Maryland Football: Early outlook on the 2016 season

Nov 28, 2015; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Maryland Terrapins running back Ty Johnson (6) runs for a touchdown during the second half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Maryland defeated Rutgers 46-41. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2015; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Maryland Terrapins running back Ty Johnson (6) runs for a touchdown during the second half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Maryland defeated Rutgers 46-41. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

With National Signing Day in the rear view mirror, the Maryland football team can begin to look towards the 2016 season and the Spring Game.

For Maryland, the light is shining much earlier than many predicted after a strong offseason.

After a poor 2015 campaign that included the firing of coach Randy Edsall and the loss of several key players to graduation, a change was clearly needed in College Park. D.J. Durkin was hired shortly after the conclusion of the season and turned in a very diligent effort in just two months on the job.

Durkin was able to retain wideout Tino Ellis, running back Lorenzo Harrison, and wideout D.J. Turner while also securing the services of four-star offensive guard Terrance Davis. It solidifies a Maryland pipeline with the local powerhouse that previously was nonexistent. Durkin has made it a point to attack the recruiting trail on a local level, and he’s already been just as impressive as Edsall if not more so.

Not only has he created an in-state frenzy with recruiting, but with the help of former head coaches Pete Lembo, Mike London, and Scott Shafer, Durkin is building a major pipeline in Florida, which the Terrapins have never truly seen before. A total of seven players from the state of Florida signed to play with Maryland in the 2016 class and were all recruited in a short two-month span. The south is a key in recruiting, and with it no longer being untouchable by Maryland, the program can build faster.

Now that these 21 recruits are signed and the roster is pretty much set, Maryland shows a quiet storm is brewing. Many have said this will be a down year and that you need at least another year to have a full effect, but this does not mean Maryland stands no chance this season.

Maryland’s new offensive coordinator Walt Bell runs a very up-tempo and powerful offense, and it isn’t going to take years for players to learn. Having two quarterbacks with experience in Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe will allow Maryland to nurture Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager, so they aren’t thrown in the fire too early.

Many will say that Hills and Rowe aren’t talented enough to run Maryland offense. That is a false assumption because they simply didn’t have the help around them that a quarterback needs. In 2016, the Terps have every single wide receiver and tight end returning, as well as a very big and young offensive line that they can actually grow with.

One of the biggest knocks to Maryland joining the Big Ten was their lack of size upfront, but now they have 13 guys that are 6’2 or taller, and over 300 pounds, and are recruiting even more. Losing Brandon Ross to graduation and Wes Brown to an indefinite suspension hurts, but Maryland has Virginia Tech graduate transfer Trey Edmunds and sophomore Ty Johnson in the backfield to help make up for it.

On the defensive side of the football, Maryland lost a considerable amount of talent. The Terps saw defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue declare early for the NFL Draft.

Maryland also will lose three of their four starters in the defensive backfield with cornerback Sean Davis along with safeties A.J. Hendy and Anthony Nixon, having graduated from the program. The lone returnee is star cornerback William Likely, who announced he will return. Likely will receive help from Alvin Hill and Darnell Savage in 2016. Maryland also now has four defensively minded coaches in the fold, so 2015’s issues can be fixed.

With issues and some uncertainty on both sides of the ball, nobody really knows what will happen for sure. However, when you take a look at Maryland’s schedule, the Terps play three very winnable nonconference games against Central Florida, Florida International, and Howard.

The schedule is as follows:

9/3 – vs. Howard

9/10 – at Florida International

9/17 – at Central Florida

10/1 – vs. Purdue

10/8 – at Penn State

10/15 – vs. Minnesota

10/22 – vs. Michigan State

10/29 – at Indiana

11/5 – at Michigan

11/12 – vs. Ohio State

11/19 – at Nebraska

11/26 – vs. Rutgers

This schedule is comprised of eight reasonably winnable games. Maryland should be able to sweep the non-conference slate, and get wins against Minnesota, Purdue, and Rutgers. Right there, those wins alone would make Maryland bowl eligible. But on top of those wins, Maryland has played close with Indiana and Penn State.

Next: Maryland Basketball: Terps edge Michigan to halt losing streak

With all of that said, it actually isn’t crazy to see Maryland with anywhere from six to nine wins this year, plus or minus some upsets. Many teams will overlook this Maryland squad, but as the recruits have been voicing, they want a championship to bring home.