A moment of silence to grieve, please.
It was a bad year for Maryland lacrosse.
A year removed from going undefeated, winning the B1G regular season title, the B1G tournament title, and the national championship, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team did none of those things and got bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This was only the second time since 2014 that the Maryland men’s lacrosse team has not made the Final Four.
My point? Besides doing a little lax flex and trying to work lax into every possible conversation?
Maryland football is judged on a completely different standard than their lacrosse program. Unlike some disillusioned fan bases and administrators, (looking squarely at you, li’l redders), Maryland football has no illusions of grandeur and is just trying gain respectability. Maryland football strives for 8-5 and 9-4 records. This level of success will not get their coach fired. It will get him an extension.
To that end, Mike Locksley is a solid fit. When Locks was hired in 2019, Maryland Terrapins football was a failure and toxic. Maryland had been to only one bowl game since 2010 and was still dealing with the tragic loss of Jordan McNair. Locks truly wants to be at Maryland and does not view Maryland as a stepping stone to bigger and better opportunities. More importantly, Locks was very well suited to handle the toxicity surrounding Maryland football. Having lost one of his own son’s, he was uniquely qualified to genuinely empathize with the McNair family. To wit, Mrs. McNair still attends Maryland football games.
Since Locks was hired in 2019, Maryland’s records:
- 3-9 (1-8)
- 2-3 (2-3)
- 7-6 (3-6)
- 8-5 (4-5)
They’ve set themselves up to be serious contenders to win the B1G West.
So, the 2023 season finds Maryland vying for a third consecutive ending in a bowl game.
Not buying what I’m selling about Maryland’s steady improvement under Locks? Two words: Indiana and Rutgers. Nailed it.
Having watched many years of grotesque football played by Maryland in grotesque uniforms, I am excited that Maryland is ditching the flag themed uniforms and helmets for the classic Terps script helmets and uniforms. How appropriate. Respectable uniforms being wholly symbolic of a respectable, if unremarkable, football team.
Last year, Maryland’s defense was ranked in the 40’s, a huge improvement having been ranked outside the top 100 in 2021. Conversely, the offense regressed, going from being ranked in the 30’s in 2021 to being ranked in the 60’s last year. Most of regression was due to a mid-season slump that coincided with Taulia Tagovailoa being injured. Special teams was a huge improvement with Chad Ryland doing yeoman’s work on field goals and kickoffs. The punting game was also solid. And, with the Zooker being sent out to pasture after the 2021 season as special teams coach,Maryland did not give up a stupefying amount of long kickoff and punt returns in 2022.
So, let’s look at this year.
With the offense regressing and Maryland failing miserably and repeatedly on 1st and goal situations, last year’s OC, Dan Enos, was outie. Locks hired Kevin Sumlin and 2021 Broyles Award winner Josh Gattis as co-OCs. Gattis had previously snubbed this position when Locks came on board in 2019 to go to UM. He spent last year in Miami. We know how that went. Staff goes when the HC gets fired. Locks is very good at forgiving and not holding grudges, so Maryland swooped him up.
Maryland has its typical stable of talent at the skill positions on offense: WR, RB, and TE. But, Maryland lost a ton of talent along the O-line. Locks did a good job of replenishing the starters but, if injuries start piling up along the O-Line, the drop off in talent is stark from the starters to the backups. If the O-Line’s health holds up, and Taulia’s health holds up, I’d expect to see noticeable improvement to go along with the offensive coaching staff upgrades.
Brian Williams did a fine job in his first season as DC. No major staff changes. I’d expect a similar performance as last year. Maybe a little better pass rush with some nice transfers added to the front seven. Maryland lost a lot of talent in defensive backfield. The players stepping up to the starting positions are very athletic, but unproven. I think the improved athleticism offsets the decrease in experience.
I’d expect regression in special teams because Chad Ryland was so good last year. Who knows how much regression with a new kicker? Kicking coverage should be solid like last year. Maryland still has lots of speed.
What to expect?
So, an improved offense offset by regression on special teams feels like another 7-5 (4-5) season. Maryland battles Michigan State for fourth place in the B1G East. 8-4 would actually get the fan base excited and attendance might actually improve. Locks gets a statue of himself like Joe Pa if he goes 9-3.
Welcome to Maryland Week! Larry will be back with more chelonian content for you tomorrow—in the meantime, give us your hot Terp takes in the comments OR, if you’ve got something longer-form you’re dying to share, hit up our Fanposts. If those aren’t working, email a fully-drafted article to minnesotawildcat at gmail dot com.