Big words from Locks. “We’re ready to compete for Big Ten Championships.”
How I interpret those words: “We’re ready to not get Mollywhomped by any of the Big Three.” And maybe even steal a victory against one of them. Or maybe just have a winning conference record.
As I mentioned during Maryland Week here at OTE, Maryland has seen steady improvement under Locks since he inherited a program the was in full crisis mode.
“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.”
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)
Locks has consistently been a good recruiter and has adapted well to the transfer portal in which every player is effectively on a 1-year free agent contract. Locks has a true talent for finding underrated palyers. For example, Deonte Banks was rated as a 3-star player [0.861 composite] and was just drafted in the 1st round of this year’s NFL draft. Or Beau Brade, a Howard County, MD public high school player was a 3-star [84.7 composite] who is ranked 1st or 2nd on Maryland’s defense by PFF.
Like most B1G teams, Maryland has struggled coming up with funds for NIL, which will keep Maryland from truly competing with the Big Three [UM, OSU, and PSU].
For those of you [like me] with limted time and/or the attention span of a fruit fly, here is a summary of Maryland’s 2023 version:
- Taulia Tagovailoa continues to improve and will be one of the best QBs in the Big Ten.
Helping him elevate his NFL stock is a loaded WR room, including two transfers:
- Jeshaun Jones, returning for a sixth year hoping to break the NCAA record for unsportsmanlike penalites for blindside blocks. Dumb penalties aside, this dude can ball.
- Tai Felton
- Octavian Smith, Jr.
- Kaden Prather [52 rec., 501 yds. - transfer from WVU]
- Tyrese Chambers [51 rec., 544 yds. - transfer from FIU, started at JuCo, then FCS, then FIU]
If that isn’t enough offensive skill positions, Cory Dyches is a match-up nightmare at TE, and I expect Preston Howard to break out this year. Maryland runs lots of two TE sets.
And the RB room ain’t too shabby. Last year Roman Hemby was a surprise break out star [924 yds on a 5.6 ypc average]. Backing up Roman Hemby are Antwain Littleton II [who isn’t little] who ran for 311 yards on a 4.3 ypc average and Ramon Brown [122 yds, 3.6 ypc] and Colby McDonald [140 yds at 4.7 ypc]
Overseeing these talented skill positon players are two Broyles Award winners [Mike Locksley at Alabama and Josh Gattis at UM] along with Kevin Sumlin.
Maryland’s defense improved significantly last year under new DC, Brian Williams. I mentioned earlier how Locks has adapted well to the transfer portal. The D-line was bolstered by an obvious talent Jordan Phillips from Tennessee] , but also from less obvious places like Tre Colbert from DII Angelo St. and Donnell Brown from FCS St. Francis [Pa.]
These newcomers will join veterans Tommy Akingbesote, Qquashon Fuller and Taizse Johnson. Total stud Jaishawn Barham wil lead the LB core, which also includes Ruben Hyppolite, Fa’Najae Gotay, and Caleb Wheatland. I expect frosh Neeo Avery to be an immediate contributor, and possibly supplant one fo the vets.
As mentioned above, Beau Brade and Tarhib Still will lead a defensive backfield that also includes Cincinatti transfer Ja’Quan Sheppard and Maryland lacorsse midfielder Donte Trader.
The defense will be solid. It needs to create more QB pressure and create more turnovers.
The standard argument against Maryland is Maryland won’t be able to fully exploit the abundance of talent at the offensive skill positions due to deficiencies in the line. This is a reasonable take, unlike that of some stubborn Midwesterners, like MN Wildcat and Dead Red [picking Maryland to finish 6-6 and 3-6] who refuse to acknowledge that good football can and does exist on the East Coast [No, not you, Rutgers]. The prevailing thinking is that Maryland’s O-line lacks depth and experience, which will keep them in the repsectable, but not good range.
Locks seems to think the O-line depth is not an issue. The offensive minds [Locks, Sumlin, and Gattis] are struggling to figure out which of the many able big bodies should be in the first group. Philosophically, Maryland emphasizes positional flexibility along the O-line. But they will, at some point, have to emphasize cohesiveness and continuity along the O-line. However, the schedule shapes up nicely for the O-line to develop the necessary chemistry before getting into the meet of the schedule.
Marylands first month is Charmin soft, which will give the O-line plenty of time to come together.
I expect Maryland to come out of September 5-0 before heading to OSU on October 7. A loss to MSU is a possibility, but probably not likely. After they lose, to OSU, MD will host Illinois. Maryland then gets a bye before traveling to Northwestern on Oct 28.
They finish the last month hosting PSU and UM and playing at Nebrask and Rutgers.
Sep 2 - Towson
Sep 9 - Charlotte
Sep 15 - Virginia
Sep 23 - MSU
Sep 30 - Indiana
Oct 7 - at OSU
Oct 14 - Illinois
Oct 21 - bye
Oct 28 - at Northwestern
Nov 4 - PSU
Nov 11 - at Nebraska
Nov 18 - UM
Nov 25 - at Rutgers
Most Big Ten schools have grudgingly accepted Maryland into their conference because of a few factors:
- September Maryland is a very real thing: Maryland always comes out of the gate hot, demolishing their OOC opponents before humbly succumbing to the conference football elites, dutifully not messing up PSU’s, OSU’s and UM’s chances at a berth into the College Playoffs.
- Maryland is very respectable in the non-rev stuff that nobody else cares about, simultaneously boosting their image and profile within the conference and nationally while not seriously pissing off their conference compatriots. Maryland is tied with OSU for 2nd in national championships in team sports, thanks, mostly to lacorsse. Maryand is ranked thrid behind OSU and UM for the most Big Ten Championships since joing the conference in 2014.
- Locks seems like a genuinely likeable guy.
- Maryland isn’t Rutgers.
So, there are quite a few emotional angles at play. OSU fans will clearly be rooting for maryland when they play UM, and UM fans will clearly be rooting for Maryland to beat OSU. They entire conference will be rooting for Maryland to beat PSU. The entire Big West will be rooting for Maryland to beat any and all of the Big Three [PSU, OSU, and UM] just out of bitterness and spite.
Beating any one of these teams would be a significant accomplishment for Maryland.
I initially went with 7-5. When picking individual games I ended up with 9-3. I hate picking individual games because I know Maryland will drop the odd game along the line, but I just can’t pick which one. The O-line is unproven, but apparently depth is not an issue.
I am going to boost my prediction from 7-5 to 8-4 and 5-4 in the conference, which will give Maryland their first ever winning conference record. 9-3 and/or a win against one of the Big Three would be a dream scenario. Maryland host PSU the week before PSU host UM, so I have the PSU game as the most likely scenario in which Maryland steals a game against a heavily favored opponent.
In the 2023 Big Ten, the Terrapins go...
This poll is closed
2-7 or worse
7-2 or better
Overall, the Terrapins finish...
This poll is closed
5-7 or worse
9-3 or better