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Maryland strives to improve Big Ten's worst defense

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Maryland strives to improve Big Ten's worst defense

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland's season is spinning out of control, and the Terrapins find themselves defenseless in their bid to stop it.

Although much of the attention at Maryland this season has focused on the quarterback position, the team's most obvious flaw is its porous defense.

The Terrapins have yielded an average of 36.5 points per game, which ranks last in the Big Ten and 115th of 129 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They are permitting 439 yards per game -- last in the Big Ten and 104th in the FBS.

Over the past two games, Maryland (3-3, 1-2) has given up 99 points and 1,115 yards. One big reason is that the Terrapins have one sack in their last three games.

"We definitely need more pressure on the quarterback," coach DJ Durkin said Tuesday. "That's pretty much a staple of football. If you allow a quarterback to be patient and calm in the pocket, they usually find a guy open."

That's happened more times this season than Durkin would care to remember, and goes a long way toward explaining why Maryland's pass defense is 107th in the FBS.

Even though injuries have cost the Terrapins their top two quarterbacks , perhaps the most notable injury is the broken ankle sustained by defensive end Jesse Aniebonam in the season opener. Aniebonam had nine sacks, 14 tackles for a loss and 30 quarterback hurries in 2016.

"It's been a little shaky getting through it," defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. said.

"When you lose Jesse off the bat like that, he's your main pass rusher," end Brett Kulka said. "So it's going to be an issue to work through."

Durkin got the job at Maryland after a successful runs as a defensive coordinator at Florida and Michigan. In his second season at Maryland, he's tried just about everything to turn things around with this unit.

In the end, though, it comes down to individual effort.

"I'm sure there's always times when you can have a better call in certain situations, but guys have to win 1-on-1s," Durkin said. "If they keep enough guys in the block, someone's got to win a 1-on-1. It's really an attitude and a demeanor. It's about having the right attitude of, `I'm going to go win. I'm going to beat a block.'"

That didn't happen often last weekend in a 37-21 loss to Northwestern. Not only did the Wildcats pass for 293 yards, but tailback Justin Jackson rambled for 171 yards.

It was the third defeat in four games for the Terps. Things don't get any easier Saturday against No. 5 Wisconsin and Big Ten rushing leader Jonathan Taylor, who amassed 219 yards on the ground last week in a win over Purdue .

"He's hard to tackle," Durkin said. "He's got good speed, good vision. He understands what they do. Where to hit the hole, when to be patient how the blocks are going to unfold."

It's going to take a huge effort from the Maryland defense to pull off an upset.

"We need to go back to the basics," Brooks said. "We need to run to the ball more, make more tackles, cause more turnovers."

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Huerter, the newest Hawk, introduced in Atlanta

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Huerter, the newest Hawk, introduced in Atlanta

It was just months ago that Maryland sophomore Kevin Huerter was a sure lock to return for the 2018-2019 season in College Park. 

At some point during the offseason, the 19-year-old changed his mind and decided to test his luck and enter the 2018 NBA Draft. 

After a solid performance at the Combine, Huerter began to soar up draft projection boards. 

Fast forward to the night of the Draft on June 21 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

The Clifton Park, N.Y. native declined an invite to instead be with his family, friends and former teammates at a local country club. 

After watching 18 players get their names called by Commisioner Adam Silver, this happened: 

This viral video had the 518 (Albany, N.Y. area code) basketball community buzzing about the kid who brought Shenendehowa High School its first state championship since 1987. 

Huerter enjoyed outreach from many different names throughout the sports community: 

On Monday, Huerter was officially introduced as the newest Atlanta Hawk. His father, Tom Huerter, documented part of the special day on Twitter: 

In other news, if you don't see Kevin Huerter in Summer League, don't worry. Earlier this month, Huerter learned he needed to repair torn ligaments in his right shooting hand in order to be fully ready for the start of camp. 

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk expressed his confidence in a full recovery for Huerter during the introductory press conference Monday. 

Clearly the organization is in the middle of a massive rebuild, and it's hoping that newcomers Kevin Huerter, Trae Young and Omari Spellman will be at the center of it. 

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NBA Draft 2018: Maryland basketball's Justin Jackson drafted by Nuggets, traded to Magic

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NBA Draft 2018: Maryland basketball's Justin Jackson drafted by Nuggets, traded to Magic

Maryland basketball had two players drafted in one night for the second time in three years Thursday night when the Denver Nuggets picked Justin Jackson with the No. 43 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Jackson was subsequently traded to the Orlando Magic as part of a deal that brought the No. 41 overall pick, Kentucky's Jarred Vanderbilt, to Denver.

After his freshman season, in which he averaged 10.5 points and six rebounds a game while shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc, Jackson declared for the draft without an agent, but elected to return to Maryland for his sophomore season. But he'd play just 11 games before being shutdown for the year with a torn labrum. His draft stock was hurt, but obviously not totally erased.

He had surgery in January and ended up being the first Terp to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft back in March. Though Jackson's recovery kept him out of the NBA Combine, teams were still intrigued by what they'd seen from him in the past to be willing to take a flyer.

A 6-foot-7 forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Jackson has the skill to play anywhere between the two or the four in the NBA, and the length to guard all kinds of players.

With Kevin Huerter headed to the last-place Atlanta Hawks, Maryland basketball's two draftees are slated to join last season's two worst teams in the Eastern Conference.