Oct 25, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; The Maryland Terrapins take to the field prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 52-7. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Maryland football team will open up the 2015-16 college football season two weeks from today against the Richmond Spiders at Byrd Stadium. Many pundits are looking at this upcoming season as a rebuilding year of sorts for the Terps, considering they’ve lost a good chunk of their production from a season ago. But of course, no team necessarily goes into a season with that type of mindset. Maryland doesn’t necessarily have to wait until next year to make some noise, but all the stars would have to be perfectly aligned.
Let’s take a look a five things the Terps must do in order to be successful this season.
1. Run the Ball Effectively
Running back is one of the few positions on Maryland’s roster that is actually solidified. The Terps have senior Brandon Ross and junior Wes Brown back, forming a solid tandem in the backfield. Ross has rushed for over 1,500 yards in his career and has reached the end zone nine times. Last season, Brown ran for 356 yards and six touchdowns. These aren’t eye-popping numbers, but nothing on Maryland’s offense last year was eye-popping. Quarterback C.J. Brown was the leading rusher for the Terps last season, but don’t expect that from Caleb Rowe this year. With a new signal-caller in the fold, these backs must step up and shoulder a lot of the offensive burden.
2. Stop the Run
Take a look through football history, at any level. You’ll see that many of the “great” teams were so successful because they could run the football and on the other end, stop the run. The Terps’ rush defense wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t very good either. In 2014, they allowed an average of 201.9 yards on the ground per game. Maryland has switched to a 4-3 defense to potentially aid in their run-stopping efforts, but it may still be a tall task to accomplish because of the personnel changes that this teams has undergone. The Terps must replace three starters up front from last season. The only returning interior player who saw a significant amount of time last year was rising senior Quinton Jefferson.
3. Young Receivers Grow Up Fast
Dec 27, 2013; Annapolis, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Levern Jacobs (8) runs for a touchdown against the Marshall Thundering Herd during the 2013 Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
There is probably no position group on the Terps’ roster that has as many questions surrounding it as the wide receiver corps. Maryland is entering 2015 minus their top four receivers from a season ago. They lost two to graduation and two to transfer. A fifth player, Juwann Winfree, also decided to leave the program after being suspended indefinitely. So, it’s safe to say, the Terps are depleted. Now, Randy Edsall must rely on young and inexperienced receivers to play big. Junior Levern Jacobs is projected as the No. 1 wideout. Outside of Jacobs and fellow junior Amba Etta-Tawo, there isn’t much experience on this roster. If guys like Taivon Jacobs, Malcolm Culmer and DeAndre Lane can rise to the occasion, the Terps may be able to stay in some games.
4. A ‘Likely’ Hero
It goes without saying that the best and most important player on Maryland’s roster is cornerback William Likely. Likely is arguably a top 5 corner in the country, but he believes that he is the best. The First Team All-Big Ten selection has recorded 153 total tackles, seven interceptions, 15 pass deflections and a forced fumbles in two seasons. Not only does he impact the game on defense, but in the return game as well. Likely led the Big Ten in kickoff return yards and finished fourth in the nation. He also returned two interceptions for touchdowns, which tied for first in the country. Likely is one of the most dangerous players in all of college football when given space. He will need to continue to make big plays if the Terps are going to be successful.
5. Take Advantage of Trap Games
Given that Maryland is not expected to be a contender in the Big Ten this season, it is not far-fetched to assume that some of the better teams won’t take them seriously. We’ve seen it time and time again. Regardless of what a matchup looks like on paper, every game, you must play your best. The Terps do have some playmakers on this roster, so if teams make the mistake of thinking they can just take a day off, Maryland might be able to steal one. Now, I’m not talking Ohio State, but there are some other games on their schedule where if the Terps play a great game, they could pull off shocker.
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