Pick any over-the-top synonym for "ridiculous," and you have an accurate word to describe the rashes of injury that have repeatedly hit Randy Edsall's Maryland football teams over the past two years. There was 2012, when four quarterbacks succumbed to serious lower-body injuries, and Maryland turned to a freshman linebacker under center for four games. Then, at one point last season, Maryland was forced to host Clemson without even one top skill position player in the lineup. That day, the Terps missed their starting quarterback (C.J. Brown), running back (Brandon Ross), tight end (Dave Stinebaugh) and top two wideouts (Stefon Diggs, Deon Long). They did not win.
These Terps aren't in such a compromised position yet, but they're certainly off to a frustrating medical start.
What we saw last week:
More injuries. In the early season, Maryland had a mostly manageable injury situation. Linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil didn't play at all until Syracuse, and receiver Taivon Jacobs was lost for the year in Week 1, but the Terps were otherwise pretty healthy . Then L.A. Goree missed the Week 3 loss to West Virginia, and Matt Robinson and Cole Farrand were hurt during that game. Robinson still hasn't returned. Cudjoe-Virgil and Farrand are back, but now veteran defensive end Quinton Jefferson and backup linebacker Cavon Walker are injured. Jefferson, an important starter, won't play again this season, nor will Walker. Starting cornerback Alvin Hill was spotted on crutches after the Syracuse game, thus marking the spread of injuries from the front seven into the secondary. Maryland is definitely down at least one starting defender (Jefferson) going forward, and we don't know the statuses of Robinson or Hill, or if anything else will arise. Several defensive starters could be out when Maryland travels to Bloomington, though we'll have more information as it becomes available this week. On offense, starting tight end Andrew Isaacs was lost for the year with a terrible-looking knee dislocation, thrusting either P.J. Gallo or Derrick Hayward into a starting role.
Dominant special teams. Dave covered this angle well the other day, so we'll be brief here. Maryland has an elite kicker in Brad Craddock and an improving punter in Nathan Renfro. The Terps' coverage teams on both punts and kickoffs have been stellar. They have blocked both field goals and punts. They have gotten big punt returns from Will Likely and big kick returns from Stefon Diggs. Against Syracuse, the Terps converted both their field goal tries, blocked a punt and allowed an average kickoff return of 19.5 yards. The Maryland special teams are really, really good. We'd talk about them less, except they still don't get talked about enough.
Poor run defense. The most unsightly element of Maryland's 34-20 win, beyond doubt, was its lack of effective run-stopping. Perhaps it was a byproduct of missing Jefferson, Robinson and Goree, but 370 ground yards looks ugly no matter who's on the field. That's how far Syracuse players carried the ball on Saturday, which makes it a real wonder that the Orange could only muster 20 points. Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt and tailbacks Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore did most of the damage, each averaging at least 6.8 yards per rush.
What we're looking for this week:
Touches for Maryland's best players. On offense, Maryland's best players are Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Those two wound up with just eight offensive touches between them against the Orange. They were targeted on incompletions, but nonetheless: On 86 percent of Maryland's 58 offensive plays, neither Diggs or Long got the ball. Both C.J. Brown and Mike Locksley have insisted that Maryland doesn't call pass plays with specific receivers in mind, but that they're looking for opportunities to get the ball to their playmakers when they can. Against the Orange, Long had only one reception, and Diggs's six catches went for a total of 56 yards. Those totals should rise.
Development along the offensive line. Maryland's offensive line remains a work in progress. Center Sal Conaboy, right guard Andrew Zeller and right tackle Ryan Doyle have been in place for a while, but left tackle Michael Dunn and left guard Silvano Altamirano are still new starters at their positions. Doyle has struggled in pass-protection in spots, while Altamirano and the rest of the interior linemen could use to do better in run-blocking, especially on short yardages. C.J. Brown was sacked three times against Syracuse, but two of those looked like fairly direct results of missed blocks in the backfield by Brandon Ross. A week after being embarrassed against West Virginia, the offensive line held up respectably against a blitzing Syracuse defense, at least in pass-protection. The linemen need to make improvements in the running game, but that has to be an offense-wide objective.
Entering the B1G with a bang. We're not huge fans of narrative around here, but there's going to be a lot of it floating around when the Terps take the field for their first conference game as a member of the Big Ten. Maryland could use to win over some hearts and minds with a pride-inspiring win on the road, and the Terps, as they say, only get one chance to make a first impression. Indiana's football program doesn't have exactly have a reputation for excellence, and it wouldn't make the Terps look especially good to lose to them in their first game in the new league (although the Hoosiers are clearly trending upward). More practically, the Terps are about to run through quite the scheduling gauntlet, with six straight games either on the road or against perennial conference contenders. For postseason purposes, Maryland would be far more comfortable sitting at 4-1 before hosting Ohio State than at 3-2.
(Correction: A previous version stated that L.A. Goree did not play against Syracuse. He did play in the game.)