What's that strange sound you hear around Maryland football as the 2022 season nears? It's hope. The Terrapins just appeared in their first bowl game in six years and posted their first winning record since 2014. Fourth-year head coach Mike Locksley has been stacking up solid recruiting classes, and there's a legitimate quarterback at the helm.
Maryland hasn't won more than three conference games since that first Big Ten season in 2014, but the Terps are closer to stopping B1G bullies from kicking sand in their face. They're not there yet — some offseason setbacks on defense have slowed the process — but there is QB Taulia Tagovailoa, an amazing array of receivers and some experience on the offensive line. Of course, there's also — stop us if you've heard this before — a rebuilding defense.
The ever-optimistic Locksley, a local with red, black and gold running through his veins, is feeling good enough about things to admit, "We have a great deal of talent on this roster. We embrace any expectations that we've created for ourselves."
Previewing Maryland's Offense for 2022
That embracing centers around Tagovailoa creating plays and opportunities. He set Maryland single-season records for passing yards (3,860), completions (328), completion percentage (69.2), passing touchdowns (26), and 300-yard passing games (seven). He was MVP of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl with a 20-of-24 passing performance for 265 yards and two scores and rushing for another 42 yards, something else he can do.
Tagovailoa had 11 interceptions, but five of them came in a dismal loss to Iowa, and he threw just three picks in the final seven games. His emergence under coordinator/QB coach Dan Enos was striking, as he gave the Terps quick-strike potential. He provides a cause for optimism.
Now figure in a wide receiver meeting room where anything that falls off a desk is caught. Rakim Jarrett is a speedy, sure-handed threat who led Maryland with 62 receptions, 829 yards and five touchdowns. He's rejoined by senior Dontay Demus Jr., lost for the last seven games of 2021 with a knee injury. He was tops in the Big Ten and 11th nationally in receiving yards at the time. He's a key piece, a big (6'4", 215) target. Florida transfer Jacob Copeland, the Gators' leading receiver, was impressive this spring. Corey Dyches looks ready to emerge as a difference-making tight end.
Lightly used Colby McDonald (60 carries for a 5.4-yard average) and bruising, 225-pound Challen Faamatau are the top returning running backs, but count on true freshman Ramon Brown, a four-star prospect out of Midlothian, Va., to earn a spot.
Jaelyn Duncan anchors a veteran line that has four starters back. Line coach Brian Braswell made some moves this spring, showcasing the line's versatility. Veterans Johari Branch, Spencer Anderson and Delmar Glaze are all in new positions.
Previewing Maryland's Defense for 2022
Brian Williams becomes Maryland's fourth defensive coordinator since 2019 (if you count Kevin Steele, who was in town for a week before heading to Miami in February). Williams had on-the-job training, taking over play-calling from Brian Stewart after Michigan rang up 59 points on the Terps. Williams' defense held Big Ten-challenged Rutgers to just 16 points as Maryland wrapped up a bowl appearance, and then his unit dispatched depleted Virginia Tech in the Terps' first bowl win since 2010.
Top cover corner Deonte Banks is back along with starters Jakorian Bennett and nickel Tarheeb Still. The front seven took a hit with the transfer of three top 2021 recruits: defensive end/LB Demeioun Robinson and linebackers Terrence Lewis and Branden Jennings. Middle linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II has moved to the outside, where his speed and size will help. West Virginia transfer Vandarius Cowan and four-star freshman Jaishawn Barham are newcomers ready to make an immediate impact.
Up front, veterans Ami Finau and Mosiah Nasili-Kite had 21 starts between them, and Darrell Jackson Jr. came on so strong that he started the bowl game. The whole unit could get a boost if oft-injured hybrid end Durell Nchami, a big play waiting to happen, can stay on the field. Keep an eye on Greg China-Rose, too. He needs to play somewhere.
Previewing Maryland's Specialists for 2022
Eastern Michigan transfer Chad Ryland provides a serious upgrade at kicker after hitting 19-of-22 field goals last season. He brings a current streak of 17 made in a row with him. Punters Colton Spangler and Anthony Pecorella split that job. Spangler's 45.5-yard average was a program record, and Pecorella pinned foes inside the 20 11 times.
The extra practice time that Maryland earned for the Pinstripe Bowl is a boon to a building program. It put Locksley's lads ahead going into the spring. There's a little more confidence among the returnees and a belief that the Terrapins can continue their climb.
Some changes on the staff, particularly on defense and with new special teams coach James Thomas Jr., have created more energy and may offer needed new looks as Maryland continues to maybe move up in the Big Ten. The Terrapins are determined to see just how high they can rise. That ascension centers around the talented Tagovailoa, the O-line and a scary-good receiving corps. Maryland will go as far as Tagovailoa's arm and legs carry them. It would be nice if he didn't have to put up 40 points per game to win.