Incumbent C.J. Brown will enter with the best chance at being the starter. My memory of Brown last season is of a guy standing on the sideline wearing shorts, a heavy knee brace and a red T-shirt with an ironic message in white lettering on the back: "All in. All Games. All season." Terps fans are hoping he can make a successful comeback.
New receiver Deon Long (Iowa Western Community College) could help Brown this season. You’ll hear about Long on Signing Day. The Terps need another receiver to draw attention away from Stefon Diggs in the slot.
In his freshman season, Diggs was second in the conference in all-purpose yards (172.4 yards). He was aided by the emergence of receiver Marcus Leak, a deep threat who wears Torrey Smith's old Maryland number (82). But Leak’s season ended early with a broken toe.
Maryland has enough talented skill-position players – Diggs, Leak and running back Wes Brown among them – to be optimistic about upgrading its offense.
What it needs now is more offensive-line talent and depth – and also a bit of luck to steer it clear of the sorts of injuries that wrecked last season.
Who is the biggest sleeper in Maryland's football recruiting class?
Matt Bracken: We'll get into Most Underrated, Most Likely to Overachieve and other Maryland football recruiting superlatives next week. But today, we'll take a look at my pick for the Biggest Sleeper of the Terps' 2013 class -- two-star defensive end Chandler Burkett.
A 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior out of Bozeman High in Panama City, Fla., Burkett's first offer came from Maryland last spring, but he eventually chose Florida International over the Terps, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee State, South Florida and Troy. When FIU dismissed coach Mario Cristobal in December, Burkett decided to reopen his recruitment.
"[FIU] said they’d have a new coach in over a month. [They said they'd] hopefully have a head coach by January 7. A month away," said Bozeman coach William Tillman. "[I asked Chandler], 'You want us to send anything else out?' He’s like, 'Please do.' We contacted [assistant coach Lyndon] Johnson at Maryland, who recruited him, to see if he was still interested. Coach Johnson met with [Randy Edsall] and they said, ‘Let’s see if he’s serious about us.’ They brought him in for a visit [and] everything kind of worked out."
Tillman's not sure why Burkett landed just two offers from BCS-conference schools, but he praised Maryland for its early evaluation of the first player in Bozeman High history to sign with a Division I program. Florida is obviously a talent-rich state, but it's certainly possible that Bozeman -- a relatively new high school -- isn't yet on the radar of college recruiters. Burkett showed Tillman "right away" that he would be a DI prospect.
"We played him up in some varsity games as a ninth-grader," Tillman recalled. "The first game, [we] put him in there to try and motivate a senior. Next thing you know, he has seven tackles, three for loss, a blocked kick. [We said], 'OK, we’re not getting that production from a senior. The freshman has to play.' He’s been playing ever since."
Burkett saw time as a senior at middle linebacker, which Tillman said allowed him to play off the line of scrimmage, drop back in coverage and showcase his versatility. Burkett, with his 4.6 speed, did just that, recording 122 tackles (88 solo), including 15 for loss.
Burkett is clearly a developmental prospect that will be an interesting case study in the Maryland staff's evaluation skills. In Tillman's opinion, though, the Terps got a "hell of a defensive end" -- no matter what the recruiting services may say.
"He's got a hell of a drop step. If not, he’ll chase you down the back side. I see him doing more of that," Tillman said. "He’s got a big lower body, but can put on a lot of weight. I expect he’s going to play [somewhere between] 260 or 275. He’s still real skinny. He gets up there and gets on regular meals and all that stuff, he’s going to put on even more body weight and hopefully keep that speed. He's a very legitimate football player, a great character academically [and] athletically. He’s got the whole shebang."