2015 was certainly a year to forget for the Maryland football program.
With a new regime taking over in College Park, there will be plenty of new talent in the fold when the Terrapins take the field in September.
There’s a ton of turnover in the Big Ten. That’s to be expected when the conference had 47 players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, which was second to the SEC (51).
In terms of the Big Ten’s East Division, Maryland is tied with the second-least amount of returning starters with just nine. Michigan State also only returns nine starters from the 2015 campaign while Ohio State only brings back six.
The Terps took a big hit on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the secondary. Cornerback William Likely is the only returning starter from a season ago.
Cornerback/safety Sean Davis landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and certainly will be missed opposite of Likely.
Obviously, Likely will be anchoring one side and will be arguably the team’s most important player overall. He’s going to be counted on as one of Maryland’s key playmakers.
Opposite Likely is very much up in the air in terms of who will start.
Denzel Conyers, Alvin Hill, and Darnell Savage all figure to battle for the starting job in training camp. Hill certainly has the most experience (55 career tackles & six defended passes) of the group and had four starts in 2014 as a junior.
Three-star cornerback and former Michigan commit Antwaine Richardson also could see the field. Richardson arrived on campus in January as an early enrollee, so he’s had extra time to learn the Maryland scheme.
The front seven returns quite a bit of firepower. Jesse Aniebonam and Roman Braglio will help sure up the defensive line while linebacker Jermaine Carter remains the leader of the defense.
Carter led the Terps in tackles (103) and was an absolute force in the middle. He’ll be the driving force of a front seven that should still be extremely productive despite losing Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson on the defensive line.
When push comes to shove, the secondary is where many of the new faces will come from.
On the offensive side of the ball, quite a few of the same playmakers will be back.
Perry Hills will be center once again and will be playing behind a different yet talented offensive line. Hills will be taking snaps from one of the most talked about offensive linemen in center Brendan Moore.
Moore was named to the Rimington Award watch list earlier this month, which honors the top center in college football. Moore was a three-star recruit out of Texas during Randy Edsall’s tenure.
It also could be the first time that highly-touted offensive tackles Derwin Gray and Damian Prince anchoring the group. Gray appeared in two games, but Prince really came on last season.
Prince started six games and saw his first career start against West Virginia on Sept. 26. He helped pave the way for 130 rushing yards for running back Brandon Ross.
That brings us to a running game that will look a bit different for the first time in four years. Ross has been the guy in College Park in recent years and ended up finishing fourth on the program’s all-time rushing list.
There’s plenty of depth with Virginia Tech graduate transfer Trey Edmunds joining the roster. Edmunds rushed for 675 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman during the 2013 season.
However, Edmunds compiled just 282 yards and three touchdowns over the past two season, which prompted his transfer. The son of former Terp Ferrell Edmunds is a very patient runner that has only phenomenal vision and can take it to the house on any play.
Joining Edmunds in the backfield is last year’s freshman sensation Ty Johnson. Johnson rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns in 2015 with two of his touchdowns coming on long runs in the season finale against Rutgers.
Wes Brown still has one year of eligibility left and should provide some physicality to the Maryland backfield. Brown did total 317 yards on the ground and three touchdowns in 2015 as he played behind Ross and even Johnson at times.
As talented as the backfield is, the wide receiver position may be the deepest on the entire team.
Levern Jacobs provides the experience for a group that includes Malcolm Culmer, Taivon Jacobs, DeAndre Lane, and D.J. Moore. That’s without mentioning four-star wideout Tino Ellis (DeMatha Catholic, Md.), who could see the field in 2016.
The biggest issue last season was the ability of the quarterback to get these talented wideouts the ball. After a year lost to suspension, Jacobs returned to catch 35 passes for 425 yards and three touchdowns.
Moore also impressed more than many thought he would as a freshman. The speedy wideout hauled in 25 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns for the Terps.
Jacobsis is a guy that helps move the chains while guys like Moore and Taivon Jacobs are the home run threats.
Maryland’s offense is going to have a lot of the same parts from a season ago. If Hills can run new offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s fast-paced offense, this could be a very productive offensive group with the amount of depth that they have.
The main question mark of the entire roster is going to be how the secondary performs against some of the Big Ten’s higher profile opponents. If the defense can force some turnovers and avoid getting burnt deep, this could be a team that wins seven or eight games and goes back to a bowl game.