Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 131 of 163

130 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY RYAN TICE Maryland held serve in its first year of Big Ten play, and put up the same 7-6 record the team brought from the ACC. The Terps did improve their league record by one win, but they boasted an experienced team in their first year of conference membership. Many of those familiar faces are now gone. The Terrapins return just nine starters on offense and defense with only one legitimate all-conference threat in 5-7, 175-pound ju- nior cornerback William Likely. The unani- mous All-Big Ten selection tied for the league lead in interceptions (six) and passes defended (15) a year ago. Senior Sean Davis started only twice at corner last fall, but the 6-1, 200-pounder should slide in opposite Likely. He finished second on the team with 115 tackles, which led all Big Ten defensive backs and was fourth nationally. He has posted 217 tack- les the last two years while playing mostly safety and also logged eight passes broken up in 2014. Classmate Anthony Nixon brings similar size to the back line, where he also started all 13 games last fall, at 6-0 and 205 pounds. The only other returning defensive starter is junior defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, an All-Big Ten honorable mention pick at linebacker in 2014. He finished second on the team with 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, but the 6-2, 250-pounder must adjust to the team's new 4-3 scheme. New coordinator Keith Dudzinski is likely making the switch to improve the Terps' ground defense, which ranked 97th nationally with an average of 201.9 yards allowed per game. It could also be because linebacker — the position Dudzinski has coached the last four seasons — returns just three players that ended last year on the two- deep, including Ngakoue. The other two combined for 32 tackles, while the five departed linebackers com- bined for 37 starts, 306 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 18 passes broken up last fall. The offense must replace starting quarter- back C.J. Brown, who was also last year's leading rusher, and his top two targets. A nice surprise came in late May, when former Oklahoma State starter Daxx Garman trans- ferred to College Park. The senior completed 54.9 percent of his throws for 2,041 yards with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in eight starts last year for the Cowboys. However, the job will not simply be given to him. Senior Caleb Rowe has battled inju- ries during his career, and missed this spring following an ACL tear, but has played in 13 games and thrown for 1,768 yards and 12 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Fifth-year senior running back Brandon Ross and redshirt junior Wes Brown split starting duties last year and combined for 775 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Brown — who led the team in rushing in 2012 and 2013 — actually leads all return- ing players with 21 catches, but had only 198 receiving yards; Ross also posted 14 recep- tions for 212 yards and two touchdowns. The top four pass catchers from last year are gone. Redshirt junior Amba Etta-Tawo, a part-time starter, leads all returning play- ers with 222 receiving yards, although he grabbed only 10 receptions. The team receives some much needed re- inforcement out wide from senior Levern Jacobs, who led the team with 47 receptions and 640 receiving yards in 2013, but was suspended last year. A pair of blue-chip redshirt freshmen are expected to take the starting tackle spots, bumping one of their three returning starters up front. Senior guards Ryan Doyle and An- drew Zeller provide the experience. Senior kicker Brad Craddock is the de- fending Lou Groza Award winner. He was 18 of 19 on field goals last year, including 11 from 40-plus yards with a school-record 57-yarder against Ohio State. Likely is a dangerous punt and kick returner. The Terrapins have been to two straight bowl games, but repeating seven wins for a third straight year would be an accomplish- ment given the personnel losses. Notes Athlon Sports College Football Preview does not rank any Maryland positional group higher than sixth in the Big Ten, and wide receivers/tight ends is the only group they list higher than ninth in the league … Michigan catches Mary- land in a killer stretch that will likely define their season — the Terps go on the road for their annual rivalry game with West Virginia, return home to host Michigan and then travel to Ohio State over three consecutive weeks. ❑ Backing Up Strong Big Ten Debut Will Be Tall Order For Terps GAME 5 • MARYLAND • OCT. 3 2015 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2014 Result Sept. 5 Richmond — Sept. 12 Bowling Green — Sept. 19 South Florida W, 24-17 Sept. 26 at West Virginia L, 40-37 Oct. 3 Michigan W, 23-16 Oct. 10 at Ohio State L, 52-24 Oct. 24 vs. Penn State* W, 20-19 Oct. 31 at Iowa W, 38-31 Nov. 7 Wisconsin L, 52-7 Nov. 14 Michigan State L, 37-15 Nov. 21 Indiana W, 37-15 Nov. 28 at Rutgers L, 41-38 * at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: U-M leads 3-1 First Meeting: U-M 20, Maryland 0 (Sept. 28, 1985, at Ann Arbor) Last Meeting: Maryland 23, U-M 16 (Nov. 22, 2014, at Ann Arbor) Head Coach: Randy Edsall, 20-30 at Maryland (5th year) and 94-100 overall (17th year) Off./Def. Systems: Multiple/4-3 2014 In Review: 7-6 overall, 4-4 Big Ten (3rd East) Final 2014 Ranking: Unranked Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 4 defense, 1 specialist) Last Bowl Appearance: 2014 (Foster Farms, vs. Stan- ford, L 45-21) Big Ten Conference Championships (last): 0 (9 ACC titles, last in 2001) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Caleb Rowe (489 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT) Rushing: Brandon Ross (419 yards, 4 TD) Receiving: Marcus Leak (297 yards, 3 TD) Tackles: Sean Davis (115) Sacks: Yannick Ngakoue (6) Interceptions: William Likely (6) PLAYERS TO WATCH Offense: Brandon Ross, 5th-Sr., RB — Led the team in rushing dur- ing the 2012 and 2013 campaigns … The 5-10, 205-pounder enjoyed his best season as a redshirt soph- omore with 865 rushing yards … Totaled 631 yards from scrimmage last season with six touchdowns. Defense: Yannick Ngakoue, Jr., DE — Moving from linebacker to defensive end … Started all 12 games last fall and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention … Finished second on the team with 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Junior cornerback William Likely was a unan- imous All-Big Ten selection in 2014 after ty- ing for the league lead in interceptions (six). PHOTO COURTESY MARYLAND ATHLETICS

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