October 27, 2012; Boston, MA USA; Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Stefon Diggs (1) runs for a touchdown during the second half against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Why This Is The Year For Maryland Football

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We’ve heard it for basketball and football within recent years: Maryland will elevate itself and reach new heights this year. Because of this, unfortunately many people believe that Maryland will never reach those heights. Although it’s comical now, Maryland exhausted all of its natural quarterback options last year, and started a linebacker at quarterback (praise you Shawn Petty).

TMaryland enters this season with a healthy C.J. Brown (hallelujah) and a very scary offense. While the defense, mainly the secondary, is an area of concern, Brian Stewart has calmed critics and repeatedly told the media how impressed he was with the backups to fill the shoes that the 2012 class left. So yes, as you may have anticipated, this is the year.

We forget how versatile Brown two years ago when he stepped in for Danny O’Brien. While he had trouble with his accuracy, that was two years ago. He has had plenty of time to become a better passer. However, wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, and Nigel King are all tremendously athletic and reliable targets for Brown. With one of the top-receiving groups in the ACC, Maryland should have no problems in the passing game.

Defenses will no longer be able to focus all of their attention on Diggs because Long and King are just as quick and athletic. Maryland also has very capable bench players in Levern Jacobs, Taivon Jacobs, Amba Etta-Tawo, and DeAndre Lane. Don’t forget the tight ends as well. Dave Stinebaugh, PJ Gallo, and highly recruited freshman Andrew Isaacs are all very capable receivers that block very well. With the stellar passing attack, this will open up the running game and make the Maryland offense that much more dynamic.

When Wes Brown was suspended for the academic year due to his arrest, the spotlight immediately shifted to Brandon Ross and Albert Reid. While Brown’s departure is disappointing, Brandon Ross is now the starter.  Ross has repeatedly proven just how quick he is. His vision is superb; he is able to identify the hole and not just go through it, but hits it hard and follows his blockers to the end zone. During the fall scrimmage earlier this month, Reid was a bruising back that had the power and speed to get past defenders and gain the extra tough yards.

While Ross and Reid combined for only one rushing touchdown last year, I fully expect that to soar through the roof. I take last year’s statistics with a grain of salt due to the one-in-a-million circumstance that Edsall and Locksley were forced to deal with on offense. Overlook those statistics. While the offensive line is a concern, the team has adequate options to replace the starters. My predictions: Brown throws for over 12 touchdowns, Reid and Ross combine for 1,500 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, and Diggs has a total of 8 touchdowns this year and wins ACC Player of the Year.

The Terps lost several starters on defense including A.J. Francis, Joe Vellano, Demetrius Hartsfield, and Kenneth Tate. While each is a very talented player and help the defense tremendously, Maryland had players that were able to step up last year in place of these players due to injury and substitution. With another year under Brian Stewart’s 3-4 scheme, Maryland has the chance to be as good, if not better than the defense was this past season.

A couple of players that really stepped up at the scrimmage were linebackers Yannick Ngakoue and Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil and cornerbacks Will Likely and Dexter McDougle. The defense was constantly putting pressure on the quarterback. As the backup quarterbacks were on showcase to prove worthy of the backup spot, I came away more impressed with the defense than offense. Other than the remarkable catch by Nigel King, the secondary played very well and did a great job of sticking close to their zones and hindering the quarterback play throughout the scrimmage. On paper, the defense is suspect. In person, the defense looks stellar and be quite successful this season.

Still not convinced? Here’s something: this is the first year that Maryland has retained its staff in consecutive seasons. Only 17 other FBS programs can say the same thing. That is a lot more important than people realize. With little attrition over the offseason, the Terps finally have consistency and rhythm. Nothing can be worse than last year’s debacle and embarrassment on offense. With a healthy quarterback, Diggs and company will be able to put up a lot of points on offense. This will give the defense more cushion than they probably need. With a favorable schedule, I expect Maryland to pull out nine wins, and that’s not a typo. Here’s Maryland’s schedule with my predictions:

Date

Away

Home

8/31

FIU-13

Maryland-34

9/7

Old Dominion-16

Maryland-43

9/14

Maryland-27

UConn-20

9/21

West Virginia-31

Maryland-28

9/28

Open

10/5

Maryland-20

Florida State-42

10/12

Virginia-13

Maryland-31

10/19

Maryland-20

Wake Forest-17

10/26

Clemson-31

Maryland-37

11/2

Open

11/9

Syracuse-10

Maryland-24

11/16

Maryland-17

Virginia Tech-27

11/23

Boston College-21

Maryland-27

11/30

Maryland-27

NC State-16

One last note: According to Sports Illustrated, Stefon Diggs has 75/1 odds to win the Heisman. You know, in case you somehow forgot just how talented the young sophomore is.

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Tags: ACC C.J. Brown Deon Long Maryland Terrapins Football Stefon Diggs

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