Team: Maryland Terrapins
W-L: 4-8 (2-6)
Top Offensive Performer: Stefon Diggs, WR
Top Defensive Performer: Joe Vellano, DL
Before the 2012 season even started, the Terrapins appeared to be cursed last year. Incumbent starting quarterback C.J. Brown was lost for the season with a torn ACL in practice, and with his loss, so vanished a promising season for Maryland. But surprisingly, that was not the case — at least initially, anyway. Replacement Perry Hills was learning on the fly, but had still led the Terps to a 4-3 record… until he was injured as well. The Angry Maryland QB-Hating God joke/nightmare grew when Hills’s replacements, Caleb Rowe and Caleb Rowe were also injured, leaving the team to lean on linebacker Shawn Petty for the remainder of the year. So before laughing at the Terrapins’ 123rd-ranked offense or 109th scoring offense in the country, consider the situation. On offense, they were virtually set up to fail from day one, with the only saving grace being standout freshman receiver Stefon Diggs. The receiver and kick returner had 1,896 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns, all while routinely being the fastest player on the field. Playing with a linebacker at quarterback, they still nearly beat North Carolina in the final week of the season — the same UNC team that would’ve taken home the ACC’s Coastal division. So sure, you could call it all bad, but there’s also plenty of foundation for the future.
With such a dismal offense, many times, it was up to the Maryland defense to really carry the load for this team. And to the best of their abilities, this group certainly did. While not stellar by any means, the Terps still finished 56th nationally in scoring defense, yet were 21st in total defense despite possessing just two “stars”: DL Joe Vellano and LB Demetrius Hartsfield. Admittedly, even for someone like myself who followed this team all year, it’s hard to see that number and truly believe it. But take a look at some of their efforts this season; holding a West Virginia team that was once looked at as “unstoppable” to 31 points back in September or the aforementioned game vs. North Carolina. Five teams were held to 20 points or less against them. From a turnover perspective, they were tied for fifth in the country with 16 forced fumbles. And again, keep in mind that all of these numbers also see negative effects from the team’s lack of a quarterback (too much pressure on the defensive unit to carry the team while they only topped 14 points once over the final four games).
When can 4-8 be considered a success? I’m still unsure if this Maryland season, literally defined by injuries, could in some odd way. The team’s starting quarterback never took a snap, and they lost one of their best defenders (Hartsfield) eight games in. But Hills played well while he was on the field, and two of his replacements were also quarterbacks at least. Had they started Petty all season, of course this season is a resounding success. But given all the circumstances — positive and negative — this evaluation simply gets an “incomplete.” And that’s not a cop-out. The rest of this team’s story will be written next season, when the large collection of replacement players used this year get to step in as regulars. Whether it’s Brown or Hills at QB, if they’re throwing to Diggs, there’s plenty of hope in College Park.