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NCAA Football Preview - Maryland Terrapins

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Updated: 8/19/2013 9:20 am

Maryland opened the season with back-to-back wins over William & Mary (7-6) and Temple (36-27), but promptly dropped its next two outings, falling to Connecticut (24-21) and West Virginia (31-21). The Terrapins did get off to a good start in ACC play, knocking off Wake Forest (19-14) and Virginia (27-20) in early October, but injuries plagued the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster the rest of the way. The result was six straight losses to the close out the year.

The school also announced in November that it would move to the Big Ten starting in 2014, leaving behind the ACC, which Maryland has been affiliated with for the last 60 years.

2013 ANALYSIS:

OFFENSE: The good news is that because Edsall was forced to play so many youngsters last season, the offense could see some improvement. Brown is back and healthy to start the year. A duel-threat in the backfield, the 6-3, 210- pound senior should be able to hold down the spot, especially with sophomores Perry Hills (knee) and Caleb Rowe (knee) still on the mend.

The backfield has taken a hit prior to the season with the year-long suspension of sophomore Wes Brown (382 yards, three TDs in 2012), but Edsall is supremely confident in sophomores Brandon Ross (5-10, 206) and Albert Reid (5-10, 211).

Maryland may want to establish a running game, but the best player on the offensive side of the ball in College Park is sophomore wideout Stefon Diggs. The 6-0, 185-pound youngster earned Freshman All-American honors in 2012, being tabbed an All-ACC Second-Team member after pacing Maryland with 54 receptions, for 848 yards and six TDs. Also a tremendous talent on special teams, Diggs returned two kickoffs for scores last year.

"Stefon is a special athlete," said Edsall. "He has tremendous abilities and talent. The thing that separates him is that he's a tremendous competitor. He's a worker. He thinks that every time he touches the ball, he can take it the distance. The thing that I've seen out of Stefon is that he wants to get better with all the little things about playing the position."

Adding to the receiving mix is highly-touted juco transfer Deon Long (6-0, 190), who earned First-Team All-American honors in 2012, leading the NJCAA in receptions (100), receiving yards (1,625) and TDs (25).

DEFENSE: The defensive play for Maryland showed marked improvement in 2012, as the team finished the year ranked 21st in total defense (336.8 ypg). However, with six starters lost, a bit of a rebuilding job is called for.

Gone are playmakers like DE Joe Vellano and LBs Demetrius Hartsfield and Kenny Tate. There is some stability in the secondary, with the return of starting CBs Dexter McDougle (71 tackles) and Jeremiah Johnson (43 tackles) and safety Anthony Nixon (41 tackles, one INT), but players will need to step up in the front seven. Candidates include junior LBs Cole Farrand (78 tackles, 6.0 TFL), who tied for the team-lead in tackles in 2012 and LA Goree (46 tackles, 3.0 TFL).

Farrand has faith in the defensive unit, especially Goree.

"We're going to be as good as last year if not better," said Farrand at Maryland's media day. "A lot of people say we lost a lot of starters, but they've learned from last year and learned from the guys before them. I think L.A. Goree is an upcoming star. He'll do great this season."

SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game for Maryland returns a pair of youngsters in sophomores Brad Craddock and Nathan Renfro, who both started a year ago as freshman. Craddock was 10-of-16 in field goal attempts with a long of 52 yards. Renfro saw plenty of action with 75 punts, averaging just under 40 yards per attempt (39.7). Diggs is a difference maker in the return game and should provide Maryland with good field position all season long.

OUTLOOK: Improving on last year's win total is certainly within reach. The team gets its non-conference schedule out of the way early, with the first four games coming against FIU, Old Dominion, Connecticut and West Virginia.

The Terps will enjoy a bye following the game against the Mountaineers before embarking on their last ACC schedule, which starts in Tallahassee against defending ACC champion Florida State. Other road tilts within league play come at Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and NC State. ACC squads coming to College Park this year include Virginia, Clemson, Syracuse and Boston College.

This is Maryland's swan song in the ACC, but that shouldn't distract the Terrapins from the task at hand.

"We're in the ACC this year and it's the schedule we have to play. Our focus and our attention isn't anything different than what it would have been from the two previous years. Our goal is to win our division, get to Charlotte and get to a BCS game. We're not focused on anything other than trying to prepare ourselves to give us the best opportunity to win. Anything that we do outside of that is a distraction and doesn't put us in a position to attain the goals we want to attain as a team."

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