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Terrapins Mailbag: What's the biggest surprise awaiting Maryland football in 2015?

Football, basketball, beer and the regulatory definition of a tortoise: It's the last Terrapins Mailbag of the offseason.

Levern Jacobs will play a big role for Maryland football in 2015.
Levern Jacobs will play a big role for Maryland football in 2015.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Football season, for all intents and purposes, has arrived. Maryland is deep into its fall training camp, and it's now fair to count the time until the Terps' Sept. 5 opener against Richmond in days or weeks, not months.

Let's get to the final mailbag of the summer. Thanks to all who submitted questions.

Yes. As part of Maryland's one-year pilot program, alcohol will be available at designated Xfinity Center (and Byrd Stadium) concession stands. Football and men's basketball are the only sports included in the pilot, for which details are still being flushed out. The university's dining services department will head up the sales effort.

That's a good question. In general, I think Maryland fans are always worried about the offensive line, which has spent the last three years ranging from "downright putrid" to "just mediocre." But this year's line should have the right mix of sturdy veterans (Andrew Zeller, Michael Dunn) and talented freshmen (Damian Prince, perhaps Derwin Gray) to be reasonably effective.

On the other hand, Maryland loses everything but the kitchen sink at wide receiver. The team's best returning wideouts either didn't play last season (Levern and Taivon Jacobs) or had a 40 percent catch rate (Amba Etta-Tawo), and beyond them are a bunch of players who have never had a serious role in an FBS offense. Maryland's receivers might well be fine, but they might really struggle. It's worth at least some concern.

This goes with the above, but more broadly: Probably.

Maryland was definitely bad at protecting C.J. Brown last year. The Terps' adjusted sack rate was 88th in the country, and they were even worse on passing downs. They gave up 2.77 sacks per game, third-worst in the Big Ten, ahead of Illinois and a particularly egregious Penn State line. So, your concern is justified.

Here's why I think things will get better: Maryland's biggest problem in pass protection was right tackle Ryan Doyle's inability to seal the edge against quick defensive ends. (For an example, West Virginia's Noble Nwachukwu sabotaged Maryland's offense last year by beating Doyle repeatedly one on one.) Doyle wasn't well-suited for the edge, and Maryland moved him to left guard (where he's bigger by comparison and less exposed to skilled rushers) for this season. Former five-star recruit Damian Prince is taking his place on the edge, and I expect either he or another touted redshirt freshman, Derwin Gray, will ultimately do a better job holding down that spot.

The Terps might not be much better than average on the offensive line, but I doubt they'll be a lot worse.

Jermaine Carter is going to start at inside linebacker, which makes him the anchor of Maryland's new 4-3 defense. He was strong on special teams last year, and the gossip is that Maryland expects big things from him with actual defensive playing time in 2015. I'll go with him.

For next year's draft, there aren't many. Sean Davis has NFL size and athleticism, so he could get himself picked if he takes well to cornerback. Yannick Ngakoue is definitely going to play in the league, but whether he goes after his junior year is too hard to predict. Will Likely has everything an NFL team could want except for height, which makes me think he'll play all four years for the Terps. Maybe Quinton Jefferson gets a look somewhere if he holds up well at defensive tackle, or maybe Andrew Zeller along the offensive line.

There are a few younger players who might get there, but they're years away: Adam McLean, Jesse Aniebonam, Damian Prince, Derwin Gray and Quarvez Boulware have the pedigrees that make for a solid NFL foundation if they play well in College Park.

Some hoops, now:

There's been a lot of buzz from recruiting analysts I respect about New York shooting guard Kevin Huerter, who'll be visiting campus soon. Inside Maryland Sports's Jeff Ermann spoke to his father last week, and it sounds like Maryland's very much in play. Maryland will probably lose at least four starters to the professional game after the season, so I'd be surprised if at least two more prospects don't join Cowan. It's a bit early to peg how things will wind up, but Maryland's grandest prize would be to land DeMatha star Markelle Fultz, Brooklyn guard Rawle Atkins or Detroit guard Josh Jackson. All are five-star talents who could help Maryland stay near college basketball's apex.

For next year, I think any lineup with Jared Nickens could be gobs of fun. Nickens should be right around a 40 percent three-point marksman as a sophomore just based on normal progression, and being surrounded by major offensive threats could leave him so wide open that he'll exceed it. A smaller (yet not that small) lineup of Melo Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon, Nickens, Jake Layman and Robert Carter would create spacing nightmares for teams with slow big men and give Maryland a chance to win some track meets.

For 2016, well, that's a crapshoot. I'd guess something like: Jaylen Brantley, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky, but Cowan's progression, Carter's NBA planning and any other commitments could change things.

Frankly, I'm terrified that our state's most recent attorney general hasn't come to a regulatory distinction on this matter already.

How does Maryland differentiate between turtles, terrapins and tortoises in, say, animal rights cases? In environmental law? THIS IS ANARCHY. I'm calling for hearings on Turtleghazi right now.