After starting the 2013 season 4-0, the University of Maryland football team met a familiar foe -- the dreaded injury bug. As the injury report continued to grow, with starters being added almost weekly, the team's performance on the field began to decline. Injuries took what looked to be a promising season to a dogfight for enough wins to automatically qualify for a bowl bid.
There have been many high points throughout the season, but an injury followed almost every positive moment. These injuries put young players, who started the season with little chance of getting onto the field, into starting roles that have allowed them to become major contributors.
There is a silver lining in almost every twist and turn to this season. Here are some of the highlights thus far, and some things to watch moving forward.
Replacing Stefon Diggs And Deon Long
When wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long suffered season-ending leg fractures during the Terps' 34-10 loss at Wake Forest Oct. 19, it wasn't clear who would take over as the top receiver threat. As a pair, Diggs and Long totaled 66 receptions, 1,076 yards and four touchdowns during seven games.
Sophomore Levern Jacobs emerged as a receiving threat for the Terps following his breakout performance -- eight receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown -- against Clemson University Oct. 26. A speedy wide receiver, Jacobs has come on and taken advantage of his opportunity on the field.
"I feel like all season I worked to be a starter," Jacobs said, "and it is unfortunate about what happened [to Diggs and Long], but I'm getting my chance now, and I just have to keep proving myself. Having this big game is showing people that I'm able to play, and now I just have to keep doing this week in and week out."
Jacobs caught six passes for 25 yards during a Nov. 9 loss to Syracuse.
Can C.J. Brown Stay Healthy?
Since suffering a concussion during an Oct. 5 loss at Florida State University, quarterback C.J. Brown has not shown the same versatility he did during the team's hot start. Brown, a senior, suffered what was classified as a "trunk injury" as well, and missed the game against Clemson. Brown returned to the field against the Orangemen, completing 21 of 40 pass attempts for 211 passing yards.
Without the normal playmakers at wide receiver, the Terps need a healthy Brown under center down the stretch. Brown's chemistry with his new receiving group will come in time. His experience and leadership on the field should pay dividends as the regular season nears an end.
During the final month of the season, the Terps have an opportunity to position themselves for a high bowl bid. For this to happen, one of the hurdles they'll have to overcome will be keeping Brown on the field.
Regaining And Sustaining Defensive Stability
The Maryland defense started the season as one of the best in the country. Linebackers Matt Robinson, Alex Twine, L.A. Goree and Cole Ferrand formed one of the top units in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Injuries caused setbacks with this group, but it has since started to return to form.
Known for getting sacks and shutting down opposing offenses' rushing attacks, the hard-nosed front seven for the Terps can be a difference maker during games. The areas in which they have dropped off are scoring defense and turnover differential. Maryland ranks near the bottom of the conference in both of these categories, after starting the season as one of the best.
The youth of the secondary has been a problem as well, especially against experienced wide receivers. Given the circumstances of losing starting cornerbacks Dexter McDougle for the season and Jeremiah Johnson missing eight of the team's first nine games, the young replacements have had to fill the voids.
Winning Helps Build Recruiting
When head coach Randy Edsall and the rest of his staff go on the recruiting trail, being able to present a program that's building success helps build the quality of each recruiting class. Edsall has already shown the ability to bring in high-profile recruits, and as the wins grow, the recruiting success will also continue to grow.
After a 2012 season during which the Terps totaled four wins, Edsall brought in some four-star recruits and several other high-valued talents. If the Terps can continue to build wins and end the season on a high note with a quality bowl win, recruits will have more incentive to come to Maryland.