Big Ten Spring Football Review: Maryland

2014 marks a new beginning for Maryland as the school joins the Big Ten. Head coach Randy Edsall enjoyed the luxury of having a large percentage of his starters return this spring, but there was still plenty of work to do.

Quick 2013 review:

Maryland ran the table in its September nonconference game then came back to Earth with a 63-0 shellacking from Florida State. The Terrapins started their final season of ACC play 1-4 before an overtime victory at Virginia Tech and a 20-point home win against N.C. State were sandwiched around a three-point loss to visiting Boston College. They wrapped up the year with a 31-20 loss to Marshall in the Military Bowl.

Statistically, the Terps ranked 84th nationally in scoring and 75th in total offense with an attack more predicated on passing than rushing under the direction of dual-threat quarterback C.J. Brown. Defensively, Maryland placed 44th in total yards thanks in part to a good pass rush and ability to make stops in the backfield. While the offense struggled mightily on third down, the defense was 21st in the country. Turnovers were a problem as 28 giveaways contributed significantly to the squad finishing 102nd nationally in turnover margin.

Per Football Outsiders advanced stats, the offense looks a bit better while the defense slipped somewhat but not greatly. The offense ranked in the 30s nationally in play efficiency, rushing S&P+, passing S&P+ (figures that are akin to slugging percentage plus on-base percentage in baseball as they measure both success rate and explosiveness) and standard downs while checking in at No. 52 on passing downs. The No. 54 overall ranking in offensive S&P+ would have placed the Terrapins in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Defensively, the advanced numbers reveal a unit ranked 58th overall in defensive S&P+ with better marks against the run (42nd) than the pass (64th). As might be expected from those splits, the Terps were better on standard downs (35th) than passing downs (84th).

Spring game recap:

Brown completed 16 for 24 passes for 157 yards to help lead the White team comprised of offensive players over the Red team comprised of defensive players. He accounted for a pair of touchdowns, one rushing and one passing, as the offense overcame a deficit of 70-58 entering the game (thanks to scores compiled earlier in spring ball) to win 187-143. Both sides were awarded points for a variety of different types of plays. Brandon Ross topped all rushers with 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns while one-time Ohio State verbal commit Taivon Jacobs logged five catches for 64 yards to lead the receiving group. Will Likely was among defensive standouts with a pair of interceptions while A.J. Hendy also picked off a pass.

Issues addressed:

With 87 percent of its offensive and defensive depth chart returning from its last season in the ACC, Maryland's first spring preparing for Big Ten play was more about simply improving than filling empty spots.

Head coach Randy Edsall knows the Terrapins have to get better to compete in the Big Ten, particularly the rugged Eastern division that is home to both teams that played in last year's Big Ten Championship Game, and he used the word "inconsistent" throughout repeatedly when asked to talk about the spring game.

"We got it going a little bit on the offense, but like I said, there was just too much inconsistency on the offense out there," Edsall said. "Defensively guys are playing hard. We are down on numbers on defense, but there was just an overall consistency factor. That's the biggest thing that we have to continue to work and improve on to get better."

There was some competition at skill positions as the coaches sought to sort through a crowded backfield and find more playmakers to go along with Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, both of whom were held out of full-contact drills after missing the end of last season with injuries.

Overall, Edsall sounded happy about how that went as the coaching staff searched for people to handle the ball when teams gang up on Diggs and Long.

"I think we have really good skill guys on offense and I think we have depth there," Edsall said. "I like the people that we have at receiver, I like our running backs, our quarterbacks, fullback. We have some young tight ends that really haven't played much and we have to have them come along, and our offensive line has progressed quite nicely here in the spring.

"We have a chance to be very dynamic offensively."

At running back, Ross was the leading rusher last season with 776 yards, but he is still trying to hold off competition from at least three Terps.

"I do not know who our starter is," Edsall said. "I think we'll have Albert (Reid), Jacquille (Veii), Wes (Brown) and then Brandon all competing and as we continue through the preseason. It's a great thing to have. Competition is a great thing to have and we have it at that position."

As for the defense, Likely's big day could be a harbinger of things to come this fall for the sophomore cornerback, who was fifth on the team last season with 70 tackles after injuries made him a major contributor earlier than expected.

"I'm just working to get better," he told "I'm working on my technique, my footwork and my press-man coverage."

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