College Park, MD (WJZ)- Maryland’s 2018 football season can best be described as tumultuous. Following the tragic death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, head coach DJ Durkin was first suspended pending investigation and then fired in October.
Under interim coach Matt Canada, the team had an up-and-down season upsetting Texas in the season opener and blowing out Minnesota 42-13 in Week 4 to start 3-1. Things went sideways the rest of the way as they went 2-6 and lost by an average of 20 points per game against Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.
With Durkin out, the school reached into the SEC and tabbed Alabama co-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to be their new head coach. There is some talent for Locksley to work with as he looks to build the program he wants in College Park.
That all starts with the man under center who will be Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson. Jackson posted big numbers as a freshman for the Hokies in 2017 when he threw for over 2,900 yards and 20 touchdowns adding another 324 yards and six TDs on the ground. But, last season he suffered a broken fibula early in the season and decided to enter the transfer portal in January, choosing the Terps as his destination.
He gives the offense a potential star at the QB spot and he will have some strong skill talent to work with. Running back Anthony McFarland Jr. returns following a 1,034-yard four touchdown season in which he averaged nearly eight yards per carry. Sophomore receiver Dontay Demus Jr. and senior DJ Turner are joined by fellow Virginia Tech transfer Sean Savoy. The Terps did lose promising sophomore Jeshaun Jones to a torn ACL, but there should be some solid options available to help Jackson.
On defense, the Terps lost senior safety Antwaine Richardson to a torn ACL hurting the back end of the unit. Combined with the loss of top tackler Tre Watson and fellow safety Darnell Savage Jr. there are some holes to fix for new coordinator Jon Hoke.
Overall, with a mix of experience and newcomers led by a new coach, it can be tough to prognosticate where the Terps will end up under Locksley in Year 1. The media ranked them sixth in the division ahead of only Rutgers in the preseason poll. CBS Sports analyst Aaron Murray says the goal should be simple, find a way to go bowling.
“I think for any head coach coming to a team with a losing record, their number one goal is to make a bowl game. Their goal is let’s improve both offensively and defensively and let’s go bowling. Earn those extra practices, earn that extra game and just be competitive,” said Murray. “That is the other big goal. When you play at Ohio State, at Michigan State, play Penn State at home on Friday night, just be competitive. Make sure you are not getting blown out of the stadium. I think those are two big keys to show that it is only Year 1 but we are making progress and we’re a bowl team. And, these games that we were not playing well before, now we’re playing better in them.”
The Terps face some of their biggest tests in front of the home fans this season with Syracuse, Nebraska, Penn State, and Michigan all coming to College Park. Still, it is a brutal schedule and could signal a difficult year for Locksley and company as they begin to build their culture.
8/31 vs. Howard, 12:00 p.m. ET
9/7 vs. #22 Syracuse, 12:00 p.m. ET
9/14 @ Temple, 12:00 p.m. ET
9/27 vs. #15 Penn State, 8:00 p.m. ET
10/5 @ Rutgers, TBD
10/12 @ Purdue, TBD
10/19 vs. Indiana, TBD
10/26 @ Minnesota, TBD
11/2 vs. #7 Michigan, TBD
11/9 @ #5 Ohio State, TBD
11/23 vs. #24 Nebraska, TBD
11/30 @ #18 Michigan State, TBD