With spring practice officially underway in the Big Ten, we’re taking a look at each Big Ten program, using recent performance, win-loss trends, coaching, and current and future personnel as indicators. The series will cover the East Division this week.
2015 record: 3-9 (1-7 Big Ten)
Three-year record: 17-21
Coaching situation: D.J. Durkin, 38, joins the wave of young coaches with his first head job at Maryland this year. Durkin cut his teeth under Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh and has imported head-coaching experience by hiring Mike London, Pete Lembo and Scott Shafer to join the staff. Durkin’s track record as a defensive coordinator sparkles. It remains to be seen if that will translate in his new role, especially when contending with his former mentors and the rest of a stacked Big Ten East.
Roster situation: The Terps have room to upgrade at most positions, but the first piece of the puzzle to turning things around in College Park is the quarterback. Three players got starts behind center in the 2015 season, and none of them had more touchdown passes than interceptions. The offensive line has made promising personnel improvements since joining the Big Ten. The defensive line made strides in 2015 but will have to replace lethal pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who jumped to the NFL after his junior year. Durkin is used to working with a staff that is not shy about using top talent on both sides of the ball, which will make it interesting to watch how he deploys the team’s top athlete, cornerback Will Likely.
Recruiting situation: Maryland closed its first class with 21 signees, but a couple key losses. One of the country’s top quarterbacks, Dwayne Haskins, flipped from his home-state Terps to Ohio State in January along with friend and fellow ESPN 300 member linebacker Keandre Jones. There are good pockets of talent in Maryland and the D.C. metro area that could provide a foundation for Durkin and his staff if they stay home. Durkin also has a good track record of recruiting in Florida, which figures to become a good spot for the Terps to attempt to import prospects. The new staff’s first full class next February will be a better indicator of whether Maryland can stock up on the players they’ll need to compete in the division.
Trajectory: Slightly up. One win in the conference last fall leaves little space to go anywhere but up. A new coaching staff and plans to create better facilities are reasons for optimism that Maryland can use its new spot in the Big Ten to elevate the program. Unfortunately, Durkin and company will be swimming upstream to try to gain momentum in a division that features three top 10 programs and a league that is eliminating opportunities to schedule weaker nonconference opponents.