Big Ten Spring Review: Maryland

Maryland spent the spring looking to replace some talented playmakers and install a new defensive scheme.

Quick 2014 review:The Terrapins finished third in their first season in the Big Ten East, but they were only one game over .500 for the year after losing to Rutgers and Stanford to close out the season.

Head coach Randy Edsall's team showed a statistical regression fro 2013 in many categories, but three of Maryland's four conference losses were to teams that won New Year's Day bowls (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State). Deon Long and Stefon Diggs gave the Terrapins a pair of playmakers on offense, but the unit was hamstrung at times by a lack of a running game and injuries both at receiver and quarterback.

Per Football Outsiders advanced stats, Maryland was right around the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in many categories but notably struggled to put together or avoid giving up methodical drives.

Spring game recap: Marcus Leak was the big star of the day as the receiver caught three touchdown passes for the Red team, a 21-16 winner over the White on April 11. Leak, a 6-0, 214-pound senior, totaled 132 yards on six catches while junior DeAndre Lane also showed some big-play ability with a 52-yard catch that set up one of Leak's TDs. Senior running back Brandon Ross ran for 102 yards on 13 carries for the White team, including a 56-yard touchdown in the second half.

On the other side of the ball, standouts included defensive backs Will Likely and Antwaine Carter, both of whom had interceptions, and end Yannick Ngakoue, who had three sacks.

Issues addressed: Leak's big spring game could be taken as a good sign for the Terrpains, who lost both Long and Diggs to the pursuit of NFL dreams and had a pair of running backs announce intentions to transfer shortly after spring concluded. One-time Ohio State verbal commit Taivon Jacobs and his brother, Levern, also figure to be in the mix for playing time at receiver, but none of them got the chance to work with expected starter Caleb Rowe during the spring because he was sidelined by rehabilitation from a knee injury.

For the second year in a row, Edsall talked in the spring about the need for his team to get more physical. He hoped to begin to accomplish that during winter weight training and continue it with the installation of a 4-3 defense during spring ball.

The change in defenses means a new role for Ngakoue, who was an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme last season, and Edsall said he liked what he saw.

"I think he has gotten better," Edsall said after the spring game. "There are still some things that he has to work on, but he enjoys that position and he has gotten better at it. He is just going to continue to get better because he is a worker. He is a guy who wants to do well. We want to get him stronger and put a little bit more weight on him, but I really like what he has done there. He has the right approach and the right attitude."

The head coach again praised Ngakoue along with fellow converted linebackers Jesse Aniebonam and Chandler Burkett a week later speaking on the Big Ten spring teleconference, when he also said he feels his team has gotten stronger up front on the offensive side of the ball in the past year. Three starters return on the offensive line while a pair of highly regarded redshirt freshmen -- Damian Prince and Darwin Gray -- were among the candidates to claim open spots. However, Gray's hopes to contribute this season dimmed when he was knocked out with a shoulder injury late in spring ball.

"We do have some inexperienced guys who didn't play but that's college football," Edsall said. "Guys have to learn. As long as they give good effort work on developing good fundamentals and technique they have a chance to be successful."

Overall, he sounded satisfied that his team learned plenty in its first time through its new conference.

"I like the fact our young men know what the Big Ten is all about," Edsall said. "They understand what we have to do and how much we have to work in order to give ourselves the opportunity to go out there and win each week."

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