Final Report Card: Offense

Maryland finished its 2014 campaign at 7-6 and 4-4 in the Big Ten. Here are our final player grades for the Terps’ offense this year, followed by a look ahead to 2015.

Maryland finished its 2014 campaign at 7-6 and 4-4 in the Big Ten. Here are our final player grades for the Terps’ offense this year, followed by a look ahead to 2015.

Quarterbacks

Sixth-year senior C.J. Brown stayed mostly healthy this year, which was a moral victory in and of itself. That said, he did not exactly exit with a bang during his final year in College Park, Md. Brown, at his best, managed the offense and made a few key plays in the zone-read. At his worst, he looked more like a freshman in his first college start than a season veteran.

Brown’s passes were often off-target as he tended to sail intermediate and short throws in the flat, while he threw behind receivers quite a bit as well. Moreover, his reads were questionable and his decision making suspect, sometimes passing into double coverage and at others telegraphing his intentions. Brown’s average arm strength, meanwhile, allowed defenses to pinch in and take away/anticipate routes.

Brown had a dreadful three-interception performance in a loss at Michigan State, almost allowed Iowa steal a win in College Park after two ill-timed picks, and barely generated any offense against Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Brown’s best game came in a win over Syracuse when he completed 16 of 26 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns against zero interceptions. But once Big Ten play hit, he struggled to find any kind of consistency, even in victories at Penn State (161 yards, 47.4 percent completion percentage) and Michigan (165 yards, 54.2 percent completion percentage). He capped his career with a relatively subpar performance against Stanford, completing 55.6 percent of his passes for zero scores and a pick.

Brown was much more effective when allowed to use his feet, forcing the defense to account for his open-field running abilities. The dual-threat piled up 161 rushing yards and a score against West Virginia; followed by a 21-carry, 99-yard game against Iowa; and an 18-carry, 87-yard effort against Michigan.

Some of Brown’s rushing totals were skewed due to lost yards on sacks, but at times this year his legs were the only way Maryland was able to move the ball.

Brown finished the season 189-for-354 (53.4 percent) for 2,228 yards and 13 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He had an efficiency rating of 114.2, which put him 94th in the country out of 109 qualified passers. Brown ended up rushing for 539 yards and eight scores, both of which ranked first on the team.

Backup quarterback Caleb Rowe played in four games and completed 34-of-54 passes (63 percent) for 489 yards, five touchdowns and four picks. Rowe had the most powerful arm on the roster and could take advantage of the Terps’ deep-threat receivers, but he had some egregious mental errors that precluded Randy Edsall from naming him a permanent starter.

Rowe ended up tearing his ACL during a non-contact drill in mid-October, however, so a true quarterback controversy never truly materialized.

Final Grade: C-minus

Going Forward: Expect Maryland to bring in a fifth-year transfer who can either start for a year or act as Caleb Rowe’s backup in 2015. It’s uncertain whether Rowe will be fully rehabbed and ready for fall camp, so the Terps will need another signal caller regardless.

The other Terps’ triggermen, Perry Hills and Shane Cockerille, still have issues to iron out and probably can’t be counted on to start. Incoming freshman Gage Shaffer is a developmental quarterback, who will need a few years before he’s ready to take an FBS snap.

Running Backs

Maryland’s rushing attack finished 100th nationally out of 123 FBS teams at 121.8 yards per game. The Terps averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and generated 21 rushing scores. Take away quarterback C.J. Brown’s team-high 539 rushing yards and eight scores, and UMD finished with just 1,045 yards and 13 touchdowns. Some of that falls on the offensive line, of course, but truth is the Terps lacked a true game-changing back who defenses had to account for.

Junior Brandon Ross showed flashes at times, rushing for 419 yards on 85 attempts (4.9 yards per carry) and four scores, though his vision and explosiveness were suspect. Ross proved to be a serviceable runner who could rip off a solid run from time to time, but he never established himself as a feature runner.

He had his best performance in the regular-season finale against Rutgers -- a 10-carry, 108-yard, two-touchdown affair -- but he was mostly stymied by Big Ten defenses. Ross also lost three fumbles in the first two games, drawing the ire of head coach Randy Edsall.

Backup Wes Brown showed the most potential of any Terps back given his size-speed combination, but he never really got rolling either. Brown seems to be the type who needs consistent carries to grind down a defense, but the staff really never gave him that opportunity, preferring a steady rotation of runners.

Brown had solid outings in the nonconference season, but during league play his upright style and large frame (6-1) made him an easy target for rugged defenders. Brown’s best performances, aside from games against JMU and USF, were an 11-carry, 39-yard, one-touchdown game against Michigan and a nine-carry, 42-yard outing against Rutgers. He finished with 103 attempts for 356 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and six touchdowns.

The change-of-pace back/slot receiver, Jacquille Veii, proved to be Maryland’s most elusive runner and gave the offense an added dimension. He ripped off a couple ankle-breaking moves that resulted in long gainers against Iowa, but his best work came as a receiver.

A slippery back/slot with plenty of shake, Veii had long gainers against Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Rutgers. At the same time, his hands weren’t always consistent, and he ended up dropping a few crucial passes. Veii finished with 19 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns, to go along with 16 receptions for 230 yards and a score.

The fourth running back, Albert Reid, only played in four games all year after having a more significant role in 2013. A between-the-tackles runner who lacks elite speed, Reid had just 16 totes for 61 yards.

Fullback Kenny Goins showed improvement this year, as both a runner and blocker. He was serviceable as a hole opener and in blitz pickup, while adding 62 yards on 14 carries as well.

Final Grade: C

Moving Forward: Ross, Wes Brown, Veii and Goins are all due back next year and should once again be featured in the offense. The hope is that one of these guys, likely Brown, develops into a reliable, every-down runner who can carry the offense at times. The Terps are bringing in another Veii-like runner in Ty Johnson, though he’ll probably need a redshirt year just to get his body ready for Big Ten ball.

Receivers

A much-hyped unit entering 2014, the Terps’ receivers never totally lived up to their preseason billing. Now, some of that falls on C.J. Brown and the offensive line, but the unit was hit plagued injuries (Stefon Diggs missed three games with a lacerated kidney; Taivon Jacobs missed the season with a torn ACL); suspensions (Levern Jacobs violated team rules; Juwann Winfree violated team rules); and transfers (Nigel King to Georgia before the season). Not to mention several receivers had cases of the drops (Amba Etta-Tawo, Marcus Leak, Daniel Adams), while others suffered from a some fundamental issues (Deon Long).

That’s not to say the Terps’ wideouts didn’t show out; in fact, they were the offense’s main bright spot this year.

Aside from the injury, Diggs had a strong junior season, recording 62 receptions for 792 yards and five touchdowns. He put on a 10-catch, 138-yard display against Stanford when the rest of the offense stagnated, while coming up clutch against Indiana (six catches, 112 yards, one touchdown); West Virginia (five catches, 127 yards, one touchdown); and Iowa (nine catches, 130 yards, one touchdown) as well.

Diggs pulled down passes in traffic, created extra yards out of the slot, went up top to stretch defenses and generated plenty of yards after the catch. His competitiveness and edginess (see: non-handshake against Penn State) gave the Terps some mojo, while his playmaking ability forced defensive coordinators to account for him on every play.

Long, meanwhile, disappeared on occasion, didn’t always run the tightest routes, and dropped a couple catchable balls, but he too showed out at times. He ended up pulling down 51 passes for 575 yards and two scores, headlined by a 10-catch, 108-yard game against Indiana and a seven-catch 75-yard outing against Rutgers.

Long did his best to take the top off the defense, serving as a complement to Diggs on the outside. And when the latter was out, Long stepped up with 14 total receptions during Diggs’ three-game absence.

The third receiver, Marcus Leak, was a pleasant surprise after ascending to the starting role in the wake of Levern Jacobs’ suspension and Nigel King’s transfer. When defenses took away the likes of Diggs and/or Long, Leak rose up in several instances, coming up with a couple chain-moving receptions.

He had clutch third-down catches against Michigan and Penn State, but his breakout came against Syracuse when he had four catches, 93 yards and one touchdown. Leak did have some notable drops, and he had some issues getting off blocks, but for the most part he did what was asked. He ended the season with 20 catches for 297 yards and three scores.

Amba Etta-Tawo had a 71-yard touchdown reception against Rutgers that proved to be a season highlight. But for every catch he came up with, he seemed to give one back.

Juwann Winfree looks to have a bright future after burning his redshirt in Week 4. The freshman recorded 11 receptions for 158 yards and two scores, showing potential as a downfield receiver who can also make the tough catch.

Winfree had a four-catch, 80-yard, one-touchdown outing against Michigan State that briefly vaulted him into Big Ten consciousness before being hit with a suspension.

Final Grade: B

Moving Forward: Diggs is expected to head to the NFL, while Long graduates, so the Terps have some big shoes to fill. Winfree should claim a starting role in 2015, and Leak should return in a prominent role as well.

The status of the Jacobs brothers is still in question, though at this time the redshirt freshman Taivon Jacobs could be a potential breakout performer if healthy. Etta-Tawo, Malcolm Culmer, DeAndre Lane and converted slot Will Ulmer will all provide depth. Meanwhile, incoming freshman D.J. Moore looks promising and could have a Winfree-like 2015 if he continues to work.

Tight Ends

The biggest question mark heading into 2014 remains a question mark now that the campaign’s over. It’s hard to say this group performed poorly, however, since the tight ends weren’t featured much in the offense.

Starter Andrew Isaacs showed signs during fall camp, but he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4 and ended up with just two catches for three yards.

Derrick Hayward certainly looked the part with his long frame and huge hands, but he too only had two receptions in 12 games. Hayward had issues as a route runner, receiver and block-defeater.

P.J. Gallo, meanwhile, did OK as a blocker at times, but he barely registered as a pass catcher. Of course, he did have that 2014-defining two-yard touchdown catch at Penn State, but that reception proved to be half his season total.

Final Grade: Incomplete

Moving Forward: Isaacs, Hayward and Gallo are all projected to return next year. The Terps are hoping one of this trio can take the next step as both a blocker and receiver, with Isaacs being the most likely candidate.

Maryland has not recruited a 2015 tight end to this point, and there aren’t any immediately-eligible transfers on the radar either. So right now it looks like one of the current crop is going to have to pick it up.

Offensive Line

The Terps’ offensive line performed better than the 2013 unit, but it still left much to be desired. Maryland’s running game averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and 121.8 yards per game, while they surrendered 37 sacks too (104th in the FBS).

Quarterback C.J. Brown’s failure to get the ball out accounted for a few coverage sacks, but, still, he absorbed hit after hit and was repeatedly flushed from the pocket. Meanwhile, running backs Brandon Ross, Wes Brown and Co. had minimal daylight to dart to. In general, the line generated little push against the Big Ten’s best, and failed to contain the league’s elite pass rushers as well.

One of the main problems was the lack of depth across the board. The unit basically rotated in one or two backups, and when left tackle Mike Dunn proved too inconsistent to start, Randy Edsall inserted senior Jake Wheeler, who hadn’t developed during his four-plus years on campus.

For the second straight year center Sal Conaboy was the most serviceable lineman and did well in more than half of UMD’s game. But he also had issues opening holes and stalemating blitzers who came through the A- and B-gaps.

Left guard Silvano Altamirano claimed the starting role almost by default, but he never really lived up to expectations as a junior college transfer coming in two years ago. Altamirano held up in the nonconference and against some of Maryland’s weaker Big Ten foes, but he struggled against the league’s upper echelon.

Same goes for right guard Andrew Zeller, who had problems containing bull-rushers and blitzing linebackers. Zeller had a few nice outings as a run blocker, but he needed to be more consistent with his hands and feet, plus quicker off the ball.

At right tackle, Ryan Doyle started the majority of the games until Mike Dunn shifted over from the left side in late November. Doyle was OK at time, but his feet and fundamentals lapsed throughout 2014 as he allowed numerous quarterback pressures. Doyle wasn’t exactly the most potent hole opener either, losing the leverage matchup much too often.

As for Dunn, he showed signs of improvement early during the year, but by the time Big Ten play rolled around he was getting beat off the ball a bit too often. His feet weren’t quick enough and his punch wasn’t potent enough to contain defensive ends from Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Final Grade: C-minus

Moving Forward: Conaboy, Altamirano and Wheeler graduate, while Dunn, Doyle and Zeller are scheduled to return. Backup guard/center Evan Mulrooney should also be back and could be the starting center next year.

Freshman Derwin Gray, a former All-American, may be the starting left tackle should he develop this offseason. Redshirt freshman Damian Prince, another high school All-American, should see plenty of time -- or even start -- at guard provided he puts in the necessary work and comes into camp in shape. Sean Christie and Mike Minter, who both suffered season-ending injuries, should both be back and ready to compete for time as well.

None of the current incoming freshmen – E.J. Donahue, Ellis McKennie, Mason Zimmerman, Will McClain – project as contributors next year, though if the Terps land the likes of uncommitted tackle Isaiah Prince and/or guard Quarvez Boulware, both could rotate in.

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