Maryland Football: Top 5 Storylines of 2013

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJuly 8, 2013

Maryland Football: Top 5 Storylines of 2013

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    Maryland football is a program full of transitions.

    In year three of the Randy Edsall project, the Terrapins have survived the 2-10 disaster of an inaugural season and started out on a strong 4-2 run before quarterback injuries cost Maryland another chance at bowling.

    Now the Terrapins are entering their final season of ACC play and remain one of the biggest wild cards of the season.

    We know that the expectations are higher, the talent is deeper and the time is now.

    Can Maryland sneak up the Atlantic Division and make one great mark in its final campaign, or will they flounder once more in preparation for the gauntlet heading toward them in the Big 10?

    These are the top five storylines entering summer practice for 2013.

The Golden Foot?

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    Here's a sad but true statistic for Maryland fans: Four of the Terps' eight losses were by a touchdown or less. 

    Those losses point to that third phase of football we like to overlook: special teams.

    Now Stefon Diggs and the return game is spectacular, he had more plays on returns than anyone in the conference last season as a freshman.

    The other key freshman, kicker Brad Craddock, did not fare so well.

    He finished the season 10-of-16 on field-goal attempts and was actually benched for the Boston College game by a walk-on.

    Craddock had never played by American football rules before he became a part of Maryland athletics, and although he may be strong, his consistency could make or break the Terrapins in 2013.

    With Maryland's only other option, Nick Ferrara, done in by injuries, Craddock must be able to cap off scoring drives for a team that finished 109th in scoring offense last season.

Last Rites

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    No matter what happens in 2013, the one thing we know is that this will be Maryland's final season before they jump the ACC ship and join the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the great Midwest.

    That means the end of some natural rivalries like Virginia, Duke and Virginia Tech, but clearly rivalries have a price tag, and Maryland found it.

    Instead, this season will either serve as a springboard into 2014 or a sacrificial blood-letting for being the last team to depart the ACC since South Carolina decades ago.

    Maryland must go to Florida State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State one last time and deal with an opponent and a fanbase that knows it. Like it or not, the Terrapins have a bullseye on their head as no one wants to leave this rivalry with a bad taste in their mouths.

    Maryland has more talent than their 6-18 record over the past two years would indicate, but that potential needs to pay off this season.

    Otherwise, the Terrapins will look more like they are running away rather than joining greener pastures.

Edsall's Breaking Point?

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    Coach Randy Edsall may be one of the most talked about figures around.

    Certainly coaches are never seen as cuddly, huggable characters. No one would describe Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells as friendly or approachable.

    In fact, I am pretty sure their stares turn people into stone.

    The difference is that those coaches win. Edsall and his 6-18 record represent a rather different story.

    Despite his success at Connecticut and his good start to 2012, Edsall has proven nothing with the Terrapins yet. While he seems to be overcoming the initial scrutiny and potential mutiny by players and media in 2011, that victory will be short-lived without results on the field in 2013.

    How long can Edsall talk the talk of building a program of fine, young gentlemen with cliche after cliche if his team can barely beat William & Mary?

    He replaced a man who took Maryland to a bowl game and was named ACC Coach of the Year the year of his firing.

    The expectations are much higher, and Edsall does not seem to be inclined to help his situation out by making nice with the media or placating athletes.

    Edsall could certainly reach a point of meltdown, and that possibility makes for an intriguing storyline.

State of the Quarterback(s)

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    No one struggled more with quarterback injuries in the ACC last season than Maryland.

    Maryland's C.J. Brown was supposed to be the answer, but his ACL injury cost him the entire 2012 season. We all know that Danny O'Brien transferred after the 2011 season, and so the Terrapins were behind the eight ball before the first snap of 2012.

    Two more critical injuries, and Maryland was finishing the season with a linebacker turned quarterback. 

    Coach Randy Edsall constantly loved to remind the media that Shawn Petty was a linebacker and not a signal-caller, even sports reference has him listed by his true position.

    Whoever gets the ball game one has guaranteed experience behind him, and, barring a complete catastrophe, Maryland will be much better and poised at this position.

    Stability at this position could be the make-or-break factor in Maryland's chances of bowling.

The Stefon Diggs Show

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    Despite the dysfunction and turmoil that is Maryland athletics over the past couple of seasons, the Terrapins got a recruiting boon when it was announced one of the best athletes in the area was going to commit to the hometown team.

    Considering the cynicism that has grown among fans in terms of recruiting the D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia area, Stefon Diggs is a welcome salve and an amazing pickup.

    In his freshman campaign, Diggs showed flashes of the amazing athleticism that garnered him a 5-star rating. Despite a quarterback cadre in shambles, Diggs led the team with 54 receptions for 848 yards and six touchdowns.

    He picked up two touchdowns on special teams, too, including a critical kickoff return early against Virginia that proved to be the difference-maker in a 27-20 contest that took Maryland to 4-2, 2-0 in the ACC at the time.

    With more experience, a better quarterback with the ability to run himself and a bevy of opportunities to get the ball in his hands, Diggs will be the focus on offense.

    His playmaking is Maryland's best chance at competing against the likes of Clemson and Florida State. He holds great potential, and watching him play means getting ready for a highlight reel play each and every down.