Enter former Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall. Inheriting a nine-win team is something few first-year coaches are afforded and the cupboard was certainly not bare. Maryland returned seven starters on offense and defense, including the 2011 ACC Rookie of the Year, quarterback Danny O'Brien.
Despite the returning talent, Maryland endured a disastrous season. The Terps (2-10, 1-7 ACC) not only lost 10 games for the second time in three years, but over 20 players elected to transfer out of the program. In just one year, Edsall's drill sergeant approach alienated much of the team as well as fan base.
Edsall's tenure actually began on a positive note. Maryland defeated Miami 32-24 to open the season last fall. However, a victory over FCS team Towson was all the Terps could muster the rest of the season. Along the way, O'Brien (150-of-266 passing, 1,648 yards, 7 TD, 10 INT) lost his starting job, broke his arm and eventually decided to transfer to Wisconsin.
O'Brien's replacement, C.J. Brown (82-of-166 passing, 842 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT; 79 car, 574 yards, 5 TD), returns this fall for his redshirt junior season. However, he must adjust to new offensive coordinator Mike Locksley after Edsall fired Gary Crowton.
Brown looks to improve a passing attack that ranked 10th in the ACC (210.33 ypg) in 2011. He has help with the return of leading receiver Kevin Dorsery (45 rec, 573 yards, 3 TD) and All-ACC tight end Matt Furstenburg (31 rec, 348 yards, 2 TD), as well as the arrival of five-star recruit Stefon Diggs.
Edsall emphasizes the running game and it showed last season as the Terps' ground game improved from eighth to third in the ACC (169.33 ypg). However, with the graduation of Davin Meggett (171 car, 896 yards, 4 TD) and loss of three starters along the offensive line, Maryland may be hard pressed to improve again this year.
The leading returning rusher is also the starting quarterback. Sophomore Justus Pickett (74 car, 274 yards, 1 TD) will likely earn the starting job at running back. Look for highly-regarded freshman Wes Brown to contribute as well. Overall, the offense returns five starters.
The Maryland defense was nothing short of terrible in 2011. Out of 120 FBS teams, Maryland ranked 102nd in scoring defense (34.25 ppg), 108th in total defense (457.17 ypg) and 111th in rushing defense (219.75 ypg). Those struggles led to the firing of defensive coordinator Todd Bradford. New coordinator Brian Stewart brings with him a 3-4 scheme and a fresh start.
It is difficult to pin down who will start in the new defense, but All-American defensive tackle Joe Vellano (94 tackles, 2.5 sacks) will likely move to the end position. The Terps also return three of four starters, including cornerback Dexter McDougle (44 tackles, 3 INT), to a secondary that should be the strength of the defense.
Quotable: "You miss something, there's a consequence. It's not like a ridiculous one. You just got to run the next day, or something that you've got to show up… I'm the captain. I hear about what's going on with everybody. He did nothing unheard of. It's just stuff the way he does it." – Vellano on Edsall's perceived strict coaching style
Matchup to Watch: In just his second season at Maryland, Edsall cannot afford a repeat of last season's debacle. Terp fans are already wary of Edsall and it will not take much for them to completely jump off the ship. Even though it is not a conference game, the Sept. 15 home game against Connecticut could serve as a tipping point for Maryland's season. If Edsall's former team comes in and wins at Byrd Stadium, Edsall may lose his players and fan support in just the third week of the season. In order to fend off the outside pressure and keep the program heading in the right direction, a victory over Connecticut is a must.
Welcome Back: The 2011 season was supposed to be huge for Kenny Tate. The safety was named a preseason All-American, but suffered a season-ending knee injury just four games into the year. In those four games, Tate recorded 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Fortunately for Tate and the maligned Maryland defense, he was awarded a fifth year of eligibility. Tate has moved from safety to linebacker, but is a welcomed re-addition to the defense.
Sept. 1 William & Mary
Sept. 8 @ Temple
Sept. 15 Connecticut
Sept. 22 @ West Virginia
Sept. 29 OPEN DATE
Oct. 6 Wake Forest
Oct. 13 @ Virginia
Oct. 20 N.C. State
Oct. 27 @ Boston College
Nov. 3 Georgia Tech
Nov. 10 @ Clemson
Nov. 17 Florida State
Nov. 24 @ North Carolina