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Dienhart's 2014 Big Ten football predictions




1. Michigan State. Look, I liked the Spartans BEFORE Ohio State superstar Braxton Miller was ruled out. Michigan State will have one of the Big Ten’s top offenses. The defense? Well, we know the Spartan brand on that side of the ball. Pay no heed to starters lost. At MSU, it’s plug and play.


2. Ohio State. The loss of Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury doesn’t mean the sky is falling in Columbus. It only means the ceiling on this season isn’t as high. National championship? Nope. Major bowl bid? Still possible. There is talent, but so many questions: quarterback, running back, o-line, pass defense …


3. Michigan. The scrutiny will be intense on a program that has seen its win total decrease each of the last three seasons under Brady Hoke. The defense looks strong. The offense holds the key. Will the line get a push? This remains a young team. Still, it’s time to stand and deliver in Ann Arbor.


4. Maryland. This is Randy Edsall’s fourth Terps’ squad. And I like it. Lots of veteran talent dots the roster, especially on defense. The offense has some of the best skill in the Big Ten. Label this team a “sleeper.”


5. Penn State. James Franklin has hit State College like a tornado of positivity and energy. Everyone is buying anything he’s selling. Yes, even ketchup popsicles to people wearing white gloves. But depth issues finally may prove to be ruinous to the Nittany Lions, smacking Penn State with an ugly reality: A losing season. Hey, it was bound to happen.


6. Indiana. The Hoosiers were <THISCLOSE> to making a bowl last season, finishing 5-7. Home losses to Navy and Minnesota were killer. Indiana could break through to its first postseason since 2007 if a new

defensive coordinator (Brian Knorr) and scheme (3-4) can improve and complement another electric offense.


7. Rutgers. The good news: The Scarlet Knights have found a strong, stable home in the Big Ten. The bad news: Depth issues across the board and an iffy secondary could prove fatal during Rutgers’ maiden voyage. Did I mention the Scarlet Knights have found a strong, stable home?

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Maryland’s rare feat: All three of Randy Edsall’s coordinators are African American



report released last month by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) found that 15 of the 125 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches were minorities in 2013. That number is 14 heading into this season — and alongside Texas, Vanderbilt and Tulane, Maryland is one of four schools in the country to have three minorities in the top four positions on staff.


“The triple [minority coordinators] is rare,” said Floyd Keith, who served as a head coach at Howard and Rhode Island and is a former executive director of the non-profit organization Black Coaches and Administrators. “I think it’s unique. I give credit here to [Randy Edsall].”


While there have been inroads to minority coaching hires in the past decade — there were just four minority head coaches and 29 minority offensive and defensive coordinators to begin the season in 2005, according to TIDES — Maryland is an outlier in a coaching landscape still dominated by white men. 


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Maryland releases depth chart ahead of opener against James Madison



Maryland Coach Randy Edsall had settled a number of position battles as training camp came to an end last week, but the period of evaluation is over.


Maryland released an updated depth chart Monday evening, and there were no Earth-shattering surprises.


Brandon Ross (running back), Andrew Isaacs (tight end) and Silvano Altamirano (left guard) are the projected starters at positions that were wide open when preseason camp opened three weeks ago. Nose tackle is the only position that remains without a clear-cut starter; Keith Bowers and Darius Kilgo are listed as co-starters, and Edsall said last week that the team will rely heavily on both players being in the rotation.


Both Levern Jacobs and Alex Twine, the two upperclassmen who are facing second-degree assault charges, are listed on the two-deep. Jacobs will start at wide receiver, while Twine is a backup inside linebacker.


Stefon Diggs, who received second-team reps during the team’s open scrimmage, will start alongside Jacobs and Deon Long at wide receiver. Diggs is also listed as the team’s kick returner alongside Taivon Jacobs, while corner Will Likely will handle the punt return duties.


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Highly touted Terps freshman Jesse Aniebonam could be factor as pass rusher



COLLEGE PARK — Like most football roommates, Maryland linebackers L.A. Goree and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil constantly talk about football.

Goree and Cudjoe-Virgil talk about practice. They talk about defensive game plans. They talk about what’s going on with the team, and they talk about individual players they have been impressed with.


According to Goree, freshman outside linebacker Jesse Aniebonam is one of the players Cudjoe-Virgil has raved about throughout the summer.


“He is always telling me like, ‘Man, Jesse’s going to be nice. Jesse’s going to be nice,’” Goree said, “and I see it. It’s almost inevitable. With his speed and his size, he can’t be denied.”


Like most freshman, Aniebonam is still learning and adjusting to the college level. He is also continuing to mold his body to be able to hold up physically at this new level. But Maryland coach Randy Edsall expects Aniebonam to have a role this season.


Is Aniebonam ready to contribute in the run game? Probably not.


Is he going to drop back and be reliable in pass coverage? Probably not at this point of his career.


But the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Aniebonam may be the fastest and most athletic of the Terps' linebackers, and he showed during preseason practice that he can do some damage as a pass rusher.

“Jesse is a guy who is very talented,” Edsall said. “He’s very athletic, and he’s a guy that we feel will have an opportunity to be able to contribute in some capacity. 


Certain positions and certain things that you do within your scheme will allow guys to maybe get on the field a little bit quicker than maybe at some other positions based on their skill level [and] based on what you do. It might just be one or two situations that those guys can handle, but Jesse is very natural in some of the things that we want him to do.”


Aniebonam was one of the top-rated members of Maryland’s past recruiting class.


Rivals ranked him as a four-star prospect and the second-best recruit in the state of Maryland.



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Five Storylines For Maryland/James Madison


With Saturday’s season opener just days away, there will be plenty to watch for in terms of when Maryland takes the field against James Madison. Maryland returns several key players on both sides of the football, and has lofty expectations heading into 2014. Here’s five things to look for heading into Saturday’s contest at Byrd Stadium.


1.) Big Ten buzz – It seems like we’ve been talking about becoming a member of the Big Ten for years. Well, finally Maryland plays their first football game as a member of their new conference. When fans arrive at Byrd Stadium on Saturday, they will see that beautiful Big Ten logo all around the stadium, and will be able to purchase Maryland gear with the very same conference emblem on it. It marks a new era for all of us. Most Maryland fans have had their fandom passed down through several generations. Youngsters nowadays, will only know the Big Ten days, and let’s hope that the Terrapins start the new and exciting era off on the right foot.


2.) The return of Stefon Diggs & Deon Long – The Wake Forest game was one of extreme sadness for the Terps last season. In the span of minutes, Diggs and Long were lost for the season with similar leg injuries. Nearly a year later, the anticipation to see these two dynamic playmakers back on the field is through the roof. Despite not playing the second half of the season, Diggs still led Maryland in receiving yards. If these two pick up where they left off a year ago, the Terps may be able to be the surprise team in the East Division.


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Terps football notes on Taivon Jacobs, Nnamdi Egbuaba and Saturday's uniforms



COLLEGE PARK — Maryland redshirt freshman Taivon Jacobs is listed as a backup at wide receiver, but coach Randy Edsall said the Terps have packages to utilize Jacobs' speed and elusiveness.


The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Jacobs is considered the fastest player on the Terps' roster and stood out at times during preseason practice.


“There’ll be things that we have him involved and utilize him,” Edsall said Thursday.


In addition to being a backup at wide receiver, Jacobs -- the younger brother of fellow Terps receiver Levern Jacobs -- is also the backup kick returner behind Stefon Diggs.


Here are some other notes from Edsall's meeting with the media Thursday:

** Freshman linebacker Nnamdi Egbuaba (St. Frances) will undergo shoulder surgery Friday, Edsall said. Egbuaba will not play this season, but Edsall is hopeful Egbuaba will be back in time for spring practice.


** Maryland will wear red jerseys and white pants during Saturday’s opener against James Madison.


** The Terps’ game captains Saturday will be senior quarterback C.J. Brown (offense), senior linebacker L.A. Goree (defense) and kicker junior Brad Craddock (special teams). Senior linebacker Matt Robinson will carry the Maryland flag. Junior running back Albert Reid will carry the American flag.



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I am more than ready to be pleasantly surprised, but its hard to shake the pessimistic outlook going into the season.  As a fan, I have no idea how Maryland's gonna beat a team the caliber of Minnesota, much less the real BIG Boys.


This sure is Edsall's put up or shut up year.  I am more than willing to be proven wrong here.  Beat 5 BIG Ten teams & I'll be his biggest supporter.

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Stefon Diggs keeps memories of father in moving on from injury and toward stardom




Stefon Diggs was six years into his football career the first time his father, Aron, gave him a compliment about his play. It came on a peewee field in Montgomery County. Diggs lowered his shoulder on a sweep play and ran over another teenage defender before looking over to the sideline and seeing rare joy on his father’s face.


“My dad was real hard on me. He wasn’t really big on congratulating and stuff like that,” Diggs said. “That was a proud moment.”


A few years later, in January 2008, the man who started Diggs in football was gone. Aron Diggs, who died of congestive heart failure at 39, would never see his son turn into a prodigy at prep powerhouse Good Counsel. He would never be able to sift through hundreds of recruiting letters with Stefon, or watch him have one of the most prolific freshman seasons inMaryland football history in 2012. And he would never be able to help his son through one of the most difficult years of his life, which started whenhe broke his leg on an overcast Saturday last October at Wake Forest.


“He made me the man I am,” Diggs said of his father.


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Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart is bringing Terps family together



Whenever defensive coordinator Brian Stewart’s number appears onMaryland senior cornerback Jeremiah Johnson’s mobile phone, Johnson figures he’ll eat well soon. Johnson is among many members of the football team who often share good food and laughs over dinner at Stewart’s house.


The Terrapins never tire of those reps.


“He’ll just text and say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna get the guys together this weekend,’ ” Johnson said the other day at Byrd Stadium. “The fact that he opens the doors of his home and his wife cooks for us . . . you really feel like it’s a family.”


Stewart, who engineered an eye-opening turnaround on defense after arriving in College Park, enters his third season leading young men whom he views as his sons. Unlike some coaches who believe players respond best to shouting, Stewart would rather embrace than intimidate. Stewart, though, is no pushover, players say. He follows a simple philosophy he learned from his mentor, former NFL coach Wade Phillips: If you show players you care about them, most will follow you anywhere.


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You're putting Minnesota on a pedestal. They are in the same category as our football program.

That was not my intention.  My point is, I am honestly unsure of the Turtles beating a team like Minnesota.  I am more than willing to be pleasantly surprised, but Wake Forest they are not.  And Maryland didn't even beat them bums last year.


Trust me - I WANT to see Maryland's Program kick ass!  No doubt about it.

Edited by Diehard Otis
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