COLLEGE PARK – Aug. 10 marked day one in the journey of the 2015 University of Maryland football team. The Terps now have 110 days filled with 12 games and dozens of practices before the end of the regular season. They are hoping their quest will end with the awarding of another bowl berth, and not […]
COLLEGE PARK – Aug. 10 marked day one in the journey of the 2015 University of Maryland football team.
The Terps now have 110 days filled with 12 games and dozens of practices before the end of the regular season. They are hoping their quest will end with the awarding of another bowl berth, and not a sub-.500 record.
Only time will tell.
Head coach Randy Edsall and his players arrived on campus Sunday night in preparation for Monday’s media day and the first official day of football season. Following group pictures, Edsall sat down and talked about how easy of an offseason it was for him and his coaches.
“I am really excited and enthused about this team,” Edsall said. “I don’t know, in the 17 years I have been a head coach, that I have been around a team that has taken on such a leadership role that this team has since January. It sure makes my job easier, and all of the coach’s jobs easier, when the young men not only hold themselves accountable but also hold each other accountable.
“It has probably been the best and smoothest summer that I have been involved with. It has been very productive. I am proud that they heeded the message and took it upon themselves to develop their own leadership roles.”
Although Edsall is excited to have three quarterbacks battling it out for the starting job this preseason, one can’t help but look at the trio as a big question mark.
CJ Brown, last year’s signal-caller who started every game and accounted for 21 of Maryland’s touchdowns, is gone to graduation. That leaves three men, Caleb Rowe, Perry Hills and Daxx Garman, all vying for the lead role.
“That is going to be an interesting battle,” Edsall said. “Daxx and Caleb and Perry are going to fight it out and we will see how it all unfolds. They are all eager and hungry and they all want to be the guy.
“It is nice to have three guys that have won games against Power Five teams. People want to talk about our quarterback situation, but we have guys that have the opportunity to step up. These guys have a chip on their shoulder.”
Rowe is currently penciled in as the preliminary starter. Last year the senior threw for 489 yards and five scores in four relief appearances of Brown. He has started three games in his career and has totaled 12 touchdown passes.
Garman, a transfer from Oklahoma State, started eight games last year. He racked up over 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to helping the Cowboys to a Cactus Bowl berth.
Hills is probably third on the depth chart. Hills started seven games as a true freshman in 2012, but missed the end of 2012 and all of 2013 while recovering from a torn ACL. He played in only three games last year and threw for a mere 86 yards.
While Rowe figures to be the favorite to start week one versus Richmond, one shouldn’t be surprised to see Garman under center at any point this year.
“I didn’t bring anyone in to be an insurance policy,” Edsall said about Garman. “We bring people in here because we feel they can compete, start and help us win in the Big Ten. That’s why we brought him in.
“I think this is a healthy situation for us as a team and for me as a coach to have. It’s great to have that kind of competition and that kind of setting in practice. I think any time you have competition it is going to make you better and bring out the best in you.”
Despite there being a ‘1’ and a ‘2’ on the depth chart, junior Wes Brown and senior Brandon Ross figure to split the carries at running back. Brown and Ross were second and third on the team in rushing last year. However that isn’t saying much, as the duo ran for 388 and 457 yards respectively. Brown was also third on the team with 21 receptions.
“Wes has done a really god job,” Edsall said. “I have seen the young man mature and grow so much in the time that he has been here. He and Brandon are the two guys.
“We are expecting Wes to have a big year. I think you always have to have two guys there, but who gets the bulk of those carries will be determined as we go through the preseason.”
Malcolm Culmer, Levern Jacobs and Taivon Jacobs are expected to lead the receiving corps this season. It seems to be a tall order though as the three combined for just one reception last year. Culmer had one grab for five yards in the season-opener, while Levern was suspended and Taivon suffered a season-ending injury in week one.
The offensive line returns three starters in Michael Dunn, Andrew Zeller and Ryan Doyle. Dunn and Zeller each started 13 games last year, while Doyle started ten.
Maryland has switched to a 4-3 on the defensive side of the ball and should boast a revamped defensive line. The switch will allow Yannick Ngakoue, an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2014, to “put his hand in the dirt and give him an opportunity to explode off the line.” Senior Quinton Jefferson will man the middle and look to add to his career mark of 43 tackles for loss.
Three of the Terps’ top four linebackers are gone and the position will be an area for concern in the early-going. Jermaine Carter has the most experience of the group. He played in all 13 games last year and recorded 27 tackles. Senior transfer Jefferson Ashiru, who racked up 47 tackles for UCONN last season, looks to be the team’s second best option.
Perhaps the team’s best player, cornerback William Likely, returns for his junior season. Likely is one of the best cover corners in the country and it shows in his career honors (2014 All-Big Ten First Team Defense, 2014 Athlon All-Big Ten First Team Specialist, and 2015 Preseason All-Big Ten First Team Defense).
The 5-7, 175-pound corner totaled 83 tackles, broke up 15 passes, and tied for the conference lead with six interceptions. Two of those picks were returned for touchdowns – tying for most in the FBS. He was also dangerous on special teams, as he combined for 721 kick-return yards and two scores.
Because of his dual-threat ability, Likely is on the Paul Hornung Award watch list. The award is handed out to the most versatile player in the country. He is on the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list for best defensive player as well.
After winning four of its first five games last year, Maryland ended the season with a 7-6 record and a 45-21 loss to Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl. Although Edsall is optimistic about the upcoming season, he admitted that when the program has “only three back-to-back winning seasons in the last 30 years, you have some ground to make up.”
Edsall said that shouldn’t be looked as an excuse though. He made no bones about where he expects his team to finish, and where he sees the program headed.
“You want to finish first,” Edsall said. “That’s what you strive for and that is what we are building for. Are we there yet? I don’t know. We will find out where we are when we play.
“The big thing is, what we want to do, is continue to build this program and get to the point where we are No. 1.”