While the Maryland football team is coming off a 3-9 season, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Terrapins have a very favorable schedule in 2016, which could ensure a quick turnaround for the program.
New coach D.J. Durkin has brought a renewed confidence and fire to the Maryland program. If you need a reminder that these aren’t Randy Edsall’s Terps, check out the video above.
Two of the biggest question marks for Maryland entering the 2016 season is the uncertainty at quarterback and the loss of three starters in the secondary. While those concerns are definitely warranted since the only sample is the Red-White Spring Game, it’s also worth considering the areas of strength that this team possesses.
First of all, new offensive coordinator Walt Bell brings a very up-tempo offensive attack to College Park.
As we saw on Saturday, Bell likes to keep the pace of play churning along and for his quarterbacks not to hold onto the football too long. It looks as though Perry Hills has the best chance to be the starter due to his running ability.
For example, under Bell’s tutelage, Arkansas State quarterback Fredi Knighten carried the ball 138 times for 400 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. In limited action in Edsall’s offense, Hills ran the ball 109 times for 535 yards and three touchdowns last season.
The Terps have a very athletic and talented offensive line this season and under Bell’s schemes, it wouldn’t be crazy to think that Hills puts up even larger rushing totals.
Despite losing Brandon Ross, Maryland’s stable of tailbacks should be just as talented. Wes Brown, Trey Edmunds, and Ty Johnson all have collegiate experience and are more than capable of carrying the load.
Edmunds could see a majority of the workload, but there will definitely be enough touches to go around in an offense that runs the ball quite a bit like Bell’s.
Developing an offensive rhythm will be key and luckily for the Terps, their nonconference schedule is one of the easiest in the nation. Maryland host Howard before traveling to Florida International and Central Florida to start off the season.
Those three schools had a combined 6-29 record in 2015, so there shouldn’t be a repeat of the Bowling Green game from last season.
With a likely 3-0 record during nonconference play, the beginning of the Big Ten schedule is extremely favorable.
The Terps open against Purdue at home in what should be a relatively painless victory. The Boilermakers were 2-10 a season ago, but should have last year’s starter David Blough under center.
Blough completed 57.7 percent of his passes and tossed 10 touchdowns for a team that only won one Big Ten contest (Nebraska). Maryland should have a good enough pass rush to make life difficult for Blough.
Two of the next three games are in College Park with the only road contest being at Penn State. The Nittany Lions will be replacing Christian Hackenberg (presumably with Trace McSorley), but will return key offensive playmakers in running back Saquon Barkley and wideouts Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton.
Maryland gave Penn State all they could handle in Baltimore last season and nearly came away with the victory. The Terps’ offensive attack will be much more lethal in 2016 and definitely could pull off the upset in Happy Valley.
Maryland returns home for a date with Minnesota on Oct. 8. This one is definitely winnable given how much the Golden Gophers struggled a season ago.
Unless Mitch Leidner finally figures it out, this is a game that the Terps should win fairly easily.
The next four weeks will help to determine just how good Maryland actually is and where they could be placed in terms of a bowl game. The Terps face Michigan State at home (Oct. 22), Indiana on the road (Oct. 29), Michigan on the road (Nov. 5), and Ohio State at home (Nov. 12).
In past years, it would be assumed that Maryland would go 1-3 in a stretch like this. However, Durkin will have his team ready to play.
The Spartans no longer have the stability of Connor Cook at quarterback while the Wolverines lost Jake Rudock. It’s not crazy to think that the Terps could win these games in addition to the Indiana contest.
Obviously, it can’t be expected that Durkin’s group can upset Ohio State in year one, but Maryland did give the Buckeyes a fight last October.
If Maryland goes 2-2 at the worst and beats Nebraska and Rutgers, they could finish out the season with an 8-4 or 9-3 record.
A lot of things will have to go in Maryland’s favor, but this is a talented roster despite what Durkin and his staff were saddled with after Edsall’s demise. Combine the potential with the amount of success that Maryland is having on the recruiting trail, the Terps could be nationally relevant in the very near future.