As part of a new series this week, we’re looking into each Big Ten team and how it’s overcoming key departures.
Up next: Maryland
BIG OFFENSIVE SHOES TO FILL: Stefon Diggs, WR
Why: Injuries might have been a lingering issue for Diggs, but when he was healthy he was an all-conference talent and the Terps’ top playmaker. He finished behind only Michigan State’s Tony Lippett when it came to receptions per game -- and that was by the thinnest of margins. Diggs averaged 6.2 catches a contest; Lippett averaged 6.3. Diggs was always a danger to turn a short pass into a long gain and was also valuable on special teams. He won’t be easily replaced.
Replacement candidates: Amba Etta-Tawo (6-1, 204, Jr.), Levern Jacobs (5-11, 185, Sr.), Taivon Jacobs (5-10, 165, Soph.), DeAndre Lane (5-8, 180, Jr.), Marcus Leak (6-0, 214, Sr.), Will Ulmer (6-0, 194, RS-Fr.), Juwann Winfree (6-2, 210, Soph.)
The skinny: No one can match Diggs’ athleticism, but the closest here is likely Levern Jacobs. He led the team in receiving in 2013 when Diggs missed six games but was suspended for the 2014 season due to charges stemming from a second-degree assault in July. (He was found not guilty a few months ago.) Had it not been for that, Jacobs likely would’ve started again last season. His progress will be paramount to Maryland’s success, as several receivers -- such as Etta-Tawo and Winfree -- are nursing injuries this spring.
BIG DEFENSIVE SHOES TO FILL: Andre Monroe, DE
Why: He led the team in both tackles for loss (14) and sacks (10.5) last season but was been a force since arriving on campus. He was a freshman All-American in 2011, had 17 tackles for loss in 2013 and was a second-team All-B1G selection in 2014. He was undersized but strong, quick but scrappy, and turned into a solid leader for Maryland.
The skinny: The Terps are moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3, so the ends won’t be asked to do exactly what Monroe did. Outside linebackers in the original scheme, such as Aniebonam and Ngakoue, are now in the mix at defensive end and both could end up starting there in 2015. They just need to become more accustomed to sticking their hand in the dirt. Braglio is really the wild card here, as he could play both inside or outside. But when it comes to replacing Monroe’s production, Ngakoue was the closest last season. He ended up with 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.