The countdown to Big Ten media days, July 28-29 in Chicago, is officially under way. To get you prepared for the big event, we're looking at three questions facing each Big Ten squad as preseason camp approaches, and what the answers could be.
How ready is Maryland for its new league, especially a seemingly loaded East Division?
Edsall and his players likely are tired of this question, but it will be asked in Chicago as media members familiarize themselves with the Terrapins. The truth is if Maryland stays healthy, it could hold its own in its new league. It's a big if as injuries have ravaged the roster the past two seasons, as all three players attending media days can attest. Diggs, possibly the Big Ten's most dynamic wide receiver, returns from a broken leg that cost him the second half of the 2013 season. Johnson missed 10 games last season with a fractured toe, and Brown, a sixth-year senior, has dealt with more than his share of injury trouble. In many ways we haven't seen what Maryland is capable of under Edsall. With 18 starters back, we could this season.
Who are the top playmakers on a 3-4 defense, an alignment becoming more popular in the Big Ten?
Maryland doesn't lose much from the 2013 team but must replace Dexter McDougle, a third-round NFL draft pick, as well as outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield, who finished second on the team in both sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (15.5), while tying for the team lead in forced fumbles (two). Who fills the star power void? Maryland will lean on defensive end Andre Monroe, who had a breakout 2013 season with nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss. But others must emerge and the Terps bring back experienced players at all three levels, including linebackers Cole Farrand and Matt Robinson and defensive backs Sean Davis, Johnson and Will Likely, who had a good spring.
It's a good problem to have as Maryland boasts good depth at running back and excellent depth at wide receiver, especially with both Diggs and Deon Long back from injury. Brown showed promise as a freshman in 2012 but was suspended for all of last season after his arrest for assaulting a police officer. Maryland has a crowded backfield with Brandon Ross, Albert Reid, Jacquille Veii and others, so it will be interesting to see if Brown can enter the carries mix. Leak started seven games in 2012 and ranked second on the team in yards per reception (17.1). He missed last season for personal reasons but rejoins a wide receiving corps led by Diggs and Long but also featuring Levern Jacobs, Nigel King and Amba Etta-Tawo. Maryland's receiver depth is unparalleled in the Big Ten entering the season, so Leak needs a good preseason to find his place.