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Reviewing the 2019 Maryland Terrapins

Which Maryland team will Nebraska face? The one that was ranked #21 early in the season, or the one that’s been blown out by nearly everyone with a pulse?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Michigan at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maryland has been a hot and cold football team in 2019, starting hot with blowout wins over Ron Prince’s Howard team and a then-nationally ranked Syracuse squad. A 41 point victory over Rutgers was sandwiched between blowout losses to Penn State (59-0) and Purdue (40-14!). A competitive game against Indiana (losing 34-28) has been followed by blowout losses to Minnesota (52-10), Michigan (38-7) and Ohio State (73-14).

The upset of Syracuse vaulted the Terps into the Top 25 at #21; now Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings have Maryland at #84. (Just ahead of #89 Northwestern and #134 Rutgers, for what it’s worth...) The inconsistency of Maryland’s offense starts at quarterback where both Virginia Tech graduate transfer Josh Jackson and Tyrrell Pigrome have played this season. Jackson missed two games with a sprained ankle suffered against Rutgers, though Pigrome has seen action even when Jackson is able to go. Jackson has only completed 49% of his passes this season for 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions; Pigrome has completed 59% of his passes for 684 yards but just three touchdowns to go with six interceptions. Pigrome is a dual-threat who averages 3.5 yards per carry, while Jackson has lost 70 yards rushing after subtracting sacks.

Anthony McFarland has been slowed by an ankle injury that has allowed Javon Leake to emerge as a threat rushing the ball. McFarland has rushed for 445 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yard per carry. Leake has rushed for 636 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Sophomore Dontay Demus has been Maryland’s top receiver, catching 33 passes for 517 yards and five touchdowns. Against Minnesota, Demus had two passes go off his hands and were intercepted. Sophomore tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo has burst into the lineup, catching 18 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns.

Maryland’s defense ranks 13th in the Big Ten in both scoring defense and total defense. The Terrapins rank 11th in rush defense (one spot ahead of Nebraska) but dead last (yes, worse than Rutgers) in passing defense. Inside linebacker Ayinde Eley leads Maryland with 73 tackles this season; outside linebacker Keandre Jones has 53 tackles with a team leading 10.5 tackles for loss. Safety Antoine Brooks is second of the Terrapins with 67 tackles and is tied with safety Nick Cross for the team lead for passes broken up or intercepted with 6.

So which Maryland team shows up this Saturday? The hot team that blew out Syracuse and was ranked #21 in the AP poll? Or the cold one that was blown out by Purdue? (And for that matter, which Nebraska team shows up?) That will be distinction between a game Nebraska COULD win as opposed to SHOULD win. Below you’ll find the original preseason preview of the Maryland Terrapins.

Maryland football has found it rough since moving to the Big Ten in 2014. After a 7-6 inaugural season, the Terrapins have gone 18-31 overall and 9-27 in conference play. But when you play in the east division, wins are going to be tough to come by; Maryland is 2-17 against east division schools with names that don’t rhyme with Buttgers. Coaching turnover hasn’t helped either; Randy Edsall was fired in 2015 after sliding from back-to-back winning seasons. Last season, DJ Durkin was dismissed in the aftermath of the tragic death of redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair during summer workouts.

Mike Locksley returns to Maryland as head coach after spending the last two years as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama. Locksley was Edsall’s offensive coordinator at Maryland from 2012 through 2015 and was named interim head coach for the second half of the 2015 season. Prior to Maryland, Locksley was the head coach at New Mexico from 2009-11 and has a career record of 3-31.

With Kasim Hill leaving to enter the NCAA’s transfer portal, a quarterback battle has developed in College Park. Junior Joshua Jackson (6’1” 215 lbs.), a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, was assumed to be the front runner this summer, but junior Tyrrell Pigrome (5’11” 205 lbs.) has made it a race in preseason practice. Jackson, who unseated former Husker AJ Bush in Blacksburg, completed 60% of his passes with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with the Hokies. Pigrome has completed 55% of his passes in his career with six touchdowns and four interceptions. His improvement with passing has pushed him past redshirt freshman Tyler DeSue (6’1” 217 lbs.) on the depth chart. Behind all three was junior Max Bortenschlager (6’3” 220 lbs.), who’ll be unavailable for about two months with a lower body stress fracture. You may remember that Bortenschlager was the surprise starter the last time Maryland faced the Huskers in 2016.

Despite only starting five games last season, sophomore Anthony McFarland (5’8” 193 lbs.) rushed for 1,034 yards and four touchdowns. This year, he enters the season as the undisputed #1 tailback as last year’s preseason top two backs are with the Detroit Lions (Ty Johnson) or still recovering from injuries (Lorenzo Harrison). Harrison (5’8” 198 lbs.) has rushed for 1,339 yards in his career, but is still trying to shake injuries. Junior Javon Leake (6’0” 210 lbs.) only carried the ball 34 times last season, but scored on seven of them and averaged 9.1 yards per carry.

The lackluster passing game has meant that the receiving numbers haven’t been that impressive either. The best of the returning receivers, sophomore Jeshaun Jones tore his ACL in the opening practice and is lost for the season. That leaves senior DJ Turner (5’9” 200 lbs.) and sophomore Dontay Demus (6’4” 205 lbs.) as the best guys remaining. Each caught 13 passes last season, with Demus’ 278 yards topping Turner’s 159. Senior tight end Tyler Mabry (6’3” 260 lbs.) is a graduate transfer from Buffalo where he won first team all-MAC honors. Needless to say, this is position needing development.

It’s also a rebuilding year on the offensive line as just senior right guard Terrance Davis (6’3” 308 lbs.) and senior left guard Sean Christie (6’4” 294 lbs.) return. Davis is a three year starter while Christie has started the last two seasons. Redshirt freshman Jaelyn Duncan (6’5” 335 lbs.) is being counted on to fulfill high expectations at left tackle right away this season. Both Durkin and Locksley were excited about the young talent in the offensive line, so perhaps optimism isn’t unfounded up front.

Only four starters return on a Maryland defense that ranked pretty much in the middle of the Big Ten in all statistical areas: 9th in scoring defense and 7th in total defense. The Terps were a little stronger against the pass (6th in the Big Ten) versus the run (11th). But turnover is high up front where no starters return on the Terp’s 3-4 defense. Junior nose tackle Oluwaseun Oluwatimi (6’1” 298 lbs.) had an impressive spring game, apparently sending last year’s starter, Adam McLean, into the NCAA transfer portal. Sophomore defensive end Lawtez Rogers (6’4” 274 lbs.) also had an impressive spring; as a reserve, he got his first sack against Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. This will likely be Maryland’s biggest position of concern going into 2019.

Senior inside linebacker Isaiah Davis (6’1” 245 lbs.) is Maryland’s leading returning tackler; he’s had 164 tackles the last two seasons. Senior Keandre Jones (6’2” 225 lbs.) and junior Shaq Smith (6’2” 251 lbs.) transferred from Ohio State and Clemson respectively, preferring an opportunity to play rather than being relegated to a backup role. But Maryland had been counting on sophomore Durell Nchami to fill their new “joker” hybrid linebacker/defensive end position until he tore his ACL earlier this week.

Most of the returning experience on defense is in the secondary, where senior safety Antoine Brooks (5’11” 210 lbs.) and senior cornerback Tino Ellis (6’1” 193 lbs.) return. Brooks, a second team all-Big Ten honoree last year, was third on the team with 68 tackles and led the Terps with seven tackles for loss. Ellis’s 11 pass breakups led the Maryland defense last year. Senior cornerback Marcus Lewis (6’1” 195 lbs.) was on and off the squad last season after transferring from Florida State; he had issues with coverage last season but reportedly has looked good after the coaching change.

Maryland was a schizophrenic team in 2018, beating Texas and taking Ohio State to overtime, but also losing badly to Temple. This year’s schedule looks a bit tougher as Syracuse, Purdue and the Huskers replace Texas, Iowa and Illinois. Don’t rule out a chance at a bowl bid for Maryland in 2019, but don’t bet on it either.