Maryland and Rutgers will bring along a lot of familiar faces when they enter the Big Ten this fall. The hard part will be getting to know their new opponents.
The Terrapins return 18 starters, nine on each side of the ball, from the team that finished fifth in its division in its last year in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The experience is a big advantage for Maryland, coach Randy Edsall said. ”We fully expect to be able to compete as we come into the Big Ten.”
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Rutgers, which tied for sixth in its one year in the American Athletic Conference, has nine starters back on offense and seven on defense.
Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood, like Edsall, is confident his team can hold up in the Big Ten. He’ll know for sure after a mid-season stretch of games against Michigan at home, Ohio State and Nebraska on the road and Wisconsin at home.
Maryland winds up spring practice Friday and Rutgers on April 26. The next task for Edsall and Flood will be to study opponents they’ll encounter for the first time.
Edsall said he and his staff already have started breaking down video of Big Ten teams. Flood said he’ll start that project in in May, a month earlier than he typically delves into opponents.
Flood said he already knows one thing about the Big Ten. ”It’s going to be physical. That’s for sure.”
A look around the Big Ten East:
INDIANA: The Hoosiers’ top priority is shoring up a defense that allowed 528 yards and 39 points a game. Brian Knorr takes over as coordinator after holding the same job at Wake Forest the past three seasons. He inherits nine starters. Coach Kevin Wilson said Knorr has been trying to instill a ”culture of competitiveness” among his charges, and progress has been apparent this spring.
MARYLAND: The move to the Big Ten might cause a little friction in C.J. Brown’s family the week of the Nov. 15 game against Michigan State. Brown, the first QB to throw for 2,000 yards and run for 500 at Maryland, is the son of Clark Brown, who quarterbacked the Spartans in 1983-84. ”He’s a Spartan fan,” C.J. said. ”When we play them, I expect him to be in red, and he’ll be cheering us on.” C.J. will be a sixth-year senior. He received a medical hardship for an ACL tear in 2012.
MICHIGAN: After last year’s 7-6 campaign, all eyes are on the offense and new coordinator Doug Nussmeier. The Wolverines struggled to move the ball while losing six of their last eight games, and they were no juggernaut in last week’s spring game. Coach Brady Hoke said if the season started tomorrow, incumbent Devin Gardner would be the QB. But Shane Morris was good enough to carry the competition over to the fall.
MICHIGAN STATE: The Big Ten champion Spartans are looking for more from QB Connor Cook, who was second-team All-Big Ten and the Rose Bowl offensive MVP in his first year as the starter. Coach Mark Dantonio said Cook has had an ”outstanding” spring and is looking to become more productive as a runner. The Spartans also return 1,400-yard rusher Jeremy Langford, four of the top five receivers and five starters from the Big Ten’s top defense.
OHIO STATE: QB Braxton Miller led an offense that set a Big Ten rushing record, and he’ll be going into his fourth year as the starter. Coach Urban Meyer’s biggest worry is protecting Miller. Only one starter returns on the offensive line, and the unit didn’t impress Meyer this spring. ”We’ve had the luxury of having a very good offensive line the last two years, and you hope some guys step up and get better,” he said. ”We’ve got two guys playing offensive line and you need five. That’s an area we aren’t where we need to be.”
PENN STATE: Allen Robinson is gone after accounting for almost a quarter of the Nittany Lions’ offense in 2013. His departure should give 6-foot-1, 200-pound Geno Lewis a chance to become a prime target for QB Christian Hackenberg. First-year coach James Franklin said he’s been impressed with Lewis’ leaping ability this spring, especially on deep balls. ”Him and Hackenberg are building a rapport and chemistry with each other, and that’s going to have to continue to grow,” Franklin said.
RUTGERS: First-year offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen is sorting out a red-hot QB competition, with Mike Bimonte and Chris Laviano challenging Gary Nova. Nova was benched the last three games last season after starting 23 in a row. Eleven players are out this spring because of injury, including top running back Paul James.