In the coming weeks, Brandon Vogel and Derek Peterson are running through Big Ten programs for a “Buy or Sell” kind of opponent preview.
The Terps lit up the scoreboard to begin the season, with 142 points in the first two weeks of play, but then the offense collapsed on itself and Maryland lost seven in a row to close the year. Head coach Mike Locksley landed a 5-star wideout to hopefully help things as the crown jewel in a 2020 recruiting class that ranked 31st nationally, but there’s a lot of work left to be done in this Maryland rebuild. You buying Locksley and the Terps in Year 2, or selling?
Brandon Vogel: Sell
Locksley did what he needed to do in 2019. The Terrapins went young and kicked off the culture change, which makes total sense. Problem is, I’m not sure we’ll see immediate gains from that choice in 2020. Maryland has some of the lowest returning production in the Big Ten on defense, so another season of growing pains could be in order. But the bigger issue is the departures of running backs Javon Leake (736 yards. 8 touchdowns) and Anthony McFarland Jr. (614 yards, 8 touchdowns). It has always been a bit baffling, but Maryland has carved out a tiny Big Ten niche for itself with an explosive running game. The Terrapins just keep churning out big-play backs. Maryland has had at least one running back rush for more than 7 yards per carry on at least 100 carries in three of the past four seasons. But with the top two backs off to the NFL and just two starters back on the offensive line, I’m not sure how Maryland is going to consistently attack on offense. The Terrapins were woefully inefficient last year (121st in success rate), leaving the offense almost totally reliant on big plays. There’s always a high level of talent coming through the program, but the need for big plays on offense is immense—with little clarity on who might provide those plays—and that’s just a volatile brand of football. I doubt Maryland takes a big step back from 2019’s 3-9 year, but I’d be very surprised with a jump forward, too. And that’s probably OK . . . for at least one more season.
Derek Peterson: Sell
Maryland plays five teams that finished inside the AP Poll’s top 18 last season. Road games include West Virginia, Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan, and Penn State. Crossover games include Minnesota, Wisconsin and the aforementioned Wildcats. The schedule is backloaded, the defense is returning very little, the top two home run-hitters, as Brandon mentioned, are gone from the offense. To make matters more complicated, the quarterback position is a mess. Josh Jackson had a standout freshman campaign at Virginia Tech but it’s been something of a fall from grace since; in his first year with Locksley’s Terps, he completed 47.3% of his passes and tossed five touchdowns with five picks in the 10 weeks following the Terps’ random offensive explosion to begin the year. He’s never been an efficient thrower, but in that 2017 season with the Hokies, Jackson threw for nearly 3,000 yards with 20 scores and nine picks, and he added another six scores on the ground. That Tech team was 9-4 and spent most of the season ranked. It was a good group and Jackson was a playmaker. He got hurt in 2018, so was struggling in his first year fully back on the field more about trying and failing to recapture old form? He might not get another shot. Lance LeGendre, a redshirt freshman quarterback, might have the inside track to the job after Tyrell Pigrome left the team. If Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa gets a waiver to play right away, it’ll probably be his job. Either way, there are so many things up in the air for a team that would need to establish some early-season momentum to avoid another year like last one. But Locksley is still firmly in the foundation-building phase, so this campaign might not be much more than another bridge year.