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Testudo Times Roundtable: Maryland football season preview, predicting Richmond game

Testudo Times staff writers and contributors gather to talk about Maryland's first year in the Big Ten and Maryland football's opener against Richmond this Saturday.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Testudo Times Roundtable

Week of 8/31

Q: We're going to start broad and then narrow it down. How would you grade (on a scale of F to A+) Maryland's first year in the Big Ten?

Todd: For me, without a doubt the year earns an A. Not only did they win the five titles named in question three but men's basketball had a great B1G season, football fared better than most expected, gymnastics wasn't great in conference but equaled their highest ever finish in the NCAA Tournament, Thea La Fond (mostly) boosted women's track to a solid performance especially given the comparative lack of resources and a couple of golfers - Juliet Vongphumy and David Kocher also did really well. Softball faded at the end of their season but bounced back. Sure, volleyball and wrestling struggled as anticipated with the former landing about where I would have expected and wrestling falling short of even my limited expectations but otherwise, I think it was a great year.

Brian B: Even if you just break down the success of basketball/football it would have to be an A. Although the four conference football victories may not have came in the most expected way, four B1G wins (three on the road) is pretty respectable. Men's BB finished second in the conference while the women dominated top to bottom. Other sports that had consistent success in the ACC seemingly had no difficulty transitioning to the Big Ten.

Andrew K. : I follow three sports closely: football, men's basketball, and baseball. In football the Terps earn a "B", only tanking in one game they should have won: Rutgers. Beat Rutgers and the grade would have been a "B+". Basketball gets an "A-". The minus is because of post-season disappointment, otherwise the team surpassed my expectations. I'd also give baseball an "A-". Had they won the B1G tournament or made it to the CWS then I'd have rated the Terps' baseball season as an "A".

Pete: I'll throw in an A- overall here, combining Maryland's excellent performances in most Olympic Sports as well as very solid debuts for the revenue teams.

Carson: I have to go with an A as well. Football did a lot better than most expected (and beat Penn State after the whole pre-game shenanigans), basketball and baseball had a great year, field hockey, soccer, lax all brought home titles as well. Great start.

Noah: The consensus here is that Maryland graded out very well and I have to agree. I'd give them an A. Considering that they won (or shared) five Big Ten titles, Maryland wasn't thrown by the transition. Football won at the Big House and in Happy Valley. That's impressive. Basketball experienced a resurgence as the men's team cracked the top 10 and the women's team returned to the Final Four. Throw in a national championship for women's lacrosse and a runner-up finish for the men and you are looking at one heck of a year.

Q: On a scale of 1-10, how great was this summer for Maryland athletics?

Todd: I probably take a broader view than some so I'd have to slot it in at about a 5. The hype around men's basketball pumps things up but the loss of Lexi Brown, what looks to be slowing momentum in football recruiting and the departure of Courtney Deifel and another late hire that, even if it had been a flashier name, is bound to keep the reins on that program for a couple of years because of the recruiting cycle kept the summer's pace at a trot more than a gallop for me.

Brian B: I will take the narrower (easier) view to contrast Todd's answer (because I am lazy). For me it has to be an 8. While the prospect of the football team being anything more than mediocre this year are pretty low, they picked up some steam in the recruiting game that at least has the future looking a little brighter. But my bias toward men's basketball has me obviously very excited for the upcoming season, and I cannot remember the last time in which I was already anxious for college basketball to start in July. PLUS at Byrd, who doesn't like spending 32 dollars for a mild buzz.

Andrew K.: From a baseball perspective, pretty damn good. Szefc got a contract extension, a number of Terps made summer league all-star teams, and LaMonte Wade & Zach Morris have thrived in pro ball so far.

Pete: Dwayne Haskins, Diamond Stone, Destiny Slocum ... I'll give it a 10.

Carson: From a basketball recruiting standpoint, College Park was a hotbed for 5-star visits. The DMV2UMD movement wasn't quite what everyone had expected but getting Haskins, Ellis, and hopefully Diggs is nice. I'll go with a hard 9.

Noah: I'd say 9 because Pete nailed it when it comes to the recruiting angle. Highly ranked kids in a number of different sports want to come to Maryland whether they are from here or from halfway across the country. Maryland is now becoming a very appealing brand. Baseball continued their ‘shock a great team and then get beat by Virginia approach' in the NCAA Super Regionals. If you count Memorial Day weekend as part of the summer (and I do), Women's Lacrosse took home their second straight national title and the men's team lost in the NCAA Final to Denver.

Q: Maryland won or shared five Big Ten titles last season with Field Hockey, Men's Soccer, Women's Basketball, Women's Lacrosse and Men's Lacrosse leading the charge. How many Big Ten titles does Maryland win this year?

Todd: I'd say they contend for that number again. All five of those should be competing for titles at the very least. Now, add men's basketball which goes in as the favorite and baseball should certainly be in contention, too. Frankly, I'll also be interested to see if gymnastics can carry the momentum from their NCAA finish into a better position in the conference, too.

Brian B: Todd sounds about right on that.

Andrew K. : I'm going to bump it up to six, either due to men's basketball and/or baseball.

Pete: Give me 6 as well.

Carson: I'll say 7, adding men's basketball and baseball.

Noah: I'll say that Men's Basketball gets it done but my gut tells me that baseball is going to finish top-three because you never know when a team like Illinois is going to go 21-1 in conference play like they did last year. I'm going with six.

Q: Now to football! In your opinion, did Randy Edsall make the right decision in naming Perry Hills as the starter at quarterback?

Todd: I start off with an immediate yes because I rarely question the personnel decisions of coaches. They see the players every day in practice, they know more about the health of the players, they set the standards they want the players to meet and, since their continued employment is, to a significant degree, based on the team's on field success, I have to presume that the element of self-interest plays a part and that they have a sincere belief in the choices they make.

Brian B: Given Edsall's more conservative tendencies, I say that this is a decision that kind of makes sense. While Rowe as shown some flashes in limited playing time in the past, Hills appeared to be more consistent when given the opportunity to play. Maryland won four games in 2012, all of them with Hills behind center. Albeit they had to play several games at the end of the season with a linebacker at QB. While Hills may not jump off the stat sheet he certainly has already shown an ability to manage games and win them. Rowe really hasn't, and I do not know much about Daxx Garman, but his stats suggest that he sometimes likes to come down with a case of the Kirk Cousins, and turnovers are not something Maryland can commit too many of and expect to win games.

Andrew K.: Time will tell. From what I read it seems that Hills didn't play his way to on the first team as much as Rowe and Garman played their way off of it. Plus, Locksley favors the read option offense which Hills fits into better.

Pete: A combination of Andrew and Todd's answers, for me. Time will tell, but it's hard to criticize Edsall for picking the quarterback that had the best camp.

Carson: I agree with Pete. Edsall said he was going to go with whoever played best in camp so you have to think Hills is our best chance at winning games at this point in time. I have a feeling we will see some of Rowe this season. But from the sound of it, Hills to start the season gives the Terps the best chance to succeed.. for now.

Noah: Not a flashy choice but I remember him being a reliable and competent quarterback when he led Maryland to a 4-2 record in 2012. Maryland ended that season with Shawn Petty under center. Hills won the job and should have the benefit of an improved offensive line.

Q: Who is going to be Maryland's MVP this year on offense?

Todd: Damian Prince or Derwin Gray. Seriously, (and yes, I mixed the names deliberately) offensive lines don't win MVPs but I think they are the key to this team's offensive success perhaps even more than for some other teams. While I won't quibble with the decision to name Perry Hills the starter, I don't recall him being the sort of playmaker who has the ability to turn OL breakdowns into big plays. He had that sort of player in his four freshmen starts and though Pete tells me the Jacobs brothers have real playmaking ability, I'll need to see the evidence of that on the field. Force me to pick one skill position player and I'll go out on a small limb and say Brandon Ross.

Brian B: Everything I have read as had the OL being the cog that could make or break UMDs offense this year. Given the mass exodus of several players from several key skilled positions I do not see an MVP arising from one of the more traditional spots. So again I agree with Todd, that while they might not be an obvious MVP candidate, the most important players on this years offense will originate on the OL. Runner Up MVP Candidate : Joel Statham

Andrew K.: This is a tough question as no one player stands out. My inclination is to go with Brandon Ross, as he's had flashes of playmaking ability. But he's got to do a much better job of holding onto the football. Taivon Jacobs might be a real surprise though.

Pete: I will also go with Brandon Ross. If he can cut down on the fumbling, he'll be one of the better backs in the conference.

Carson: Call me crazy, but I'm going to be different here and go with Amba Etta-Tawo. The receiving core has been talked about a lot as being an area of uncertainty this season. But I believe if Hills has success in the passing game this year, it will be because of Etta-Tawo. He's fast and I have a feeling he will step up this year with the departures of Diggs, Long, Winfree, and co.

Noah: The offensive line is obvious because if they don't give Hills time to throw or give the backs lanes to run through, you can stick a fork in Maryland's season. I think Brad Craddock is Maryland's best weapon when it comes to scoring points. Maryland will have a tough time scoring touchdowns this year if they can't run the ball effectively. That leads me to think that they will be setting up for a lot of long field goals. Enter Craddock.

Q: Who is going to be Maryland's MVP this year on defense?

Todd: With all the focus on William Likely, I'm going to say I'm going to be a bit contrarian and say Yannick Ngakoue. The front seven needs to be much improved from last season and he's got to be the standout he was recruited to be.

Brian B: Will Likely will likely be a name you hear being broadcast this season. However, I see teams coming in with a run first mentality so it is tough to say how many opportunities Likely will get to make key plays.

Andrew K.: Other than Will Likely?  Yannick Ngakoue. He had an impressive sophomore season upon which to build. He's on the Butkus Award watch list, as well as preseason second team all-B1G. Sean Davis: if he shows more consistency in pass defense, he could have a good year.

Pete: William. Likely.

Carson: Will Likely. But I also agree with Brian and Andrew. If teams run the ball, his skill set will be neutralized. In which case someone in the front seven, my guess is also Yannick Ngakoue, will have to lead the rush.

Noah: Will Likely. One of the most exciting (and explosive) players to watch in the conference and in the country.

Q: What player are you most excited to see that is not named Will Likely or Brad Craddock?

Todd: I'd have to say see my answer immediately above.

Brian B: I'd say Perry Hills, just because the QB situation has been a bit of a mystery all season and I am curious to see how it all pans out. Was Hills chosen because he was the best of the best and truly earned his spot as the starter, or was he simply the LEAST bad, or did he fit in the best with Edsall's system, etc.

Andrew K.: I'm really curious to see how Taivon Jacobs recovers from his injury suffered early last season. He could become the playmaker that the offense desperately needs.

Pete: D.J. Moore. Maryland needs weapons at wide receiver, and the true freshman impressed enough to make the two-deep.

Carson: A.J. Hendy. Coming off a suspension last year, I think he has a huge year in a loaded Maryland secondary. He has shown big play capability and will be playing with a chip on his shoulder.

Noah: I'm going to go with a tie between Caleb Rowe's body language on the sidelines and Anthony Nixon. Nixon is a pretty good special teams player and blocked a punt or two last season.

Q: What is your best and worst-case scenario for Maryland football's 2015-2016 season?

Todd: I assume the framework of your question is wins and losses. So I'll say best case is 8-4 with the dream season coming in at 9-3. The 8-4 comes from 3-1 in the first four games and 5-3 in the B1G (with the only losses coming to aOSU, Wisconsin, and MSU). The dream season adds the win at WVU. Worst case is probably 4-8 with the nightmare being 3-9 or worse.

Brian B: Best case, Maryland squeaks past Bowling Green, manages to upset WVU and beats a disappointing Michigan at home in prime time. They head into Ohio State ranked 23rd and lose by several touchdowns, but people are still excited for the 5-1 Terps and purchase some tickets to the Penn State "home" game and the fan spread is surprisingly close to 50/50, the Terps again win on a Craddock FG. The Terps then drop three straight to Iowa, Wisconsin and MSU before beating Indiana and again falling to Rutgers to close out the season giving them a final record of 7-5 and a trip to some bowl somewhere.

Worst Case, Maryland loses to Bowling Green 44-35, which surprises some of the more casual Terp fans, they drop uninspired games to WVU, Michigan, and OSU. The Terps roll into Baltimore 2-4 and play in front of a primarily white and blue crowd and drop the game by two touchdowns as Hackenburg finally begins to make strides. They lose to Iowa, upset Wisconsin (just because), lose to MSU, beat Indiana, and again drop one to Rutgers finishing off a very uneventful campaign at 4-8.

Andrew K.: Best Case: Probably 7-5 and winning a weak bowl game. I think the team has taken a step backwards in terms of talent from last year's squad. Perhaps Hills or Rowe will provide more accuracy in the passing game, and defenses won't stack the box as much.  Worse case: 4-8, and once again we hear "But just wait until next year."

Pete: Best case scenario is 8-4 with wins over Michigan, Iowa and Penn State, but that would be wild. Worst case is 3-9, which would also be wild.

Carson: Best case: 8-4. Embarrass Penn State in Baltimore, manage to beat Michigan and Wisconsin. Worst case: 4-8. Beat Richmond, South Florida, Indiana, and Rutgers. Lose to Bowling Green. After all the pre-season talk about quarterback, Gage Shaffer finishes the year under center.

Noah: Best case: Maryland wins their first five games, beating WVU in Morgantown for the first time in over a decade and getting out of town just before angry Mountaineer fans set it ablaze and then beating Michigan, leading Terps fans to trash Route 1. After getting shut out by both Ohio State and Penn State, Maryland beats Iowa, Indiana, and Rutgers to finish the regular season at 8-4 before losing in a bowl game to UCLA.

Worst case: Maryland gets shredded by the Bowling Green offense and South Florida remembers how they should have beaten Maryland the year before and actually get it done this time around. Jim Harbaugh and his khakis intimidate Maryland so much that they don't even take the field for the Michigan game. Joey Bosa literally feasts on Maryland's quarterbacks the following week. Those who escape with their limbs intact can't summon the courage to play. Maryland goes to a back-up linebacker as their quarterback the rest of the way. They beat Indiana before Rutgers puts up 50 on them in the finale. Somewhere, off in the distance, the Maryland players hear the cackle of Ralph Friedgen. The Terps finish 2-10.

Q: How many games does Maryland football win this season?

Todd: I keep thinking between five and seven. But that's as specific as I'll get.

Brian B: Four or Five

Andrew K.: Six.

Pete: I also keep thinking between five and seven. When forced to actually picked the games I said seven, but I don't feel great about that, so I'll say six.

Carson: My heart says seven. My brain says six. So let's go with eight.

Noah: The Terps are an average football team that plays in a great division and great conference. I'm going with six.

Q: What is your bold prediction for the Maryland opener against Richmond?

Todd: The attendance exceeds 42,500.

Brian B: ^Ha, very bold indeed. With the beer flowing freely at Byrd Stadium and the Terps trailing 7-6 at halftime, a riot ensues on the fifty yard line.

Andrew K.: There will be at least 10 fans busted for public drunkenness. For the first time in ages a Maryland QB not named Rowe throws a completion longer than 25 yards (not counting YAC).

Pete: We will see all three quarterbacks!

Carson: Hills tosses 4 TD's, ESPN adds him to their early Heisman watch list.

Noah: Two pick-sixes from Will Likely.

Q: What will the final score be between Maryland and Richmond this Saturday?

Todd: Something above 0-0 and below 70-0 but M-A-R-Y-L-A-N-D Will Win!

Brian B: While, not even I am pessimistic to pick the Terps to fall to the Spiders, I do not think the offense will be clicking on all something like 24-7.

Andrew K.: Maryland wins 30-10.

Pete: I reserve the right to change my answer as I read up more on Richmond ahead of the preview, but for now I'll say Maryland, 38-10.

Carson: Maryland wins by three TD's (and covers the spread). 35-13 Terps.

Noah: Maryland over the Richmond Spiders, 27-13.