In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
No. 60 Maryland
Maryland needs a do-over on last season after the year was wiped out by injuries.
The Terps return one of the Big Ten's best backfields, all five starting offensive linemen, and a pass-rushing specialist from injury, and they added several key transfers on both sides, including former Auburn defensive end Byron Cowart.
2017 Record: 4-8 (2-7, Big Ten)
What started as a promising season with an upset of Texas and two road wins in their first four games quickly became an injury-laced nightmare that included five losses by at least 25 points and only one win in November and December.
Not only did injuries hurt their record (and contribute to an embarrassing 63-point home loss to Penn State), they ruined a critical season in D.J. Durkin's rebuild.
Head Coach: D.J. Durkin (3rd Year, 10-15)
"It was the toughest thing I've ever gone through, to be honest with you," Durkin said of Maryland's 2017 season.
Despite a brutal season, Durkin and his staff didn't lose a single commitment from the Big Ten's fifth-ranked recruiting class. They signed four four-star players, beating out several Power Five programs who didn't win four games last year for some high-end talent.
Ten wins in two seasons won't generate much optimism but Durkin is recruiting like a champion, Maryland has improved facilities and the Terps enter the season with one of their most talented two-deeps in the last 15 years.
WR D.J. Moore, LB Jermaine Carter Jr., CB JC Jackson, S Josh Woods
D.J. Moore became Maryland's first first-round pick and highest-draft player since Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 7, 2009) when the Panthers selected him at No. 24. Jermaine Carter Jr., a fifth-round pick of the Panthers, was a three-time All-Big Ten linebacker who led the Terps in tackles each of the last three years.
JC Jackson is also gone after recording three interceptions and seven pass breakups last year.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Tyrell Pigrome, QB Kasim Hill, RB Ty Johnson, RB Lorenzo Harrison, WR Taivon Jacobs, OT Derwin Gray
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell left for the same position at Florida State, prompting Durkin to hire former Pitt and LSU coordinator Matt Canada to lead a unit that started four quarterbacks a year ago (and three in 2016).
The 46-year-old is transitioning the Terps from a fast-paced, no-huddle system to a pro-style system that will occasionally run the no-huddle but will be more flexible to the personnel. For example, sometimes you'll see two or three running backs — most often Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison — on the field together.
"I like how we can be multiple with our personnel. I think that's the biggest thing," Durkin said near the end of spring practice. "Our guys like it, too, where you know wherever the depth chart is or based on your strengths, if you create a role for yourself, there's things you can do, there's a fit for you somewhere in the offense."
Kasim Hill (below, top) and Tyrell Pigrome (below, bottom) are vying for the starting job, though both missed spring practice as they recovered from torn ACLs suffered last September. Consequently, the competition is on hold until fall camp.
The quarterback room might have the most talent of any room on the team but, for now, running back is the strength of the roster.
“You look at our running backs and the depth of position,” DJ Durkin said in March. ”I mean we have a significant number of guys in that room that I feel are dangerous with the ball in their hands as well as can do other things. To me, as a staff, it’s our job of figuring out different ways to get them the ball.”
Harrison and Johnson entered last year as the second- and fourth-ranked most-elusive returning running backs in the Big Ten and were both reliable and, at times, explosive. Johnson was one of only 15 FBS running backs to average at least 6.4 yards per carry on 130 or more carries. Both will catch more passes this year.
Only two Terps caught more than 15 passes last year. Two! With Moore gone, that, obviously, means senior Tavion Jacobs is the only returnee who caught at least 15 passes. It's one of the most unproven groups in the Power Five.
Left tackle Derwin Gray was one of only two all-conference picks (the other, D.J. Moore, is gone) and leads an upperclassmen-heavy offensive line that will start at least three seniors.
Returning Defensive Players
DE/LB Jesse Aniebonam, LB Isaiah Davis, NB Antoine Brooks Jr., CB Tino Ellis, S Darnell Savage Jr.,
Often, numbers don't tell the full story. That's not the case for Maryland, whose defensive numbers accurately tell a story of a unit that was miserable in 2017. They gave up 0.51 points per play (115th in the FBS), allowed opponents to score on 87 percent of red-zone opportunities (93rd) and — as the offense sputtered in the first half — gave up more than 21 points in the opening half.
Former Stanford and Cal defensive coordinator Andy Buh is back for his third year and while the schemes remain the same, the defense will look a lot different with three transfers and one injury returnee projected to start.
They lost Carter and Jackson but the fourth-worst pass rush in the country (3.1-percent sack rate) gets pass-rushing Buck end Jesse Aniebonam (below) back from injury after missing all but one game last year. He had 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2016 and led all 3-4 outside linebackers in the Big Ten with 30 pressures.
Struggles elsewhere overshadowed a decent season from Maryland's secondary. Jackson, Josh Woods, Darnell Savage Jr. and Antoine Brooks combined for 10 interceptions and helped the Terps rank 42nd nationally in yards per attempt and 31st in yards per completion. Savage and Brooks return, as does junior corner Tino Ellis.
"We're all more dependent on each other," Savage said of the defense after the spring game. "I tell the front seven to get us to third down and we'll handle the rest."
They allowed opponents to convert 49.4 percent of their third downs last year. That's…really crappy.
WR Rayshad Lewis, DE Byron Cowart, LB Tre Watson, CB Marcus Lewis
Maryland was aggressive on the transfer market, landing three key players on defense: Byron Cowart from Auburn, Tre Watson from Illinois and Marcus Lewis from Florida State. Lewis is a former four-star prospect from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.
“They’re terrific,” DJ Durkin said of Lewis and Cowart. “They’ve been consistent all spring too, they’ve performed that way pretty much throughout the entire spring every day. We’re excited about those guys. They’ll definitely be big contributors for us.”
Offensively, receiver Rayshad Lewis is eligible after sitting out last year following his transfer Utah State, where had had 40 receptions as a freshman in 2016. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder also took snaps at cornerback during spring practice.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s doing a heck of a job,” Durkin said. “He’s a guy that can help us on both sides of the ball. We’ll make a determination of which one he majors in — if he does both or just one — after we get out of spring. But he’s doing both right now and doing a really good job.”
The great news: There is a decent chance of a 4-0 start — or at least 3-1 for the second straight year — and they miss Wisconsin and Northwestern, arguably the Big Ten West's top teams.
The bad news: Maryland is still in the Big Ten East, making bowl eligibility a challenge if they don't win at least three non-conference games.
|Saturday, Sept. 1
|Saturday, Sept. 8
|at Bowling Green
|Saturday, Sept. 15
|Saturday, Sept. 22
|Saturday, Oct. 6
|Saturday, Oct. 13
|Saturday, Oct. 20
|Saturday, Oct. 27
|Saturday, Nov. 3
|vs. Michigan State
|Saturday, Nov. 10
|Saturday, Nov. 17
|vs. Ohio State
|Saturday, Nov. 24
|at Penn State