The Maryland Terps kick off the 2022 season at noon Saturday against the University of Buffalo. In and around College Park, the optimism is high thanks to last year’s squad winning the program’s first postseason game since 2010, a 54-10 obliteration of Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl. The last bowl win was revered coach Ralph Friedgen’s swan song.
This year is a big one for head coach Mike Locksley and should serve as a guidepost for where his legacy is heading.
Is he moving in the direction of the velvet rope where the accomplished Friedgen, Bobby Ross, Jerry Claiborne and Jim Tatum reside? Or is he destined to be in the line of mediocrity with the likes of D.J. Durkin, Randy Edsall, Ron Vanderlinden and Mark Duffner, among others?
On offense, the Terps must achieve some semblance of balance by establishing a formidable running game. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa got busier than a bootleg Botox salesman on the Jersey Shore last year, passing for 3,860 yards and 26 touchdowns while completing 69.2% of his throws. And the unit returns all five of its starting offensive linemen.
But the running attack was about as ordinary and forgettable as Sylvester Stallone in “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” or Tupac, Mickey Rourke, Donnie Wahlberg and Adrien Brody’s dreadful performances in “Bullet.”
The Terps only had a single rusher surpass 100 yards in a game two times in 2021. Unless they can find a running back or backfield combination that can strike fear in opposing defenses, the offense will remain predictable, with Tagovailoa and the receiving corps carrying the load.
On the other side of the ball, the biggest question is whether the Terps can develop a consistent pass rush behind a transformative defensive lineman — whoever that may be — who can demolish opposing blocking schemes while commanding persistent double teams.
That’s not going to fly this year if Maryland hopes to ascend to a level where it can regularly smack around Indiana and Rutgers and be competitive against the heavyweights in the Big Ten East Division: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State.
The long-suffering fan base is ready for a breakthrough. And with everybody in first place prior to Saturday’s kickoff, hope springs eternal right now.
Locksley has done an excellent job on the recruiting trail. If that, coupled with the recently christened $149.3 million Jones-Hill House football training facility, can translate into more victories this year, the Terps just might take that next step toward national respectability.
Here’s a list of some local, Baltimore-area players to keep an eye on:
Deonte Banks, redshirt junior defensive back
As a true freshman in 2019, Banks started in eight of the 11 games he appeared in. The Baltimore native, who played high school ball at Edgewood, had 28 tackles (22 solo), two pass breakups and one interception. He was poised to have a breakout campaign last year before going down in the second game against Howard with a season-ending injury. Now, he’s back at full health and ready to make a splash.
Dante Trader Jr., sophomore defensive back
Trader led the team with five tackles (three solo) in his career debut last year as a freshman against Howard. He appeared in 12 of the team’s 13 games and is expected to be a major contributor in the secondary this season. While at McDonogh, he was also one of the country’s top-ranked lacrosse players and he plans on playing lacrosse as well before his athletic career in College Park is over.
Beau Brade, junior safety
The 2019 Howard County Defensive Player of the Year out of River Hill, Brade played in 12 games last year, collecting 12 tackles (10 solo), 1 1/2 tackles for loss and one sack. The management major, who chose Maryland over Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, West Virginia and Michigan, amassed the second-most career tackles in Howard County history while in high school.
Jaelyn Duncan, senior left tackle
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive lineman out of St. Frances is Maryland’s most highly regarded pro prospect. He’s expected to be selected in the early rounds of next year’s NFL draft. Duncan didn’t play competitive football until he was 14, and yet a few years later he was sifting through scholarship offers from Penn State, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida and LSU, among others. A big man with overwhelming power who moves his feet well, scouts think he can play four different offensive line positions at the next level.
Other local players who have a chance to assert themselves include:
Jaishawn Barham, freshman linebacker, St. Frances
Jayon Venerable, sophomore defensive back, Archbishop Spalding
John Griffith, freshman quarterback, St. Frances
Roman Hemby, redshirt freshman running back, John Carroll
Lavain Scruggs, freshman defensive back, Archbishop Spalding
Joseph Bearns III, redshirt freshman fullback, St. Frances
Owura Berko, redshirt junior defensive back, Severn School
Aeneas Smith, freshman running back, Archbishop Spalding
Daniel Owens, freshman defensive lineman, Calvert Hall
Kellan Wyatt, freshman linebacker, Archbishop Spalding
Harrison Beattie, redshirt sophomore kicker, McDonogh
Terrance Butler Jr., redshirt freshman linebacker, St. Frances
Andre Roye Jr., freshman offensive lineman, St. Frances
Ja’Khi Green, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman, St. Frances
Preston Howard, freshman tight end, McDonogh
Zion Shockley, redshirt freshman defensive lineman, St. Frances