2013 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Terrapins compiled a 7-6 record in their last of 61 years as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. And although they got to play in a bowl game, the lasting sentiment in College Park is one of missed opportunity.
After all, Maryland raced into its first bye a perfect 4-0 following back-to- back convincing wins at Connecticut (32-21) and at home against West Virginia (37-0). But things took a turn for the worse following an Oct. 5 meeting with eventual BCS national champ Florida State, which ran the Terrapins out of Tallahassee with a 63-0 rout.
UM showed some resilience by grinding out a one-point win over Virginia the next week, but three straight losses followed. In one of those defeats -- a 40-27 final versus eighth-ranked Clemson -- the Terps were down to backups at every skill position offensively because of injuries. They alternated wins and losses heading into the Dec. 27 Military Bowl against Marshall, as the Thundering Herd scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally from a 20-17 deficit.
OFFENSE: Maryland will once again pack plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the ball. Leading the way is game-breaking wideout Stefon Diggs, one of only two active FBS players to have averaged 156 all-purpose yards per game over the last two seasons. Diggs is coming back from a broken leg that limited him to seven games in 2013, but is on virtually every preseason watch list.
At Big Ten media day, head coach Randy Edsall noted Diggs "has come back off his injury, and is ready to go this year and fully recovered and really has done a good job this offseason."
Among the other notable returnees, dual-threat quarterback C.J. Brown is back after averaging 204 passing yards and 52 rushing yards per game in 2013. He threw for 13 touchdowns (against 7 interceptions) and added 12 more scores on the ground. Also back is leading rusher Brandon Ross, who averaged 4.7 yards on 166 carries. Deon Long (32 rec, 489 yds, 1 TD) will complement Diggs out wide.
The offensive line is deep with newcomers Damian Prince and Derwin Gray hoping to make a name for themselves from the outset.
DEFENSE: The Terps bring back several key players on defense, including leading tackler Sean Davis at safety. Davis had 102 tackles to go along with a pair of interceptions in 2013. Cole Farrand is back at linebacker after ranking second on the team with 84 tackles (4.5 TFL) in 11 games. Marcus Whitfield (15.5 TFL, 9.0 sacks) is gone, but his bookend, Andre Monroe, returns after pacing the defense in tackles for loss (17.0) and sacks (9.5). He ranked fifth and sixth in the ACC, respectively, in both categories.
During the 2013 regular season, UM allowed only three opponents to eclipse 30 points, and that happened during a four-game span in the middle of the season. If the Terps want to compete right away in the Big Ten, they'll need to be more consistent.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Both specialists return in kicker Brad Craddock and punter Nathan Renfro. Renfro averaged 40.8 yards on 75 punts, as he landed 18 punts inside the 20, and had 10 that traveled more than 50 yards. Craddock was 21- of-25 on field goal attempts, with three of his four misses coming from outside of 40 yards.
OUTLOOK: As much as the Terrapins players say they want to come into the Big Ten and take the league by storm, like the early rounds of a boxing match there is something of a feeling-out period.
"We have 10 new opponents that we have to prepare for," coach Edsall said. "So the spring and the summer has been a whirlwind for us as coaches from the standpoint of getting to know the teams here in the Big Ten that we're going to be going against and understanding their personnel, understanding their schemes and what they like to do."
The Terps certainly did not get any favors in terms of their inaugural Big Ten schedule, which features the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa. And then there is a Nov. 1 tilt up the road with Penn State, whom they have not beaten in any of the last 29 meetings going back to 1961.
A bowl game may be asking a bit much a bit soon for UM, but a signature win or two in conference would be a good start.