Maryland Football: Tackling BTN’s Media Days questions

Nov 14, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Riley Bullough (30) chases Maryland Terrapins quarterback Perry Hills (11) out of the pocket during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 14, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Riley Bullough (30) chases Maryland Terrapins quarterback Perry Hills (11) out of the pocket during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports /

BTN’s Tom Dienhart put together a list of 70 questions pertaining to Big Ten Media Days this week.

The Big Ten will hold their annual Media Days on Monday and Tuesday this week. Coach D.J. Durkin and the Terrapins will speak on Tuesday morning.

Linebacker Jermaine Carter, offensive lineman Michael Dunn, and cornerback Will Likely will represent Maryland at the annual event in Chicago.

A few of Dienhart’s questions had to do with the Maryland football team. With the amount of question marks concerning the Terrapins, we took a stab at answering them.

Does Maryland have any playmakers on its defensive line?

The Terps had one of the most productive defensive lines in the Big Ten in 2015. Maryland really excelled at getting to the quarterback and the numbers speak for themselves. The Terps registered 35 sacks, which averaged out to 2.9 per contest (third in the conference). Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue tallied 13 sacks, which was second in the Big Ten to Penn State’s Carl Nassib‘s 15.5.

Even with defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson and Ngakoue gone, the Terps should still have a stout defensive line in 2016. As we profiled last month, defensive end Roman Braglio could have a huge year with Ngakoue gone to the NFL.

Braglio has an incredible work ethic and tremendous speed off the edge. While he only registered three sacks in 2015, Braglio won’t have to contend with Ngakoue in order to get to the quarterback. He is also a guy that was effective in defending the run, so he’s a multi-dimensional threat.

Junior Jesse Aniebonam offers even more speed from the other side. After playing as a down lineman in Maryland’s 4-3 defense, Aniebonam registered 3.5 sacks in a backup role last season.

There isn’t a ton of depth at defensive tackle, but Malik Jones, David Shaw, and Azubuike Ukandu should help stabilize the defensive line. If healthy, this could be one of the more talented defensive lines in the Big Ten.

Which new coach in the Big Ten East will impact sooner: Maryland’s D.J. Durkin or Rutgers’ Chris Ash?

All favoritism aside, Durkin will certainly have the tools to make an early impact. The Terps have a phenomenal area to pick talent from and already have a top 20 class in the nation. 247Sports does have Rutgers rated two spots ahead of Maryland in their recruiting rankings, but the Scarlet Knights have 20 commits (only two four-stars) while the Terps have just 11 (five four-stars).

Durkin’s impact has already been felt on the recruiting trail, but he hasn’t even coached a game yet. If the success can translate on the field like many think, Maryland will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.

Will the often-torched Maryland secondary improve with three new starters?

This question was posed before the news of former Florida signee J.C. Jackson broke on Sunday evening. Jackson is a game-changer for Maryland and a great compliment for fellow cornerback Will Likely.

The Terps still will have two new safeties starting in the secondary. However, much like Jackson, Denzel Conyers comes from the junior college ranks and does have a year at Maryland under his belt. Conyers originally came to College Park as a defensive back, but was converted to linebacker in 2015. With Randy Edsall and his staff gone, Conyers moves back to safety this fall and will look to make an impact. He has tremendous size and really knows how to break on the ball.

Josh Woods is the likely starter at the other safety spot. During his time at Maryland, Woods has registered just four total tackles, which all came during the 2015 season. If Conyers and Woods don’t get burnt too often, the Terps have the talent at corner to turn this into a very good defensive backfield.

This unit should be a huge improvement from a season ago.

Who will take snaps under center at Maryland?

The quarterback position was a trainwreck throughout the 2015 season. Maryland signal callers combined to throw 29 interceptions while only tossing 15 touchdowns last season.

Similar to last summer, Perry Hills wins the job out of training camp. However, Hills is a great fit for offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s fast-paced system. Hills showed off his tremendous wheels quite a bit in 2015, especially against Ohio State. He rushed for 170 yards against the Buckeyes and had the Big Ten powerhouse on upset alert last fall.

Next: J.C. Jackson to arrive on Tuesday

My guess is that Hills will be given every opportunity to run this offense. While Caleb Rowe does have a better arm and is more polished under center, he’s too mistake-prone for the Terps to trust over the course of a 12-game schedule. Hills will be “the guy” this year.