Maryland football’s first game of the season is just 10 days away, and there’s a lot of buzz around College Park as new head coach Mike Locksley gets ready for his first year at the helm of the Terps.
We’ve taken an in-depth look at each position through our summer preview series, but now it’s time to take a look at the big picture. The Testudo Times editors answer the five biggest questions heading into the season (besides, of course, who will start at quarterback).
1) Who is your most important player on offense this season?
Lila: Anthony McFarland is poised to have a monster season and his play will be crucial for the Terps. He finished his freshman season with 1077 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 131 attempts. Locksley has said he plans to utilize running backs more in the backfield, which means McFarland’s game is likely to have an even bigger impact.
Sean: As with every football team — and especially for these Maryland Terrapins — the most important position on the field will be the quarterback. Due to a rash of injuries, and subsequent poor play for backups thrust into the spotlight, the starting signal caller has been a position of flux in recent years. But the QB, whoever it shall be, will be absolutely vital to the team’s success this season.
Cody: Whoever starts at quarterback, whether it’s Josh Jackson or Tyrrell Pigrome, will be the most important player for Maryland’s offense this season. A team only goes as far as a quarterback takes them, and whoever wins the starting job will have to step up, protect the ball, stay healthy and lead a recharged Maryland team through a difficult schedule.
2) Who is your most important player on defense this season?
Lila: I’m still in shock that linebacker Shaq Smith gave up a starting role at No. 1 Clemson to come to Maryland. He brings a championship mentality and a lot of skill to the defensive room that will make him a key leader. He was ranked as the top outside linebacker in the country by ESPN out of high school and then had 30 tackles, a sack and an interception in limited playing time for the Tigers. He’s going to be a dominant force for the Terps.
Sean: With the loss of Darnell Savage Jr. to the NFL, Maryland football’s defense is without its leader in the secondary. The Terps will now run a 3-4 scheme as opposed to the nickel base they utilized last year, and that means Antoine Brooks Jr. will move from slot cornerback to Savage’s safety position. Not only will the rising senior need to fill his elder’s production on the field, he might also have to step up as a leader on and off the field.
Cody: Whoever wins the WILL linebacker position, which I suspect will be Ayinde Eley. With Isaiah Davis, Maryland’s second-leading tackler during the 2018 season, returning, Eley will be asked to make tackles in the run game, which is an area the Terps need to improve. I think Eley turns out to be an underestimated leader for the Maryland defense this season.
3) What should be the biggest change between last year and this year?
With Maryland football, the biggest difference is quite simple: The program enters the season with a new coaching staff and culture under Mike Locksley. But there are a lot of smaller changes that are sure to have a huge impact.
Lila: Tight ends have been a forgotten piece of Maryland’s offense for years — the team hasn’t had a tight end with over 200 receiving yards in one season since 2013 and last year the position only accounted for 4.8 percent of total receiving yards. Locksley used the position heavily at Alabama and has said he plans to make them a big part of the offense. With star wide receiver Jeshaun Jones out with an ACL injury, he’ll look to his tight end group even more.
Sean: I think Josh Jackson will win the starting quarterback position, and coupled with Locksley’s offense that should be a higher-flying, more explosive system, the Terrapins will look drastically different on that side of the ball. Expect more deep balls, run-pass option, and certainly fewer pre-snap motions.
Cody: Anthony McFarland’s receptions out of the backfield. Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery raved about McFarland’s ability to catch the ball during Maryalnd’s media day. I think he puts this to good use, and McFarland, who finished with seven receptions last year, hauls in at least 25 catches this season.
4) What is the most important game on this schedule, and why?
Lila: I think the Terps week two matchup against Syracuse will be a defining moment to say the least. The Orange come into the season ranked No. 22 in both preseason polls, and how Maryland performs against them will be a big indicator to how they’ll handle the tough schedule they have on tap this season. A win here builds confidence, but a loss could cause doubt and unraveling.
Sean: I think the most important game is the road trip to Temple in Week 3. Regardless of whether they win or lose against Syracuse, the Terps need a win against Temple before their bye week. Penn State looms right after to start a tough conference slate, and a matchup with the Owls can be the difference between a 2-1 and a 1-2 record heading into that tough battle.
Cody: I also believe Maryland’s most important game comes in week two when the Terps host Syracuse. I think this game has the potential to set the tone for Maryland’s season, proving to other Power 5 and Big Ten teams that they can’t just lollygag into College Park and blow out the Terps.
5) What is your prediction for W/L record and postseason destination?
Lila: Maryland comes out of the regular season with a 7-5 record to become bowl eligible, but then loses in the postseason.
Sean: Maryland finishes 4-8 due to a brutal Big Ten slate, and the Terps miss a bowl game for the third straight season.
Cody: Maryland finishes the regular season 7-5, with wins over Penn State and Michigan. I truly believe the Terps have the talent to compete with those teams this year. Get your ugly clown shoes out, because Maryland is going bowling this year.