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TGS 2015 COLLEGE FB PREVIEW...A LOOK AT THE BIG TEN--PART I
Following is our 2015 Big Ten preview, courtesy Manging Editor P. Carl Giordano. Teams are presented in predicted order of finish, with last eyar's staight-up, spread, and over/under results included,  First up, the East half of the loop...Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

by P. Carl Giordano, Managing Editor




OHIO STATE (SUR: 14-1; PSR: 10-5; O-U 12-3)...
No two ways about it, Urban Meyer’s defending national champs are loaded. The Buckeyes have to be considered the consensus No. 1 to start the season, as they return 14 starters, both kickers, are riding a 13-game winning streak, and will be reinforced by a recruiting program that has gone through the roof under Meyer’s guidance.


Let’s start with a QB situation that could be the most talented threesome in history if all three regain full health. Both Braxton Miller (now likely to play at WR) and J.T. Barrett were held out of spring contact recovering from shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively. Miller has already won two Big Ten MVP trophies. J.T. Barrett was 11-1 as a starter last season and was named the 1st-team all-Big Ten QB, setting 19 school records, compiling 3772 total yards. Cardale Jones only started 3 games last season, but they were possibly the three biggest of the year, and he won them all by completing 61%, tossing 7 TD passes, and rushing for another score. At 6-5, 250 and sporting the nickname “12-Gauge” thanks to his rifle arm, Jones is a specimen. This is more than an embarrassment of riches.

OSU is similarly blessed at RB, where Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 1878 yards and 18 TDs as a soph, including averaging 232 ypg rushing in the final three games of the season and being named offensive MVP of the National Championship Playoff. Elliott, who is the fastest Buckeye, is backed by a pair of talented sophs, Curtis Samuel (6.6 ypc, 6 TDs rushing LY) and versatile Jalin Marshall, who played H-back LY, catching 38 passes and gaining 5.8 ypc on his 25 rushes. Marshall will likely play RB, H-back and WR as needed this season. The receiving corps could be better than last season, with the return of star 6-3 WR Michael Thomas, who missed some spring action recovering from a sports hernia injury after leading the team with 54 receptions. Columbus observers are raving about 6-2, 222-lb. soph WR Noah Brown, who had just one catch last season but impressed coaches with a strong spring effort. Sr. WR Corey Smith had 20 catches LY, as well as 6 for 174 yds. and 2 scores in the spring game, and H-back Dontre Wilson had 21 recs. with 3 scores in 2014. Sr. TE Nick Vannett caught 19 passes for 220 yards and 5 TDs. He should slip into the vacant starting spot with no problem.

Meanwhile, the offensive line is one of the best units in the country, with four returning starters who were either all-Big Ten, academic A-A or freshman A-A. The only question up front is depth, but Meyer’s staff has recruited six quality “hogs” who will fill out the two-deep nicely. The Buckeyes were fifth in scoring last season and second in pass efficiency. Have to believe the production will be on par with the championship team.

The defense also returns 7 starters and is dotted with all-Americans and all-conference players, beginning up front with DE Joey Bosa, who had 21 tackles for loss and 13½ sacks LY and is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick if he comes out early this April. Bosa ranked only 7th on the team in tackles LY because foes chose to run away from him, but OSU also returns its top four tacklers. Bosa is joined up front by DT Adolphus Washington, a run-stopper who was named honorable mention all-conference LY. RS frosh DE Sam Hubbard and soph Jalyn Holmes are both high-quality Meyer recruits battling for the DE spot opposite Bosa.

Co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was particularly impressed with the further development of the back seven of his unit in spring. LB Joshua Perry (124 stops, 2nd-team all-Big Ten LY), soph LB Darron Lee (frosh A-A, 81 tackles), S Von Bell (92 stops, 6 ints.), S Tyvis Powell (defensive MVP of the National Championship game; 76 tackles, 4 ints.) and CB Eli Apple (frosh A-A LY) are all reasons to believe the defense will be improved this fall.

Summary...Ohio State has won 24 straight regular-season Big Ten games, and is 38-3 under Urban Meyer. They’re the champ until somebody beats them. Note that high-powered OSU is 22-7 “over” the last two seasons.


MICHIGAN STATE (SUR: 11-2; PSR: 9-4; O-U: 8-4-1)...MSU head coach Mark Dantonio is perhaps the most consistent winner in the Big Ten in recent seasons. Under Dantonio, the Spartans have won at least 11 games in four of the past five seasons, claimed two conference titles, and won the Rose and Cotton Bowls. Last year’s 11-2 MSU team lost only to Ohio State and Oregon, the two teams that ultimately played in the College Football Playoff Championship game. With seven starters back on each side of the ball, it looks like more of the same for Michigan State in 2015. But most of the spring news in the conference seemed to be generated by Michigan’s new HC, the brash and acerbic Jim Harbaugh, prompting Dantonio to jibe, "We're selling results. Other people are selling hope."

Spartan QB Connor Cook led the Big Ten with 3214 YP and sported an extremely efficient 24-8 TD-interception ratio. The 6-4 sr. triggerman was named 2nd-team all-conference and is surrounded by enough returning talent to at least approach last season’s record-setting attack. Cook is operating behind a vet OL returning four starters, including future NFL draftees C Jack Allen and OT Jack Conklin. The ground game lost a good one when Jeremy Langford was drafted by the Chicago Bears, but Dantonio has recruited and developed other 1000-yard rushers in his 8-year tenure at East Lansing. Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell were both studs before Langford, and it appears the Spartans have two prime candidates for the leading role at RB in RS frosh Madre London and soph Gerald Holmes.

Rebuilding the receiving corps will be a bit tougher, but if sr. speedster Macgarrett Kings Jr. can stay clear of off-field problems that have haunted him in the past, the situation could be a positive. Kings and fellow senior Aaron Burbridge combined for 58 catches good for 762 yards last season. If sr. DeAnthony Arnett can live up to his thus far unrealized talent and fifth-year sr. A.J. Troup can build on his strong spring performances, Cook will find he has enough options. The return of TE Josiah Price (26 catches for 374 yds. and 6 scores LY) will provide some stability and a familiar out for Cook.

The defensive coaching staff was re-worked after long-time coordinator Pat Narduzzi took the HC job at Pittsburgh. Assistant HC Harlon Barnett will team with Mike Tressel as co-defensive coordinators, but they have plenty to work with. A-A DE Shilique Calhoun will likely be the Spartans’ third first-round draft pick in as many years next spring, and returning DT Joel Heath and NT Lawrence Thomas also had a lot to do with the Spartans’ top-ranked run defense last season. Vet LB Ed Davis had 58 tackles and 7 sacks in 2014, and MLB Riley Bullough was the biggest playmaker in the spring game. Fifth-year sr. OLB Darien Harris showed off his speed by chasing down London on a 50-yard rush in the spring game. Harris closed ground on London and the two DBs in hot pursuit, making up 10 yards and reaching the action just as London was forced out of bounds. The 2ndary lost CB Trae Waynes (a first-rounder to the NFL Vikings), but S R.J. Williamson is the top returning tackler with 59, and jr. CB Darian Hicks has been a contributor to the “no fly zone” defense for two seasons.

Summary...The defense could have the best front seven in Dantonio’s tenure, and remember, the Spartans have yielded just 87.5 ypg rushing and less than 3 ypc over the past two seasons. MSU will challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten East again, but will likely have to win in Columbus in order to overtake the Buckeyes. And that’s a very tall order these days.


PENN STATE (SUR: 7-6; PSR: 6-7; O-U: 5-7-1)...It appears Penn State has survived the penalties resulting from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and HC James Franklin has the team ready to take a step back toward the top 25. The Nittany Lions looked like a top-25 contender after a 4-0 start a year ago, getting the 27th-most votes in the AP poll, but the rigors of the Big Ten schedule and a still-thin depth chart combined to put the team into a regression. With the carrot of a bowl game added when the Sandusky penalties were modified, Penn State managed to do just enough to claim the requisite six regular-season wins and a berth in the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College. Nittany Lion jr. QB Christian Hackenberg’s performance against BC was impressive, as he keyed the OT win by throwing for 371 yards and 4 TDs with no interceptions. Hackenberg was sacked 44 times last season, however, as injuries, inexperience, and lack of numbers made the OL a weak link in the chain.

The offense almost can’t help but improve markedly this season, after all, Penn State ranked 117th in rushing and 110th in scoring last season. Franklin has recruited very well since moving from Vanderbilt to State College, and former PSU HC Bill O’Brien had some success in that area as well before moving on to the NFL’s Houston Texans. Hackenberg joins last season’s leading rusher, jr. Akeel Lynch, who has top end speed and only needs to be a little more physical to establish a deadly counter to Hackenberg’s arm. RS frosh RB Nick Scott looked great in spring, and the presence of fellow second-year RBs Mark Allen and Jonathan Thomas means running back will be a position of strength. The receiving corp should be improved, with the top two WRs, DaeSean Hamilton and Eugene Lewis, both back after combining for 137 catches and 1750 yards. TE Kyle Carter is a preseason all-Big Ten selection, and Penn State boasts at least seven 4-star offensive skill recruits waiting for a chance.

PSU’s offensive improvement will come down to the performance of the OL. The unit essentially has four returning starters, although many of those starts were forced on youngsters due to injuries and lack of alternatives. OL coach Herb Hand could pull a real rabbit out of his hat if he can spoon feed juco LT Paris Palmer both the offense and some Muscle Milk or protein supplements from GNC. Palmer was a 4-star recruit coming from Lackawanna CC in Scranton, and was listed as the No. 2 prospect at his position. However, he also looks a bit lean at 6-7 and 278 pounds. If the OL can give Hackenberg time and open some holes, the offense will fly. However, the OL gave up five sacks in the spring game playing against the backup defensive line, so there is work to do.

The Nittany Lion defense has 7 starters back from the 2nd-ranked unit in the country. That platoon will miss tackling-machine LB Mike Hull, who had 140 stops last season but is now the property of the Miami Dolphins. Penn State didn’t get the nickname “Linebacker U.” by accident, and jr. Nyeem Wartman-White had 75 tackles a year ago, while jr. Von Walker and 5th-yr. Sr. Ben Kline (out all last season with injury) should step in and take charge. The defensive line is headed by sr. DT Anthony Zettell, who had 42 tackles, 8 sacks, and tied for the team lead with 3 interceptions. He’s joined by vet starting DT Austin Johnson (49 stops), but the fight for the two DE spots is up in the air (especially after Evan Schwan and Curtis Cothran each had two sacks for the white/backup team in the spring game).

Penn State, which allowed less than 3 ypc on the ground, had an astoundingly good secondary last season, ranking 2nd in pass efficiency defense and 6th in third down conversions. The DB situation will be deeper and improved this fall. The staff moved stud CB Jordan Lucas (58 stops) to safety in spring to take advantage of his aggressive nature. He will pair with S Marcus Allen (also 58 Ts), and they will be backed up by soph Troy Apke, thought to be a budding impact player. CB Trevor Williams is cold and calculating, and the list of candidates to work the other side is long and capable. This defense will be excellent again, but will undoubtedly slip a few notches from last season’s lofty ranking.

Summary...Penn State could well be 6-0 when it visits Ohio State Oct. 17, and 10 wins aren’t out of the question. But Franklin needs a little more time before he has the Nittany Lions back as a serious contender in the Big Ten.


RUTGERS (SUR: 8-5; PSR: 8-5; O-U: 7-6)...Rutgers has achieved a consistent level in the past 10 years, going to minor bowls in 8 of the past 9 seasons after a not posting a winning record for the previous 12 years. That run of postseason bids began 5 seasons into Greg Schiano’s tenure at the state university of New Jersey, and has continued through the first three seasons under HC Kyle Flood. Considering the major inroads in recruiting opened by Schiano and Flood, the Scarlet Knight faithful are confident of continued success. The aggressive recruiting hasn’t been perfect, to be sure, as six Rutgers players have been arrested in Flood’s tenure, and several others have been suspended or dismissed. But in the Big Ten, that’s about the average for a conference football team!

Rutgers’ main concern this season is obviously replacing four-year starting QB Gary Nova, who tossed 73 TD passes in his time in New Brunswick. Offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels has a few candidates, with soph Chris Laviano and LSU transfer RS soph Hayden Rettig locked in a competition for the lead role that will stretch into the fall. Laviano is a former four-star recruit and was rated the No. 3 prospect from New York by Rivals.com. Rettig is a pro-style QB with a pedigree, as his brother was a three-year starter at Boston College. Hayden was a consensus four-star recruit from Los Angeles who would likely have become LSU’s starter if he’d stayed in Baton Rouge.

The remainder of the offense returns five regulars, led by a fleet of running backs who can all carry the mail. Four RBs combined for 1684 yds., 5.0 ypc and 17 TDs in 2014. Soph Josh Hicks (6.4 ypc LY) had the nominal edge on the starting job after spring, but if Paul James recovers fully from the ACL injury he suffered in Game 4 LY vs. Navy, he should regain his No. 1 slot. Regardless, there is quantity and quality, as the Scarlet Knights are deep at RB.

WR is another very deep position, as sr. Leonte Carroo (1st-team all-Big Ten; 55 catches, 1086 yds. LY) decided not to leave for the NFL, and that, coupled with the development of 6-4 jr. Andre Patton (20 recs. LY) and Janarion Grant (25 recs.), gives Rutgers a trio of dangerous pass-catchers. That group is joined by 6-6 jr. Carlton Agudosi, who caught a pair of TD passes from Laviano in the spring game.
The offensive line has to replace 3 experienced starters. Especially missed will be all-conference left guard Kaleb Johnson. The OL gave up just 19 sacks and had plenty to do with the ground success, and the recruiting base indicates the team can be quickly rebuilt. Building blocks like 6-8, 310-lb. left tackle Keith Lumpkin will make the transition smoother than it might seem.
Defensively, just five starters return from a group that ranked only 98th and allowed more than 30 ppg. However, among the returnees are the team’s top two tacklers, LBs Steve Longa (a jr. who had 102 stops) and 5th-year sr. Quentin Gause (72 tackles). There are several quality candidates for the MLB position, which might ultimately be filled by South Carolina graduate transfer Kaiwan Lewis or juco Isaiah Johnson.

The defensive line has a potential star in sr. starting DT Darius Hamilton (45 tackles, 6 sacks) and another solid pass rusher in Djwany Mera, a RS sr. who started all 13 games a year ago. Rutgers has recruited heavily on the defensive line, and certainly has the numbers (team will enter fall with 15 defensive linemen on the roster), even experimenting by playing DE Quanzell Lambert at nose tackle during spring. The Knights are big, fast and athletic.
The secondary took a blow when projected starter Darian Dailey was dismissed from the team, but the void was filled when Flood reinstated the talented Ruhann Peele, a two-way player who missed last year due to injury and a team suspension. Peele is motivated and will join jr. Nadir Barnwell to anchor the 2ndary.

Summary...With the Scarlet Knights top ST players all returning, Rutgers should be able to scrap back to the 6-8 win range, although the team only figures to be favored in about five games this fall.


MICHIGAN (SUR: 5-7; PSR: 5-7; O-U: 4-8)...New HC Jim Harbaugh moved from San Francisco and the 49ers to Ann Arbor, and immediately committed four NCAA violations in his first four weeks on the job. The message from the intense UM alum is clear, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”

Despite returning a conference-best 20 starters, rest assured change is in the air at Michigan.
The first bullet point on the agenda is to address the QB situation. Jr. lefty Shane Morris doesn’t look like the answer. Morris has completed just 49% for 389 YP with 5 interceptions and no TD throws in 10 career appearances, which is a large enough sample size to make the coach look elsewhere. In the short term, the Wolverines will more likely be guided this fall by ex-Iowa QB Jake Rudock, a fifth-year sr. transfer who started the last two seasons. Rudock completed 60% of his passes in two years with the Hawkeyes, throwing for 4819 yds., 34 TDs and 18 interceptions. The long-term solution will likely be RS frosh Wilton Speight or true frosh Alex Malzone. Malzone is a 4-star pro-style recruit who graduated high school early and was in for spring work, but he made some mistakes in the spring game and looks like a candidate to be redshirted and anointed the starter going forward in 2016.

Harbaugh’s new broom swept a few players away, as two-time all-Big Ten CB Blake Countess, starting C Jack Miller, and a handful of peripheral contributors left the program with the intention of transferring. Miller’s move contributed to a heavy shifting of assignments during spring, so the jury is out on the Wolverine OL. That’s not great news for an offense that ranked 112th in total yards last season. There is some returning production in the run game, as sr. RB Drake Johnson and juniors De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green combined for 1351 YR, 5.4 ypc and 13 scores LY. The Wolverines lost their top receiver to the NFL, so sr. WR Amara Darboh (62 catches, 733 yds., 4 TDs) will be the new lead wideout, and jr. TE Jake Butt (21 catches) will take over a full time starter’s role and could develop into a consistent option. Despite the nominal 10 returning starters, however, considering the Michigan offense scored just 21 ppg LY and is learning a new, pro-style system, don’t look for a fast start.

The Michigan defense ranked 7th in yardage last season, but was usually defending a short field, as the Wolverines ranked 121st in turnover margin and 107th in net punting. The defense dominated the spring game, but the Michigan offense looked weak and turnover-prone again. DT Willie Henry is the toughest guy on the DL, and LB Joe Bolden had 102 tackles in 2014, so there’s reason to believe the stop unit will hold foes to around the 3.2 ypc figure posted in 2014. Bolden was blowing it up in spring from his MLB spot, and the LB platoon will benefit from the return of Desmond Morgan (79 stops in 2013) from a medical redshirt season LY. The 2ndary needs to start making some plays, however, and the loss of CB Countess won’t help that. Michigan made just 5 interceptions last season, but soph Jabril Peppers, who had his freshman season cut short by injuries, has a chance to be a real playmaker.

Summary...With new schemes, new coaching techniques, seniors discarded or likely estranged because they can’t help build the future, Jim Harbaugh figures to be in for a long season in Ann Arbor. As tight as he appeared to be wound while he was with the 49ers, we can’t wait for the postgame interviews!


INDIANA (SUR: 4-8; PSR: 5-7; O-U: 6-6)...This is a make or break season for Indiana HC Kevin Wilson that will very likely turn out to be break. Wilson is 10-26 SU after four years in charge in Bloomington, and 2014 was a huge disappointment to the Hoosier faithful. After a 1-11 debut in 2011, arrows appeared to be pointing up for Indiana football after winning 4 games in 2012 and 5 in 2013.

With 17 starters returning for 2014, the table seemed to be set for a return to the bowl season for Indy. Alas, it was not to be. After a sluggish opening win against Indiana State, the Hoosiers saw Bowling Green rally from a double-digit deficit and score a TD with 9 seconds left to hand IU a 45-42 surprise loss that set the tone for the remainder of the season.

That tone was that Indiana’s defense looked as if it couldn’t stop some high school teams, much less quality Big Ten foes. The Hoosiers were 100th in scoring defense a year ago and have yielded 36 ppg under Wilson. The defensive coordinator slot has been shuffled and reshuffled, and this season it’s Brian Knorr listed as the d.c. and William Inge the co-d.c. for the fall. Any hope the Hoosiers have of winning six games and claiming a spot on the bloated bowl dance card rests with slowing some foes down, and that will be a tall task. Five starters return up front, so on the surface the front seven should improve, led by jr. DT/DE Darius Latham (10 starts), jr. LB T.J. Simmons (2nd leading tackler LY with 72), and sr. OLB/DE Nick Mangieri (35 tackles LY; 22 starts L2Ys). Soph LB Tegray Scales (46 tackles, 3 ints. LY; named to two frosh AA teams) led the team in tackles in the spring game. Adarius Rayner and Nate Hoff combined for 15 starts at the DT & NT spots. Hoff had 27 tackles, 8½ tfl and 3½ sacks in 2014.

Now for the bad news. Safety Antonio Allen, who led the team with 74 stops, and was the only returning regular in the 2ndary, was dismissed from the team after his arrest on drug charges. Having all new starting DBs is not good news for a team that ranked 94th in passing yards allowed (251 ypg).

Offensively, Indiana is replacing a key piece, as prolific RB Tevin Coleman has gone to the Atlanta Falcons. Coleman gained a clock-eating 2036 YR and scored 15 TDs last season. One might think a crash in production is in the cards, but that might be an incorrect assumption. Hoosier recruiting coordinator James Patton pulled rabbit out of his hat. UAB’s decision to drop football freed Blazer RB Jordan Howard to choose any school he wanted, and he chose Indiana. Howard, who has two years of eligibility remaining, gained 1587 YR and scored 14 total TDs for the Blazers last season. Granted, the level of competition will be kicked up a couple of notches, but he did run for 90 ypg against SEC reps Arkansas and Mississippi St. last season, and gained 7.5 ypc against LSU and Vandy as a freshman in 2013. Soph Devine Redding (a prep star who played for Ted Ginn Sr. in Ohio; 4.9 ypc vs. Missouri LY), RS frosh Alex Rodriguez (12 carries, 63 YR in spring game) and scatback RS frosh walkon Ricky Brookins (107 YR, 6.7 ypc in the spring game), are likely competing for a backup spot once Howard shows up. The OL had a lot to do with Coleman’s success last year. That unit returns four starters and was mostly impressive in spring work before giving up some sacks in the spring game.

The Hoosier passing attack ranked 123rd in efficiency last season, as sr. Nate Sudfeld’s midseason shoulder injury thrust then-true frosh Zander Diamont into the spotlight, and the youngster clearly wasn’t ready (although he looked much-improved in firing a pair of TD passes in the spring game). Sudfeld had offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder and looked completely recovered during spring. Sudfeld completed 17 of 24 passes for 187 yds. in the spring game and moved the Hoosiers consistently. That’s all well and good, but Indiana must replace its top three receivers, and will be relying on soph J-Shun Harris II (18 recs. for 168 yds.) and juco Camion Patrick at wideout. Patrick was among the top 12 WRs at his level last season, but returning starting sr. TEs Michael Cooper and Anthony Corsaro were non-factors in the passing game.

Summary...It looks as if there are too many ifs, ands and buts in Bloomington to expect much different than what’s happened the last three seasons.


MARYLAND (SUR: 7-6; PSR: 6-7; O-U: 6-5-1)...HC Randy Edsall has overcome a rocky start at Maryland, as the Terps were just 6-18 in his first two seasons after he took over for Ralph Friedgen. However, the last two years have produced 7-5 regular-season records and a pair of minor bowl appearances. Edsall will be challenged to maintain or improve on that level this season, though, as Maryland is rebuilding on both sides of the ball in its second year in the Big Ten.

With just one returning starter from a front seven that ranked 97th against the run, new defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski has his work cut out. Dudzinski, who coached the Terp LBs the last 4 years, will move the team to a 4-3 front, and he’s hoping his speed on the edge can cause problems for the beefy Big Ten running games that gave them trouble last season. DE Yannick Ngakoue had a breakout season in 2014, gaining honorable mention all-conference honors after recording 6 sacks and 13½ tfl. There is hope soph DE Jesse Aniebonam, who’s 6-4, 248 and played in every game and is converting from LB, and RS soph Roman Braglio, who’s been a productive reserve the last few seasons, can help Ngakoue on the DL. However, inexperience at DT could be a problem, and that was evident in the spring game, as the Terp offense pushed the DL around a bit.

Maryland’s 2ndary should be a strength, with 3 starters returning including CB William Likely, who was first-team all-Big Ten after making 83 tackles and intercepting 6 passes. He’s joined by S Sean Davis, who is the team’s leading returning tackler (115 stops in ‘14). The 2ndary must take the next step and lead the way in providing run support until the new scheme up front sorts itself out. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin combined to run for 5.7 ypc against the Terps a year ago (and they’re all on the schedule again in 2015).

Maryland’s offense returns 6 starters from a unit that ranked only 109th but managed to score a respectable 28.5 ppg by getting big plays from a pair of graduated contributors. The Terps must replace QB C.J. Brown (the team’s leading rusher; had 8 rush TDs and 13 TDP) and WRs Stefon Diggs (drafted by the NFL’s Vikings) and Deon Long, who combined for 113 catches and 1367 yards LY.

The QB job is up in the air. Sr. Caleb Rowe, who completed 63% of his passes for 489 yds. LY subbing for Brown, had the inside track after spring drills. Rowe has shown flashes in his Terp career, throwing for 332 yds. vs. Virginia and tossing 3 TD passes against Clemson (both in 2013), but he must improve his career 12-10 TD-int. ratio and remain healthy. Rowe had his 2012 and 2014 seasons ended with injuries, and therefore Maryland’s offensive success might fall to RS jr. Perry Hills, who made 7 starts in 2012 before tearing his ACL. The arrival of graduate sr. Daxx Garman from Oklahoma State could change the QB situation in August. Garman threw for 2041 yards and 12 TDs in 9 games (8 starts) for OSU in 2014.

Maryland has had bad luck keeping key players on the field the last few seasons, and although Edsall is working on a great 2016 recruiting class, this current Terps aren’t deep. The offensive line returns 3 starters, but jr. RB Wes Brown and sr. Brandon Ross combined for just 775 YR, and Brown missed time in the spring with a torn labrum. Ross showed some explosiveness, ripping off a 56-yard TD run in the spring game, but the OL has to improve. Frosh Ty Johnson reminds some observers of Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and will get a chance as well, as two RBs transferred out of the program. Still, there are a lot of “ifs” coming up when scouts talk about the Terp attack.

The Maryland offense has one virtual sure thing, and that’s PK Brad Craddock. Craddock was the Groza Award winner and named the first-team all-Big Ten field goal specialist last season after making 18 of 19 attempts (11 from 40-yards or more) and scoring 98 points.

Summary...The competition is tough in the Big Ten East, and Edsall’s recruiting gains won’t kick in for another season or two. Maryland will fight and claw, but the Terps will need some luck to become bowl eligible for a third straight year.


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