Five key returning players for Maryland football

After a lengthy and exhaustive search, Maryland finally got its new football coach in DJ Durkin this week. There's plenty of changes to come to the Terps, whether it's on the coaching staff or on the roster — the standard amount of turnover that comes with overhauling a program — but there a number of players returning who can help ease the transition for Durkin and his new staff.

Defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson


Jefferson has a year of eligibility remaining, and his return would be a boost to the defense. Jefferson was a disruptive force along the interior with 39 tackles, 12 1/2 for loss and 6 1/2 sacks. Playing alongside defensive tackle Azubuike Ukandu for the last two months of the season, Jefferson consistently got good push into opposing backfields, flushing quarterbacks into the arms of Maryland's pass rushers.

Despite losing defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the NFL draft, the returns of Jefferson and Ukandu, along with defensive ends Jesse Aniebonam and Roman Braglio, would give Maryland a solid defensive front.

Cornerback Will Likely

Likely emerged as a do-it-all threat in all three phases of the game this fall, with 118.8 all-purpose yards per game. He had one of the best seasons for a punt returner in program history with two touchdown returns and 17.7 yards per return. In the season opener against Richmond, Likely set a Big Ten Conference record with 233 punt return yards. Likely also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Iowa.

Maryland brought Likely into the fold on offense down the stretch with special packages, and he made his first career start at wide receiver against Wisconsin on Nov. 7. Likely finished the season with 110 yards from scrimmage. And while Likely didn't intercept a pass this season, he broke up 11 passes and opposing quarterbacks avoided his side of the field.

Middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr.

In his first season as a starter, Carter had a breakout campaign. He led the Terps with 103 tackles and finished second with 14 tackles for loss while anchoring the center of the defense. Carter had to become a more vocal leader as a redshirt sophomore, and successfully became one of the Big Ten's most productive linebackers.

Carter's signature moment of the season came against Rutgers in the season finale when he made the initial hit on Scarlet Knights running back Robert Martin when he tried to convert a fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter to preserve the Terps' 46-41 win.

Offensive lineman Damian Prince

Maryland will have to replace three members of its starting offensive line next season, and Prince, a former five-star recruit who finished his redshirt freshman season as a starter, will be expected to be an anchor in the trenches moving forward. Prince entered camp as a projected starter, but minor injuries sidelined him, and he began the season as a reserve. He moved into the starting lineup in the fourth game of the season and was challenged by some of the Big Ten's best defensive ends.

Prince appeared in 10 games and made six starts, though he was hurt late against Penn State and missed Maryland's losses to Iowa and Wisconsin. At 6 feet 3, 328 pounds, Prince has the size to hold his own against some of the nation's top defensive ends, and he said he realizes that his role as a leader will have to increase as one of two returning starters on the line next season.

Wide receiver D.J. Moore

Maryland is expected to return its entire wide receiver corps next season — including Levern Jacobs, Taivon Jacobs, Amba Etta-Tawo, Malcolm Culmer, Jahrvis Davenport and DeAndre Lane. But Moore is coming off an impressive true freshman campaign and figures to be a prominent part of the Terps offense in the future. Moore finished second on the team behind Levern Jacobs with 25 catches for 357 yards and tied Jacobs for the team lead with three touchdown catches.

Moore started the final 10 games of the season, and all three of his touchdowns were at least 40 yards long, including a 52-yarder against then-No. 1 Ohio State in October. A former four-star recruit from Philadelphia, Moore caught a pass in 11 of 12 games this season and provided a boost to the Terps' downfield passing game, no matter who was at quarterback.