5 Questions: Nebraska Versus Maryland

We talk Maryland/Nebraska with Terrapin Times publisher Dave Lomonico.

1.) What is the biggest storyline this week for Maryland regarding this game? First time playing Nebraska? Getting bowl eligible? Something else? 

“More than anything, it's righting the ship. Right now, Maryland's lack of talent and depth across the board is being exposed in a significant way, especially up front in the trenches. The Terps have some solid skill players, but the lines are a significant issue and have been all season long. Moreover, UMD is trying to find a quarterback to finish out the season with senior starter Perry Hills banged up, true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome inconsistent and junior backup Caleb Rowe mistake prone. 

The Terps also had three promising freshmen, including budding star RB LoLo Harrison, suspended indefinitely and their status moving forward is questionable. That has consumed a large majority of the talk this week.

The feeling is the Terps will likely fall by a significant margin in Lincoln, and then they have to hope they have enough juice to beat Rutgers at home in the final game to become bowl eligible.

2.) Give us a name or two on both offense/defense Nebraska fans need to know about. 

“For offense, the name to know is now Ty Johnson with LoLo Harrison suspended. Johnson is an electric speedster who can pull away from defenders in the open. It's hard for him to gain yards inside with the state of the O-line, but he's a threat on the edges and in space.

Another name to know is sophomore wideout D.J. Moore, the team's most consistent receiver. He's a big, wide-bodied and strong WR who can make plays up top and in-between coverage.

Defensively, the player to watch is corner J.C. Jackson, who is a 1st or 2nd round NFL talent. He doesn't always play up to that level, but when he's at his best, he's a lockdown defender with outstanding ball skills and instincts.

It's also worth noting defensive tackle Kingsley Opara, who has finally emerged after his third year. He hasn't performed as well against the Big Ten elites Michigan and Ohio State, but he's been productive otherwise.”

3.) When Maryland has had success this season, what has been the biggest bright spot? 

“The running game. The Terps at one time had around six dynamic backs who could have very easily been listed as co-starters. Ty Johnson was the speed guy, LoLo Harrison was the all-around threat who quickly emerged as the clear-cut No. 1, Trey Edmunds was the power guy, Kenny Goins was a good short-yardage runner, and Wes Brown was another talented all-around back who had shown signs of busting out. And OC Walt Bell employed them well, with Maryland ranking in the top 20 nationally in rushing yards per game and yards per carry. It only helped that the O-line, which has had trouble in pass protection, actually performed well opening holes in the running game.

But now Harrison is out, Edmunds suffered a broken foot and Brown hasn't been consistent. It's up to Johnson and Co. to step up and the O-line to re-find its early-season form.” 

4.) Nebraska isn't exactly the powerhouse that it used to be, but how big would a win against one of college football's blue bloods be for the program? 

“Simply put, it would be huge, regardless of what level of "powerhouse" Nebraska is. For this Maryland team to beat a ranked opponent, it would pay major dividends in recruiting and would undoubtedly reinvigorate the fanbase. 

Right now, most fans realize this is a transition year for Maryland, and they're giving D.J. Durkin and his staff the benefit of the doubt, but, still, it's demoralizing watching your team get beaten by 50-some points on its home field. The feeling is, even if Durkin can energize the program, it's going to take quite awhile to compete with the Michigans and Ohio States of the world. So if they can somehow beat a ranked team like Nebraska, it would indicate a significant stride in the right direction.”

5.) Your keys to a Maryland win and score prediction? 

“First and foremost, the Terps have to hold their own up front. The defensive line tends to get worn down and the O-line has been shaky in protection. If Maryland can at least perform decently up front, they can probably narrow the gap a bit between the two squads.

Secondly, they have to cut back on the turnovers. QB Caleb Rowe is interception prone, and while Perry Hills is better, he'll throw his share of picks too. 

Thirdly, the Terps have to establish that running game early and often. If Maryland has to pass the ball, they're going to struggle. They need the run in order to open up the passing lanes. 

Fourth, the defense has to come up with a couple game-changing plays. They need to come up with a pick-six or something of the sort to energize the team, give it confidence and perhaps quiet the Nebraska crowd.”

Score Prediction: Nebraska 35-10 (picked earlier in the week before Armstrong recent news)

6.) Maryland is No. 16 right now in the nation when it comes to the 2017 class. How has Durkin been when it comes to recruiting and can they keep the pace going forward? 

“The Terps have been awesome on the recruiting trail, relatively speaking. Now, they're not going to end up in the upper-tier of the Big Ten more than likely, but considering the state of the program when Durkin took over (read: it was barren), this new staff has done a terrific job. Durkin is selling early playing time, the opportunity to start as a freshman and the chance to contribute in multiple areas (the Terps feature several two-way players). 

And it's not just Durkin doing the lifting here. He hired a star-studded staff complete with two former head coaches (Mike London, Pete Lembo), a budding offensive mind who has had terrific success elsewhere (Walt Bell), an ace recruiter/defensive backs coach in Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, touted recruiter/receivers' coach Chris Beatty and an up-and-coming young and hungry linebackers coach in Matt Barnes. Collectively, their positive, forward-thinking mindset and overarching energy has attracted recruits, especially those from the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Northern Virginia). The local recruits are buying into the message of staying home and building the nearby school into a winner.”

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