Maryland refuses to label 2015 a 'rebuilding season'

CHICAGO -- Maryland cornerback Will Likely didn't even want to hear the term "rebuilding year."

Sure, the Terrapins return just 10 of 22 starters. Only one non-defensive back returns as a defensive starter. And Maryland has to make due with a new quarterback and corps of receivers. But Likely cut short a reporter's question Thursday once the term was broached.

"No," Likely said, before the reporter even finished the word "rebuilding." "It's not a rebuilding year for Maryland because there's a lot of sleeper guys that y'all don't know about that's going to make some plays."

How confident is Likely that this won't devolve into a rebuilding year for the Terrapins?

"I'm confident it's not," he added. "I'm 100 percent sure it's not rebuilding. There's just going to be a few new faces, and we'll be ready to go."

"A few" might just be an understatement. Quarterback Caleb Rowe, who started two career games, will battle Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman for the starting job. Maryland's top five wideouts from 2014 are no longer with the team. The offensive line could eventually feature two redshirt freshmen and a third who factors in heavily. And the entire front seven on the defense is new. Oh, and the defense is shifting to a new 4-3 scheme.

But head coach Randy Edsall intimated that labeling this a rebuilding year is an oversimplification of where the Terps stand. Numerous underclassmen may be expected to step up -- 10 could make significant impacts this season -- but, Edsall said, it's not fair to necessarily label those players as inexperienced.

"It's not like they've never played before," Edsall said. "Some of them might've played 20 or 30 snaps a game or played on special teams. I don't look at it as a rebuilding year or playing inexperienced guys, I just look at it as the nature of a program."

Middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. is one of those players whom Edsall is referring to. In limited time last season, his first on the field, Carter led the team with two forced fumbles -- including one against Penn State that set up a critical fourth-quarter touchdown. Overall, Edsall stood at the Big Ten podium Thursday and -- during just one answer -- mentioned 14 new contributors from whom he expects big things. Ohio State's Urban Meyer mentioned just 14 player names during a 15-minute interview.

"I don't think it's a rebuilding year," offensive lineman Andrew Zeller reiterated. "I think it's a chance for us to take another step. Last year, we slipped up two games. West Virginia, we were really close and, Rutgers, we should've won -- and that would've put as 9-3 our first year in the Big Ten. And that would've spun a lot of heads ... so we ended up average. This year, our goal is to not be average. It's to be better than average."

Of course, once again, Maryland doesn't have an easy path to a bowl game. Based on 2014 won/loss records, the Terps have the 13th hardest schedule in the nation. It doesn't help that Maryland's crossover games this season include West Division favorite Wisconsin after a trip to Iowa's intimidating Kinnick Stadium.

Still, whatever you do, don't tell Maryland this is a rebuilding season. Because they're confident -- and they don't believe it.

"You're going to see the results," Likely said.