Yes, there are questions to be answered about a Maryland defense that lost Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis, Darin Drakeford, Demetrius Hartsfield and more. The unit has some talent but will need to prove it can stop people up front.
But the offense? It’s primed for a leap forward.
Here are some reasons why:
* The obvious one: the Terps played the last four games of 2012 with 235-pound linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback. Petty was game. To his credit, he improved as he went along. But his stats tell the tale. He completed 39 of 84 passes (46.4 percent) and averaged 125 passing yards per game.
If you take away the North Carolina game, Maryland’s offense didn’t top 20 points in its last six contests. With the return this season of quarterback C.J. Brown – and able-bodied backups – the outlook is much brighter.
* Consider what Stefon Diggs accomplished last season under difficult circumstances. The freshman caught 54 passes for 848 yards. He never – not once – was on the field with a quarterback who had thrown a college pass prior to the 2012 season. He’s bulked up this season and is ready to play with a different cast of characters.
* The addition of transfer Deon Long gives Maryland an important complement to Diggs. Defenses won’t be able to roll everything towards Diggs if Long can perform as expected at wide receiver. “If they want to go and turn their coverage to Stefon, you have a guy opposite of him that can really do damage. And if they want to roll to him, then you’ve got Stefon,” coach Randy Edsall said.
* The offensive line has had a year to mature. Offensive line coach Tom Brattan doesn’t typically start first-year players. He wants them to have a year to mature. But last year, freshmen Mike Madaras and Andrew Zeller were both pressed into service. The good news is that they’re a year older.
“It looks like we had a good summer,” Brattan said. “We’re much stronger, times running are better. And the fact that we’re running the same offense two years in a row – which we haven’t done in three years – will help us.”