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Led by opening at quarterback, Terps go into season with plenty of holes to fill

University of Maryland head football coach Randy Edsall talks about recruiting on Thursday at the Big 10 media day. (Jack McCarthy for the Baltimore Sun)

No one said playing in the Big Ten was going to be easy.

Entering its second season in the conference, Maryland needs to choose a new quarterback and 11 other new starters, has introduced a new defensive scheme and faces three consensus top-25 teams, including the reigning national champs.

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But as the Terps showed in their inaugural Big Ten season, they should not be overlooked.

"I think we have a chance to surprise people again this year," fifth-year coach Randy Edsall said at Thursday's Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago.

In 2014, the Terps were picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten East, but finished 4-4 and in the middle of the pack, picking up road wins at Michigan and Penn State among a league-best five victories away from home.

Maryland went on to finish 7-6 and reached a bowl game for the second straight season.

This year, the schedule features three nationally ranked foes, including reigning-champion Ohio State. But Edsall, who recently agreed to a three-year extension through the 2019 season, knows what he signed up for.

"I'm always just a firm believer that on any given Saturday everybody has the same opportunity," he said. "First and foremost, it doesn't matter who it is. You've got to believe you can win."

The Terps are again projected to finish fifth in the Big Ten East, according to a preseason poll of 40 Big Ten writers conducted by Cleveland.com.

Maryland returns 2015 Lou Groza Award winner Brad Craddock and Big Ten first-team cornerback and special teams standout William Likely, who are featured on a series of preseason All-American and award watch lists.

Three offensive linemen who combined for 35 starts — Ryan Doyle, Michael Dunn and Andrew Zeller — also return. More than half of the Terps rushing production is also back in Brandon Ross (419 yards, four touchdowns) and Wes Brown (356 yards, six touchdowns).

But the holes to fill are substantial and quarterback is the biggest of all.

Maryland now has three capable candidates to replace the departed C.J. Brown after transfer Daxx Garman was officially cleared this week.

Garman started eight games last year at Oklahoma State and had 2,041 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in his junior season.

Also in the mix are senior Caleb Rowe and junior Perry Hills.

In 2014, Rowe appeared in four games, throwing for 489 yards and five touchdowns. Hills is projected as the backup after playing in three games, including a 38-31 home win over Iowa that included a 53-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs.

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"You basically have three guys who have won games in Power Five conferences," Edsall said. "At least we have experience and it's going to be neat to see the competition unfold here in the preseason."

Holes must be filled at wide receiver and tight end, but the offensive line has a solid base with the return of Dunn, a junior, and seniors Zeller and Doyle.

Keith Dudzinski moves from assistant coach/inside linebackers to defensive coordinator. He has four returning starters, including Likely, and will oversee a new 4-3 scheme.

Maryland gave up 30.2 points per game, was outscored, 392-370, and was outrushed by more than 1,000 yards.

"That's one of the reasons why we made the switch, because we weren't real successful as we would have liked to be in, really, a hybrid 3-4 defense," Edsall said. "So when you take a look at our personnel, we felt that our personnel would be suited better in the 4-3."

Maryland opens with four straight non-conference games, starting with a Sept. 5 home game against Richmond.

Big Ten play kicks off Oct. 3 at home against Michigan, followed by a trip to face Ohio State (Oct. 10), a visit from nationally ranked Wisconsin (Nov. 7) and road game at Michigan State (Nov. 14).

NOTES: Maryland's Zeller is among 12 players nominated for the 2015 Allstate Good Works team, honoring players for charitable work and community involvement. … Big Ten teams play eight conference games (six inside their division and two against teams from the other) and will switch to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016. … Ohio State was the unanimous pick to win the Big Ten East and conference championship, according to the Cleveland.com poll. Wisconsin was picked to win the West. The Big Ten no longer produces a preseason poll. … Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, tabbed as one of 11 Big Ten players to watch, was suspended for the Buckeyes' season opener at Virginia Tech along with three other players (sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson). … The Big Ten shifted to a two-day media event after fitting 14 teams into a single day last year proved problematic. … Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, Nebraska's Mike Riley and Wisconsin's Paul Chryst are the Big Ten's newest coaches, all opening their first seasons.

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