Regardless of the depth of analysis you want to apply - eye test, basic stats, or advanced nerd shit - it’s no secret what stirred the drink for Maryland last year.
Even in their wins, they rarely ran the ball much, and only found their way to two 100-yard rushing performances over the entire season. Tayon Fleet-Davis had both of them, and he’s gone now, leaving the tailback combo of Challen Faamatau and Colby McDonald as the main timeshare this season (freshman Ramon Brown might have something to say about that). The returning running backs ran the ball 176 times for 821 yards, a respectable per-carry average, but not exactly suggesting a run game commanding a loaded box.
No, Maryland’s success last season came through the air, where QB Taulia Tagovailoa managed 3,860 yards on 328/474 attempts and 26 TD/11 INT - and five of those interceptions came in the disastrous game against Iowa.
Dontay Demus’ midseason ACL injury changed the shape and potency of the Terrapin passing attack, but even without him, the depth in the receiver group gave Tagovailoa plenty of options. Including Demus, seven Terps had over 300 yards through the air, and it’s only Fleet-Davis and TE Chigoziem Okonkwo who depart. Demus and Rakim Jarrett should be the stars, but there’s good depth here with guys like (also-injured-in-2021) Jeshaun Jones and Darryl Jones, and that’s before accounting for big-time Florida transfer Jacob Copeland.
Getting to something approaching balance feels important, though. Given how much of Maryland’s season was spent in large deficits and throw-every-down territory, it’s not surprising that their passing stats look fairly impressive. This is a veteran offensive line composed of some well-regarded recruits; LT Jaelyn Duncan, for example, is one of the most experienced players in the entire conference.
Running the ball more consistently in competitive game situations would help out a defense that bled yards and points against good opponents, but it would also take a step forward from a run game that has generally underwhelmed given its talent level.
Last year’s decent season-long rushing averages are mostly lifted by big totals against Howard, Rutgers, and VaTech, but excluding Tagovailoa (given many of his rushing attempts are actually sacks), Maryland ran for 94 yards against Iowa, 117 against Ohio State, 79 against Minnesota, 77 against Penn State, 85 against Michigan State. They had good rushing performances against West Virginia and Michigan, but most of the time, if the opponent was any good, the Terp ground game did not show up.
Achieving better balance will no doubt be a top goal of new offensive coordinator Dan Enos, and if they can make even some progress on that front, the talent in the passing game could produce more than empty-calorie yards in 2022.