Head coach Mike Locksley insisted on calling his first season back at Maryland “Year Zero,” and that makes this “Year One” in his neo-nomenclature. Whatever you call it, the Terrapins need to start taking major steps to ensure that Locksley keeps getting to count his years running the show.
Plucked fresh off the Nick Saban Coaching Reclamation Tree, hometown guy Locksley saw his own sapling program collapse in a 3–9 campaign that ended with seven straight losses. All the depth issues one would expect in a program that had had three different head coaches in five years were exposed.
Then a team that desperately needed a full spring practice got none and is plugging in a lot of new pieces in “Year One.”
Locksley understands the culture and has a proven track record in recruiting. This year’s haul has been rated a top-35 class, and there are few Power 5 programs that needed such a result more than Maryland.
Previewing Maryland's Offense for 2020
Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson appeared to be the answered prayer to Maryland’s seemingly annual quarterback quandary, but after a fast start, his season deteriorated just like the team’s did. His 11 touchdown passes in the first eight games were the most by a Terrapin since 2010. But Jackson would finish with only a 47.3 percent completion percentage, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. He was nagged by injuries, missing a couple of games, and limited in others, and he played behind the Big Ten’s poorest pass blocking (3.2 sacks allowed per game). The job is his unless the uber-athletic Lance LeGendre makes a major move.
Either way, the quarterback will have an array of experienced wide receivers, some talented new running backs and an offensive line that … well, fingers are crossed.
Big, strong Dontay Demus Jr. and his 41 catches for a 15.2-yard average and six TDs are back, as is redshirt senior DJ Turner, who saw his season ended early by off-the-field issues. Turner can make plays out of the slot and in the return game. Tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo and wideouts Brian Cobbs, Carlos Carriere and Darryl Jones all saw a lot of action in 2019. Now make room for 2018 sensation Jeshaun Jones, back from an ACL injury, and more room for incoming four-star freshman Rakim Jarrett, who had committed to LSU but flipped to the Terrapins.
Tayon Fleet-Davis, the lone holdover from a backfield that was Maryland’s strength, is back to pick up tough yardage, and senior Jake Funk helps on third downs. They’ll give way to a pair of freshmen — 6'1", 230-pound Peny Boone out of Detroit, a power runner, and Isaiah Jacobs, a breakaway back out of Owasso, Okla.
Starting hulking tackles Marcus Minor and Jaelyn Duncan return up front, along with center Johnny Jordan. This unit was inconsistent in 2019 but had some success in the run game. Depth is again an issue.
Previewing Maryland's Defense for 2020
There are a lot of new faces on defense. It’s what you’d expect after a defensive debacle in which the Terrapins were last in the Big Ten in total defense (449.2 yards), pass defense (271.3 yards) and opponent first downs (23.0), and next to last — thank you, Rutgers — in several more categories.
Olu Oluwatimi is back at nose tackle, and Sam Okuayinonu and Durell Nchami have experience, but the Terrapins got pushed around last year. They will again unless they can show improvement. Junior college transfers Mosiah Nasili-Kite and tackle Ami Finau will play right away.
There’s some talent in the back seven. Linebacker Shaq Smith was hampered by injuries and played out of position at the Jack end. He, Ayinde Eley and Chance Campbell can all play; Eley ranked 12th in the conference with 7.2 tackles per game. Keep an eye on true freshman Ruben Hyppolite II, who was recruited by Alabama, Michigan, Penn State, LSU and Florida State, among others.
Hard-hitting Nick Cross is the next in a line of NFL-caliber Terp DBs. He moved in as a freshman starter and registered 45 tackles, five pass breakups and two interceptions. Antwaine Richardson is back at the other safety spot after a torn ACL last preseason. Corner Deonte Banks looks promising, and juco transfer Jakorian Bennett is at the other corner. The secondary could be a strength if Maryland can find more pass rush (next to last in the Big Ten with 1.8 sacks per game) and do a better job controlling the line of scrimmage (4.3 yards allowed per rush).
Related: Ranking the Big Ten Coaches for 2020
Previewing Maryland's Specialists for 2020
Joseph Petrino was just 2-of-5 on his few-and-far-between field-goal attempts and 36-of-38 on PATs after a standout freshman season. The punting, with alternating freshmen Colton Spangler and Anthony Pecorella, wasn’t great either, despite a lot of repetition in games. DJ Turner could be special on punt returns, and Lavonte Gater has a leg up on the kick return job.
Maryland was last in the Big Ten in time of possession, and that won’t work until this defense gets better. There are some more bodies on D, particularly budding star Cross. The secondary is talented if they don’t have to cover all day like last year. There’s a lot on Jackson at QB in terms of possessing the ball and making better decisions. Locksley has more of the players he needs, but not enough. Yet.
National Ranking: 86
(Top photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics)