Way too early 2016 look: Maryland
As we close the door on 2015, Saturday Tradition takes a look at each B1G team and how it projects in 2016. Yes, we realize that projecting 2016 records in January is silly. Take them for what you wish.
2016 coach: D.J. Durkin (first season)
2015 record: 3-9 (1-7 in B1G)
Biggest losses: Yannick Ngakoue, DL; Brandon Ross, RB; Sean Davis, DB
Key returners: Will Likely, DB/PR; Jermaine Carter, LB; Levern Jacobs, WR
2016 recruiting class ranking (247sports): 31st (6th in B1G)
Top committed recruit: Terrance Davis, four-star OG
2016 strength: Return game
As long as Will Likely decides to come back to school for his senior year, Maryland has the most explosive special teams playmaker in the B1G. The guy had three more return touchdowns in 2015, and led the nation in combined return yards. The 2015 Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year even broke a 76-year old B1G record for punt return yards in a game. He’ll likely wind up being a preseason All-American returner, too. In other words, teams would be foolish to punt to Likely in 2016. If they do, he can gash a team for six. If they don’t, he can at least help Maryland win the field possession game. Likely could also see his offensive role expand, and D.J. Durkin could elect to use him in a Jabrill Peppers-like way as a do-it-all weapon. Either way, special teams is where we’ll see Likely’s open-field abilities shine brightest.
2016 weakness: Passing game
To say that Maryland struggled throwing the ball in 2015 would be putting it nicely. Nobody in the country threw more picks than the Terps did. It didn’t matter if it was Caleb Rowe or Perry Hills, either. Both struggled with decision-making, and both will likely be the main competition to compete for the job in the offseason. Even if four-star pro-style quarterback Dwayne Haskins keeps his commitment to Maryland, he likely won’t be asked to start as a true freshman. The Terps do have some talented receiving threats coming in, and they return all of their main pass-catching options. But this is still a unit that lacks a go-to, move-the-chains guy. That’s a tough thing for any quarterback to lack. This group’s improvement will come down to new offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s ability to work with what he has and establish an identity.
Way too early 2016 projection: 5-7 (2-7 in B1G)
For a B1G East team, the Terps actually have one of the more favorable schedules in 2016. The team’s big non-conference road game is at UCF, which didn’t win a game in 2015. The Terps get to host Purdue and Minnesota in crossover tilts, and they get Rutgers at home to close the season. Even though they’ll still be in the rebuilding stage, those are all still winnable games. It’s important to remember that this team will still be rebuilding in 2016. Durkin, while he’s had an impressive offseason, is still a first-year coach without legitimate returners at key skill positions in arguably the toughest division in college football. There will be more growing pains, especially if Maryland can’t find some pass-rushers for Scott Shafer to work with. But 2016 gets the program back in the right direction and a loaded recruiting class makes for a more optimistic future for the new-look Terps.