Over the next couple of weeks, GopherDigest will take an early look at the Minnesota Gophers football team’s opponents throughout the 2016 regular season. Today, we preview the Maryland Terrapins.
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Maryland Terrapins
Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD.
Oct. 15, 2016, time TBA
Maryland head coach: DJ Durkin (1st season)
Coordinators: Walt Bell (Offensive coordinator; 1st season) and Andy Buh (defensive coordinator; 1st season)
Maryland 2015 record – 3-9 (1-7 B1G): The Terrapins had a rough season in 2015 winning three games, including a eight game losing streak with their only Big Ten win against Rutgers. New coach DJ Durkin hopes to turn around a struggling program of late.
2015 offensive stats: 87th nationally in total offense (375.0 YPG), 95th in scoring offense (24.7 PPG), 109th in passing offense (174.3 YPG), 31th in rushing offense (200.7 YPG)
2015 defensive stats: 90th nationally in total defense (421.2 YPG), 103rd in scoring defense (34.4 PPG), 103rd in passing defense (258.4 YPG), 54th in rushing defense (162.8 YPG)
Returning leading passer – QB Perry Hills (1001 yards, 8 TD, 13 INT on 90-of-180 passing): Hills had an up and down 2015 as a passer with only a 50% completion rate and more interceptions than touchdowns. Hills did rush for 500+ yards on the ground as well.
Returning leading rusher – RB Wes Brown (317 yards, 3 TD on 71 carries): The Terrapins lose their leading rusher to graduation from last year in Brandon Ross who accounted for nearly 1000 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Brown has some big shoes to fill.
Returning leading receiver – WR Levern Jacobs (425 yards, 3 TD on 35 catches): Maryland only completed 183 passes last fall, and it was spread out pretty evenly with eight guys catching double digits balls. Jacobs being the top returning guy with 400+ receiving yards.
Returning leading tackler – LB Jermaine Carter (103 tackles): The Terrapins return their leading tackler from last season Carter, but lose three of their top five tacklers from 2015.
Returning leader in interceptions – LB Jalen Brooks (Two picks): Maryland had nine interceptions in 2015, and their two leading guys with three each are now gone.
FIVE QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY DAVE LOMONICO OF THE TERRAPIN TIMES
What was the biggest thing about this Maryland team that you drew from watching spring practices and its spring game?
DL: They're going to fly around and be aggressive, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Terps don't have the talent yet to run exactly what the new coaching staff wants, but they're always going to be in attack mode. Blitzing, downhill safeties/LBs, an array of formations... Very aggressive on defense... The offense, it's hard to gauge because the personnel just isn't there yet..
What are the three biggest story lines to follow this season?
DL: Who steps up and claims the QB spot? It's very much an open competition now between Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe and incoming freshmen
How will the back end of the defense fare? The Terps have one returning defensive back starter, two new safeties and little depth. Can this group hold up against top Big Ten offenses?
Which underclassmen are going to rise to the occasion and fill out the O-line? Terps have plenty of openings up front and it'll be a stiff competition to see who claims the five starting spots, especially at tackle where the team is thin.
How will the team in general respond to D.J. Durkin and his staff? It's a totally different demeanor and mindset under Durkin -- lots of energy and an aggressive mentality. Which players will feed off that?
What are Maryland’s greatest strengths for the 2016 season?
DL: The front seven on defense should be a strength. Even though the team lost some key pieces at LB and along the D-line, there has been some steady progress during spring ball that's been encouraging. If nothing else, the group should always be around the football and do a good job tackling and creating chaos.
Also, the Terps could have a solid starting receiver group with Levern Jacobs, D.J. Moore and transfer Teldrick Morgan. Again, not a ton of depth here, but the starting three look like they could do some damage.
Lastly, starting corner/return man Will Likely is the face of the program and is a strength in his own right. He's a vaunted returner and a lockdown CB.
What are the Terrapins' greatest weaknesses?
DL: Secondary depth. Quarterback questions. Depth along both trenches. Also, they're trying to replace the Lou Groza Award winner at kicker in Brad Craddock, so the kicking game is a question as well.
What is your outlook for the 2016 season for Maryland and what's your way too early prediction for their game against the Gophers?
DL: The 2016 season may be a bit of a struggle as the roster was rather talent bereft when D.J. Durkin took over. He and his staff may get the most out of who is in the program now, and that may amount to five or so wins. But there may not be enough pure talent and depth to overcome the upper echelon in the Big Ten.
As for the Minnesota game, man, I don't know. It's so far out... I don't know much about the Gophers so it's hard for me to even make an educated guess. I guess since the game's in College Park, I'd give the Terps a slight edge, but who knows at this point.
You can follow Dave Lomonico on Twitter @MDTerrapinTimes.
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COMPLETED EARLY OPPONENT PREVIEWS:
Oct. 22 vs. Rutgers (Homecoming)
Oct. 29 at Illinois
Nov. 5 vs. Purdue
Nov. 12 at Nebraska
Nov. 19 vs. Northwestern
Nov. 26 at Wisconsin