Maryland’s 2018 football season: A ‘challenging situation’

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              File-This Nov. 25, 2017, file photo shows then LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada walking on the field before an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La.  Maryland offensive coordinator Canada is the interim coach. The 46-year-old came to Maryland after coaching at seven schools over the past nine years, including a one-and-done stint at Louisiana State in 2017. Now, without a shred of head coaching experience, Canada is in control of a shaken Big Ten team in disarray. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s 2018 football season promises to be unlike any other — for all the wrong reasons.

The program is in turmoil following the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. The university has accepted full legal and moral responsibility for the tragedy.

Head coach DJ Durkin has been placed on administrative leave, and McNair’s family wants him to be fired . Strength and conditioning coach Rick Court has resigned, and two other unidentified members of the athletic staff await their fate while on administrative leave.

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is the interim coach . The 46-year-old came to Maryland after serving as an assistant at seven schools over the past nine years, including a one-and-done stint at LSU in 2017.

Now, without a shred of head coaching experience, Canada is in control of a team in disarray.

“Every season is different. This is certainly a challenging situation,” Canada said. “The focus of that is we’re all still grieving for Jordan. That’s what we’re focusing on as an entire program.”

McNair collapsed on the practice field on May 29, overcome by heat and exhaustion. He died on June 13.

Before the school acknowledged mistakes were made in treating Jordan when he fell ill, and before Durkin came under fire, Durkin said at Big Ten media day that the season would be dedicated to McNair.

“We’re a team playing for Jordan this year,” Durkin said.

That is still true, but the Terrapins probably won’t be playing under Durkin in the season opener on Sept. 1 against Texas in Landover, Maryland.

“We’re going to work through it together and consult with each other, talk with each other, lean on each other, be with each other,” Canada said.

Some other things to know about the 2018 Maryland football team:

QUARTERBACK DUEL: Maryland went through four different quarterbacks last year, a key factor in its 4-8 record.

Tyrrell Pigrome started in an upset of Texas in the opener but tore his ACL in that game and was lost for the season. He was replaced by Kasim Hill, who tore his ACL later in September.

Max Bortenschlager ended up starting the majority of the games.

Now, Pigrome and Hill are dueling for the starting job. Both have similar skills in that they’re very adept on their feet, but each had their 2017 season end when hit on a run out of the pocket.

WELCOME ABOARD

Durkin boasted about having a strong recruiting year, and it’s quite possible that some of those newcomers can make a difference.

“Our goal is to compete and win the Big Ten,” Durkin said. “With our recruiting and the people that we’ve been able to bring into this program, we feel we’re doing it at the level that we need to be able to accomplish that.”

One of the additions secured by Durkin originally played for Auburn. Byron Cowart, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior, will anchor the defensive line. He played in every game in 2015, participated in 10 games in 2016 and sat out last season after leaving early Auburn in the fall semester.

OFF AND RUNNING

Maryland will be counting on the versatile Ty Johnson to make the offense click on the ground.

Johnson led the Terrapins in 2017 with 875 yards rushing, eighth-most in the Big Ten. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and tacked on 657 kick return yards in 2017, the ninth-most in a single season in school history.

WITHOUT MOORE, LESS

The departure of DJ Moore will without question have an impact on the Maryland passing game.

Moore left after a spectacular junior season in which he had 80 catches for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns. He was first-team Big Ten and the conference’s Receiver of the Year.

He’s a member of the Carolina Panthers now after being drafted 24th overall in the NFL draft.

Maryland’s top returning receiver is Taivon Jacobs, who had 47 catches for 553 yards and five TDs.

TOUGH SCHEDULE

The opener against Texas is merely the first tough game on a schedule that takes Maryland on a projected rocky ride through the Big Ten.

The Terrapins surprised the Longhorns 51-41 in the opener last year, but this time Texas — now in its second season under coach Tom Herman — will be looking for revenge.

Following non-league games against Bowling Green and Temple, Maryland launches its Big Ten schedule at Michigan. Later, the Terrapins face Iowa, Indiana and Penn State on the road.

Maryland went 2-7 in the conference last year, defeating Minnesota and Indiana by a combined 10 points. The Terps are 10-24 since entering the league in 2014.

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