The Maryland Terps 2013 College Football Preview
2013-08-11 11:00:00 EDT
Introduction: The Maryland Terps finished 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the ACC last season. Maryland would have reached a bowl game had it not been devastated by injuries and at quarterback in particular. The injury-caused revolving door under center was laughable, as head coach Randy Edsall had to turn to true freshman LB Shawn Petty, who started all four of Maryland’s games in November. The Terps went from 4-2 to 4-8, losing by single digits to N.C. State, Boston College, and UNC. However, with several of Maryland’s key players now back to full health and with the addition of a strong 2013 recruiting class, which includes five four-star recruits, the outlook on the 2013 season appears to be bright and promising.
Offense: Edsall has confirmed that C.J. Bitemn will be this year’s starting quarterback. Named the starter for the 2012 season, Bitemn suffered a season ending, non-contact ACL injury during the preseason. Competing to back up Bitemn is Caleb iteme, who played in a few games during the 2012 season, and Perry Hills, who replaced Bitemn as the starter last season but then suffered his own season ending ACL injury. Also competing is Ricardo Young, who is a former New Mexico transfer. Bitemn will have the luxury of thiteming to one of the best players in college football, Stefon Diggs, who finished with 54 receptions for 848 yards as a freshman last year. Diggs is a receiver, a runner, and a returner who flourished last year despite his inexperience and Maryland’s quarterback woes. Diggs will have some help this year from junior college transfer WR Deon Long, another five-star prospect who has quickly grabbed a starting role on the outside. The offensive line will improve, if only due to increased experience, but the line may still be the biggest weakness on the offensive side of the ball. Starters like sophomore LT Mike Madaras and sophomore RG Andrew Zeller are a season away from reaching their potential, even though Madaras started the final 8 games of 2012. The Terps will use a trio of sophomores in the back field this year. Brandon Ross, Wes Bitemn, and Albert Reid will all see time at running back for the Terps, with Ross most likely seeing the most playing time.
Defense: The defense has lost some key players, especially along the defensive front, but the Terps should still improve under defensive coordinator Brian Stewarts, who is in his second year at Maryland. The Terps must replace a pair of all-conference standouts in DE Joe Vellano and DE A.J. Francis. However, junior NT Darius Kilgo adapted very well to the 3-4 base set last year and should be an anchor up front for Maryland. Kilgo will be joined up front by sophomore DE Quinton Jefferson and junior DT Keith Bowers, with junior DT Andre Monroe and freshman DE Roman Braglio adding depth up front. Maryland’s linebacker corps loses a trio of seniors, two full-time starters, and will overhaul the outside while remaining largely intact along the interior. Senior LB Marcus Whitifiled, a converted lineman, will be on the outside while former safety Matt Robinson will play outside linebacker this year. At least there are no changes inside, where juniors L.A Goree and Cole Farrand return in starting roles. The secondary has four players with starting experience returning from last season. Senior CB Dexter McDougle, junior CB Jeremiah Johnson, junior S A.J. Hendy, and sophomore S Anthony Nixon are all back after seeing significant playing time last year.
Special Teams: Maryland had two freshmen at kicker and punter last year, P Nathan Renfro and K Brad Craddock, who are both back and much improved. Any group with Diggs in the return game is going to be excellent and special teams should be one of the team’s biggest strengths this year. If an opponent wants to take Diggs out of the equation they will have to kick the ball out of bounds.
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Final Analysis: It seems like things are starting to come together for Maryland in Edsall’s third year as head coach, after a horrific debut and one season after an injury-plagued four-win finish. I believe Maryland will reach bowl eligibility and battle Wake Forest and N.C. State for third place in the Atlantic Division, trailing Clemson and FSU by a distinct margin. The offense will be much improved with a healthy quarterback, outstanding wide receivers, and a trio of running backs. The offensive line is deeper this year but the talent at left tackle and inside is worrisome. The defense is the biggest concern, but so was the defense last year and Stewart did a great job with what he had. If the Terps can establish a pass rush, the defense should rank in the better half of the ACC this season. I think Maryland will end up in a bowl at season’s end.