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2023 Know Your Opponent: Maryland Terrapins

Mike Lockesly and Taulia Tagovailoa look to get Maryland over the hump this year against all the talent in the Big Ten East.

NCAA Football: Duke’s Mayo Bowl-Maryland at North Carolina State Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Basics

Returning Production: 64% overall (64% offense, 63% defense) 65th overall

2022 Record: 8-5 (4-5 B1G, won Duke’s Mayo Bowl)

Head Coach: Mike Locksley (5th season)

The Stats

2023 SP+ Overall: 41st

2023 SP+ Offense: 44th

2023 SP+ Defense: 30th

2022 Capsule

Maryland finished with an 8-5 record last season, its best since Mike Locksley took over as head coach in 2019. It’s clear that the Terps are starting to reap the rewards of the Washington D.C. native’s recruiting prowess. The program had five players drafted in the 2022 NFL draft, and while that isn’t a foolproof indicator of success (Northwestern had four), it does prove that Maryland is starting to accumulate impact talent.

The Terps started 2022 with three straight non-conference victories against Buffalo, Charlotte and SMU. Their first loss of the season came in their first conference game against Michigan which was ranked fourth in the nation at the time. Maryland gave Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines a fight in the early-season matchup, falling by just one touchdown in a 34-27 game. The team was competitive despite an inconsistent performance from starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa in which he threw two picks and just one TD pass.

Tagovailoa would bounce back the following weekend against Michigan State, posting a 150.4 quarterback rating and beating the Spartans 27-13. Running back Antwaine Littleton also had 120 yards on the ground with a score. Littleton is part of a formidable backfield along with leading rusher Roman Hemby who posted 989 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022. Both players will return to the running back room in 2023, as will former four-star Ramon Brown.

Maryland fell to 4-2 the next week, losing a nail-biter at home against Purdue 31-29. The Terps then rattled off two straight wins against Indiana and Northwestern, but both contests were decided by one score or less. That’s probably closer than what Locksley and his staff had hoped for against bottom feeders in the Big Ten.

At 6-2, Maryland hit a brutal stretch in its schedule in which it played Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State back to back to back. It lost all three in pretty brutal fashion — the worst of which being a 30-0 trouncing at the hands of the Nittany Lions.

But the Terps bounced back to close out the year, blowing out Rutgers 37-0 and winning the Duke’s Mayo Bowl against NC State 16-12. Tagovailoa ended his campaign with 3008 yards passing and an 18/8 touchdown to interception ratio. Despite dealing with some nagging injuries, the familiar name played in 12 of 13 games and enters his senior season as the Terrapin’s most important piece as they continue to try to compete with the big dogs in the Big Ten East.

Offensive Overview

This offense will be under the direction of two new “co-OCs” in Kevin Sumlin and Josh Gattis, after the unit took somewhat of a step backwards in 2022, resulting in the firing of Dan Enos. But while the coaching turnover is significant, it all starts with Tagovailoa. The rising senior was reportedly offered significant NIL money to transfer into the SEC but decided to stay loyal and spend another season in College Park. It’s a good sign for the Terps that he seems committed to improving the program, but he should also be personally motivated to improve his NFL draft stock. Right now, Tagovailoa is probably a mid-round draft pick. A really impressive 2023, however, could change things.

In the receiver room, the Terps will be somewhat reliant on incoming transfers to produce. Kaden Prather is coming over from West Virginia after posting 501 yards for the Mountaineers, and Tyrese Chambers is coming back to his home state of Maryland after a 544-yard junior season at FIU. Tagovailoa will also have returning wide-out talent in the form of last year’s leading receiver Jeshaun Jones and talented junior Corey Dyches. Factoring in the three-headed rushing attack of Hemby, Littleton and Brown, the weapons are solid.

The line, however, is a bit more of a concern. Reworked through the transfer portal, the unit features just one returning starter in tackle Delmar Glaze. A three-star out of high school, Glaze is outperforming expectations, posting the fourth-best pass block grade in the Big Ten according to PFF in 2022. He seems primed to break out even more for the Terps in 2023. The rest of the line is made up largely of transfer acquisitions, including Marcus Dumervil from LSU and Gottlieb Ayedze from Frostburg State. If the unit gels nicely, then the talent is there to provide good protection for Tagovailoa. If not, then the senior might be on the run more than Locksley and the Terps are hoping.

Defensive Overview

The defense has been a work in progress under Locksley. It was a middling unit in 2022, giving up the seventh most points per game in the Big Ten at 23.2 and benefiting from shutting out Rutgers. That’s a real improvement for Maryland, which has been looking for consistency on defense for a while. It’s still not quite where the Terps would like to be, but they’ll look to take even more steps in the upcoming season.

Brian Williams was at least somewhat responsible for the improved defense in 2022, and he’ll return for his second season as defensive coordinator. Frankly, the expectation seems to be that this unit is capable of turning in a fairly similar result to last year, but a massive improvement is unlikely.

The pass rush might be better. Maryland was ninth in the Big Ten in sacks last year, but it added talent in the portal. Edge rusher Donnell Brown is in College Park after spending three seasons at St. Francis and winning the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year award in 2022. Jordan Phillips is also joining the interior line after a season at Tennessee in which he barely saw any action — but his talent and power are real.

In the secondary, the Terps lost some players, but the starting safeties are both familiar faces. Returning senior Beau Brade, last season’s leading tackler, will line up alongside Dante Trader Jr. who had two picks last year as a sophomore. Corey Coley Jr. will likely get starting reps at corner opposite incoming transfer Ja’Quan Sheppard. There may be less experience than last year, but the secondary might also be a little more athletic. It could balance out nicely, especially if pass rushers are causing problems for opposing QBs.

Three players to know

DT Tommy Akingbesote

Philips will be a factor on the interior defensive line and so will returner Tommy Akingbesote. He played in nine games in 2022 but was really improving as the season went on. This year, as a junior, he’ll look to take the next step.

A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Akingbesote is a local guy from Upper Marlboro, MD. At 6’4”, he starred as a basketball player in high school before transitioning to football as he grew into his body. He had 14 tackles and two sacks in 2022 but was behind Mosiah Nasili-Kite on the depth chart. This year, he’ll have the opportunity to start games for the Terps.

According to his 247sports page, he needed some development out of high school in terms of diagnosing blocks and understanding how to channel his athleticism. Well, now he’s three years into a career at Maryland and it feels like it’s coming along. Watch out for Akingbesote this year on the line of scrimmage.

Roman Hemby

Hemby is impossible to not put on this list. The Terps are pretty stacked at the running back position, but it doesn’t really matter unless Hemby gets hurt. He’s the clearcut number one guy for this offense, and his production was fantastic in 2022, finishing with the seventh most rushing yards in the Big Ten.

Hemby will look to take the jump into the upper echelon of Big Ten rushers, hoping to crack the 1,000 yard mark and continue to punch the ball into the end zone for Maryland at a high clip. He was also a factor in the receiving game, posting 298 yards and 333 receptions last year. He has the skillset to improve those numbers as well.

Should Hemby blossom into a superstar this year, significant pressure will be lifted from the shoulders of Tagovailoa. He could really use a bell cow back to anchor the rushing attack and help move the Terrapins up the field.

Jaishawn Barham

Barham was also a four-star out of high school, ranked 130th in the class of 2022 per 247sports. He had 35 tackles and four sacks in his freshman season, and will start his sophomore year at the always-important middle linebacker spot. He also played outside linebacker throughout high school, so he has positional flexibility that the Terps could take advantage of if the situation presented itself.

Barham is a solid tackler who showed good instincts in his first season. He’s a great athlete, and his 6’3” 230-pound frame is solid for a linebacker. He was an honorable mention for an All-Big Ten selection last year and opens this season named to the preseason watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is given to the best defensive player in college football.

Barham appears to be the real deal for the Terps, and his sophomore season will be telling. He’s already shown he can start in the Big Ten, and we know he’s an athletic monster with a confident understanding of his position. But, with experience comes maturity, especially at linebacker. With 2022 under his belt, Barham should be able to develop into a leader and captain the defense from his middle linebacker spot. The sky’s the limit for him.