Five questions with the Washington Post’s Maryland beat writer Roman Stubbs.
It seems like this was one of those "What could have been" seasons for Maryland. It started with a bang by winning at Texas, then the injuries piled up. Do you believe D.J. Durkin is on the right path in a grueling division?
He’s on the right path, although I’m not sure this program will be competing for Big Ten East titles anytime soon. The cupboard was left pretty bare when he arrived, and on that end, there’s been encouraging signs on the field over the first two years. He’s obviously recruited at an unprecedented level here, but his ability to develop that talent is going to be put to the test as he gets into the teeth of his contract.
The injury bug hit Maryland again last week in a loss to Rutgers. Third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager was injured and fourth-stringer Ryan Brand, a walk-on, had to play. Who will start this week, and can a Maryland offense led by a third- or fourth-string QB be competitive against Michigan's defense?
Bortenschlager is a game-time decision, and should he not be able to go, Brand would likely become the fourth player to start under center in 10 games. I ultimately don’t think it will matter who starts against Don Brown’s defense, but I do think that Brand brings some mobility to the table that adds a dimension to this offense.
Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison form a solid 1-2 punch at running back. But it's the undersized Jake Funk who's drawing loads of attention and scoring some crucial touchdowns. A creative game plan seems paramount. Might that include Funk?
Funk will definitely be on the field for third downs and in the red zone, if Maryland gets there. It will be interesting to see how Walt Bell designs his game plan for this Michigan defense; with the ongoing uncertainty at quarterback, I’d suspect Johnson and Harrison (and possibly even junior wide receiver DJ Moore) to also line up in Wildcat packages at times. Funk will certainly bring a change of pace no matter what.
Maryland's defense is ranked near the bottom of the country. Durkin is known to be a great defensive mind. Are there fundamental issues on that side of the ball, or is it a trickle-down effect from the quarterback injuries on offense?
There have been times when the instability at quarterback, and the inability to move the ball, has gassed the defense. But the unit has its own problems, starting up front, where sacks and even a moderate pass rush have been non-existent for most of the year. The foremost priority for Durkin and his staff in recruiting and player development is in the front seven, which doesn’t have a ton of talent or depth at this point.
How do you envision the game playing out?
Michigan 38, Maryland 14.
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