Maryland could hardly wait to get started on a new year and a new era, pushing the reset button in October before finally rebooting a couple months later with the arrival of D.J. Durkin and his coaching staff.
The Terrapins have turned some heads with the group of assistants Durkin has put together, but now it’s time for them to get to work. And there is plenty of it to be done for a program that wasn’t even close to competitive in the Big Ten East Division last season.
There are plenty of areas that need answers, but these questions are at the forefront as Durkin gets rolling with Maryland.
1. Who will take charge at quarterback?
Any rebuilding job is going to prominently feature improvement at the most important position on the field, and Maryland clearly has a long way to go just to get back to the middle of the pack in the Big Ten after an utterly disastrous season at quarterback. The Maryland quarterbacks collectively averaged less than 175 yards per game through the air, completed just 47 percent of their passes and tossed an absurd 29 interceptions, one of the ugliest aerial attacks in the modern era. Perry Hills showed flashes of potential, thanks largely to his rushing ability, and if he can take a step forward with his decision-making and accuracy, Maryland might find some stability after trying four different options last season.
2. How will the new staff mesh?
As Durkin continued to land veteran assistants who had previously been head coaches elsewhere, praise justifiably rolled in for him surrounding himself with experience when that is about the only thing missing from his resume. There is no reason to expect that things won’t go smoothly with guys like former Virginia coach Mike London, former Syracuse coach Scott Shafer or former Ball State coach Pete Lembo all motivated to prove they still know what they’re doing, and all should provide a useful sounding board for Durkin as he learns the ropes. But there might be some element of risk with that many egos in one meeting room, particularly if they have had different approaches in the past that have produced success, so it will bear watching to make sure Durkin can get everybody on the same page.
3. What does the future hold for William Likely?
This answer won’t drag much longer into 2016, but whatever the talented cornerback and return man decides about his future will have a significant impact on Maryland in the fall. If he elects to head to the NFL, the Terrapins will lose one of the best cover guys in the Big Ten and one of the most dynamic players with the football in his hands in the nation, neither of which would be easy to replace for a roster in the midst of a rebuild. But if Likely comes back to try to boost his stock, that’s an obvious boost for Durkin in potentially all three phases if Maryland commits to using him more on offense as well next season.