By Ryan Romano
The Terps football team entered 2016 as a club in transition. In October of the previous year, they had fired head coach Randy Edsall, who had led Maryland to a middling 22-33 record in four-and-a-half seasons at the helm. Many of the team’s veteran players departed for the sunnier shores of the NFL in the offseason. Coming off a 3-9 record in 2015, and undergoing turnover across the roster and at the top, the Terps would try to take a step forward.
Maryland’s new leadership has brought enthusiasm and vigor to a squad that sorely needs it. To replace Edsall as head coach, the team brought in DJ Durkin from the University of Michigan. He knew he’d inherited a rebuilding program with a tough schedule, but he still welcomed the opportunity, and he wanted his players to feel the same way.
“Personally, I really identify with this program. I think this is a blue-collar place, a blue-collar university, a blue-collar program,” he said in his introductory press conference. “We compete in one of the…best conferences in the country. I embrace competition, I want to recruit guys who embrace that competition.”
If the talented freshman Durkin recruited fit that mold, they’ll help the team make progress this year — on offense, at least. Guards Terrence Davis and Richard Merritt, both consensus four-star recruits, have come in to reinforce the offensive line and strengthen the running game. And when senior quarterback Perry Hills looks to throw, he can rely on wide receiver Tino Ellis, also a four-star recruit.
On defense, the Terps lost several stalwarts from last year, including defensive back Sean Davis and defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue, each of whom went pro. The team might miss their presence, since no four-star recruits will bolster the defense. Still, with a strong offense to put up points, the Terps can tolerate some regression on the other side of the ball.
Regardless of what happens from here, the Terps have already improved from last season. They’ve gone 3-0 through their first three games of 2016, matching their win total from 2015. Although Maryland didn’t receive any votes in the preseason coach’s poll of the best teams in college football, their strong start has begun to elicit some support — the newest poll had them with four votes.
The turnaround is far from complete, but Maryland football is nevertheless on the upswing.