kingsly Opara and Cavon Walker up front. Someone needs to bring the heat off the edge for a defense that needs a lot of help. Also, keep an eye on touted DT Adam McLean.
6. Find starters in the secondary. Star corner Will Likely is back. He is one of the best in the Big Ten and doubles as a standout return man. He averaged 17.7 yards per punt return in 2015 and scored two TDs. Likely also scored on a 100-yard kickoff return. But three other starters in the secondary must be found. Durkin brought in a lot of talent on signing day, and some of those guys could contribute right away. Corner Antwaine Richardson already is enrolled and could be a plug-and-play guy. Veterans that should compete include Darnell Savage, Jr., Alvin Hill and Josh Woods. This pass defense has to get buttoned up.
Email Tom Dienhart using the form below.
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.