Three keys for Maryland in 2016
Leading up to the start of the 2016 season, we’ll preview three key factors for every B1G team to have success.
Here are Maryland’s:
1. STOP GIVING THE BALL AWAY
Ok, I’m sorry to beat a dead horse, but it’s true. Maryland threw six more interceptions than any team in the country last year. Uh, that’s not good. So, crazy as it sounds, the Terps should try to avoid doing that this year.
Walt Bell could be the remedy. The new offensive coordinator is going to feature an up-tempo spread offense that doesn’t rely on Perry Hills to make five-step drops and pro-style reads. More importantly, he should throw the ball less and run the ball more. Remember last year when Hills ran for 100-plus yards in three straight games against the likes of Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa? Yeah, fun times. That might’ve been overlooked because of the fact that he threw multiple interceptions in each one of those contests. But he is a proven runner and he has more mobility than he probably gets credit for.
That brings us back to the original point. If Hills can just go down to averaging one interception a game, Maryland’s offense will be far less painful in 2016.
2. Embody DJ Durkin’s high-energy approach on defense
It’s already cliché to call Durkin a high-energy guy. He has so much energy that he doesn’t have time to put dots in between the “D” and “J” in his name (true story). Maryland could use some of that intensity on the defensive side of the ball. Even with a handful of NFL players, the Terps still bent too easily against better offenses.
This year’s group lacks the talent last year’s group had. Outside of Will Likely and Jermaine Carter, there aren’t many studs lining up on that side of the ball. But Durkin can still help the defense take a step up this year. Despite the fact that it had two of the better defensive backs in the country in Likely and Sean Davis, teams threw all over Maryland’s 103rd-ranked pass defense. Not surprisingly, the Terps were third-to-last in FBS in turnover margin.
How does that get turned around? Part of it is conditioning. Durkin is putting his team through a brutal fall camp, which has yielded some stunning results. His biggest in-season task is establishing the belief that the Terps can stay on the field with the B1G powers and that nobody comes into College Park and lights up the scoreboard.
That’ll determine whether or not the Terps can at least rise back to mediocrity this year.
3. Replace…the kicker?
Only 12 teams in the country got into the red zone less than Maryland last year. None of them were B1G teams. Joke all you want, but kicker Brad Craddock was a valuable, often unused weapon for the Terps. You know who just graduated? Craddock, the former Lou Groza Award winner.
Maryland will inevitably get into the red zone more with Bell’s offense, which won’t be as big-play reliant. The Terps absolutely cannot afford to have these long, 15-play, seven-minute drives end without points. So yes, Maryland needs to find a new kicker. Badly.
Adam Greene is the likely candidate. He replaced Craddock when he was injured last year and went 3 for 5 in the process. If he isn’t the guy, it’ll have to be either Danny Sutton or freshman Mike Shinsky, neither of whom have attempted a kick at the collegiate level.
The kicking game is important for an offense that knows how painful it is to give points away. That trend needs to end for Maryland to finish Durkin’s first season with a bowl berth.