Military Bowl 2013: Three things we learned heading into next season

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland has promise, but can they capitalize on it?

So that wasn't fun. At all. Maryland ended up losing by two scores in a game that was close for most of it, and now the Terps have around eight months to stew on it before facing James Madison as a Big Ten school next August.

Some things we've learned, heading into next season. Some we learned this weekend, others we learned throughout the year.

1. The offensive playcalling needs to improve, and quick

Let's start with this, as it will likely be the biggest challenge Maryland will face next season. Maryland's defense struggled against Marshall (and our suggested plan of Matt Robinson covering Gator Hoskins was apparently not implemented), but it's the offense that has been a repeated location of struggle, especially without Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

Mike Locksley provides for Maryland in the recruiting game, but not so much in the tactical area, and it's shown this season. The Terps struggled all year on third downs -- partially because of poor playcalling on third downs, and partially because of poor playcalling that led them into poor third down situations.

Whatever the root cause, Maryland has had troubles establishing a consistent (or effective) offensive identity, and that will need to change with some fierce Big Ten defenses on next year's schedule. Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa are all stout defensive teams that will simply run Maryland out of the stadium if the Terrapins don't fix some of their root offensive problems in both the running and passing games.

2. The offense will, however, have a lot of playmakers

And that goes a long way towards mitigating the problems in our first section here. If they can stay healthy (and that if is a gigantic one), Maryland will have Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, Levern Jacobs, Nigel King, Marcus Leak, Amba Etta-Tawo and four-star prospects Taivon Jacobs and Juwann Winfree in their receiving corps. At running back, Wes Brown will be added to the surging Brandon Ross and Albert Reid (as well as Jacquille Veii), and C.J. Brown will be a sixth-year senior with a better understanding of the offense and how (if?) it works.

Playmakers only go so far -- Maryland had many of them this season, and the inefficiency of the offense undid much of the explosive nature of the Terrapin offense. Once again, this goes back to point one -- the Terrapin offense will only go as far as the playcalling will allow them. Stefon Diggs can not actually break off a touchdown on every play, and if the Terps can't set him up in positions with space, they'll have a lot of trouble.

3. The offensive line will be improved

This goes a long way as well. Repeatedly on Friday, tackles Ryan Doyle and Michael Dunn were either run over, blown past or called for penalties. Even with the loss of Jared Cohen's commitment, neither will likely start next season -- Derwin Gray and Larry Mazyck are essentially locks for starting spots along the line, and are both massive improvements over what's already there, and Damian Prince could start from Day 1 if he commits to Maryland.

All three of those options are unknown, but there's a reason they're highly touted. Even if, for whatever reason, they're unable to start from the get-go, they will certainly increase the level of competition and should allow Maryland fans to feel comfortable with the unit of five starters that emerges.

Again, none of this matters if Maryland can't establish (or find) what they want to do on offense. The Terrapins have the weapons to be one of the most explosive teams in the country, and there is absolutely no reason why they should be held to under 30 points per game next year with two touchdown-less games, like they were this season. Now comes the tough part -- the eight-month loss, the longest of the year, wherein players and fans alike are forced to stew in a defeat without recourse. James Madison, you're up next.

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