To say it has been a tumultuous 14 months for the Maryland football program may be an understatement. June 13th marked the one-year anniversary of the death of freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who died from heat stroke following an extremely intense off-season workout.
The event of McNair’s death led to an investigation of the Maryland program from the Board of Regents. On October 30th, head coach DJ Durkin was reinstated at the recommendation of the Board of Regents, which drew nationwide backlash. One day later, Durkin was fired.
By then it was too late, the University of Maryland had become the laughing stock of the nation. Interim Matt Canada finished out the season as the Terrapins finished the season 5-7 and Canada was replaced by Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.
Locksley has shown to be the opposite to his predecessor DJ Durkin. “We’ve stabilized the program,” Locksley said at Big Ten media days. “It was really important for us to come in and one, do a really good job of developing a really meaningful relationship with our players.”
To me, Locksley is speaking as a man who was hurt by what happened under the Durkin regime (Locksley grew up in the D.C. area as a Maryland fan). His genuine, down-to-earth, no-nonsense style is a complete 180 from his predecessor, who was painted as a tyrannical dictator that would make third-world country leaders blush.
But let’s see what Locksley has to work with in 2019.
Who They Lose
Kasim Hill, the Terrapins starting quarterback in 2018, announced his transfer following last season after his second ACL tear. Terrapins also lose running back Ty Johnson, who rushed for over 500 yards in 2018, as well as receiver Taivon Jacobs. Up front, Maryland graduated offensive linemen Derwin Gray and Damian Prince.
Defensively, Maryland loses their 2 best defensive players, linebacker Tre Watson and safety Darnell Savage Jr., who was drafted by Green Bay 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Other departures include linebackers Tre Watson and Mbi Tanyi, defensive linemen Byron Cowart, Jesse Aniebonam and Adam McLean and defensive back Ravon Davis.
Who They Return/Gain
Maryland’s offense got a boost when former Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson announced his decision to transfer to Maryland and was granted immediate eligibility. Leading rusher Anthony MacFarland also returns following a stellar freshman campaign, rushing for over 1,000 yards. The Terrapins also return offensive linemen Sean Christie, Johnny Jordan and Terrance Davis.
On the defensive side, Maryland got a big boost from the transfer portal at linebacker as former Ohio State linebacker Keandre Jones and former Clemson linebacker Shaq Smith came to College Park. Returning starters for the Terrapins defense include defensive backs Tino Ellis and Antonio Brooks Jr., and linebacker Isaiah Davis.
Playing in the Big Ten East is never easy, with big dogs like Ohio State Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. While the Terrapins do welcome Michigan and Penn State to College Park, they must make the trip to East Lansing and to their toughest game, Ohio State in Columbus.
Maryland is able to bolster their passing game with Josh Jackson, who is an equally capable passer and runner. Anthony MacFarland leads the Terrapins prolific rushing attack and builds off an impressive freshmen campaign. Maryland’s defense raises to another level with their offseason additions and keeps Maryland in games.
The Ceiling: 9-3, Bowl game in Tampa or Tempe
Mike Locksley isn’t exactly a proven head coach, he enters the 2019 season with a career record of 3-33 and their may be struggles in year one. Josh Jackson isn’t able to get confidence in his passing ability, which hampers the rushing attack. The stagnant offense will lead to a tired defense.
The Floor: 4-8
The Bottom Line
Maryland does have a talented roster, and a new leash on life as they attempt to put the DJ Durking regime behind them. It’s a season of new beginnings with Mike Locksley and quarterback Josh Jackson attempting to change their career trajectory’s. The young players who return will be a year older and may emerge as leaders.
While the pastures aren’t green yet, with the challenge of playing in the Big Ten East, there is hope in College Park. Hope that their Terrapins can win and do things the right way.