Maryland’s bye week, which came seven games into a 12-game season, arrived at a perfect time for a Terrapins team looking to get key players time to recover from injuries as the Terps look to bounce back from a two-game losing streak.
Coach Michael Locksley said Maryland was “exposed” in its three-point loss to Illinois on Oct. 14, a game that saw entrenched starters like tight end Corey Dyches, defensive back Dante Trader Jr., offensive lineman Corey Bullock and defensive back Tarheeb Still ruled out.
All four practiced Tuesday and three — Dyches, Bullock and Still — are expected to play Saturday against Northwestern, Locksley said.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa said it’s “great” to have the players returning, noting the team was missing some of its leaders in the loss to Illinois. “It’s awesome to have them back. I feel like we had a very, very competitive practice today. It was really good for us to get back our confidence.”
Bullock should help stabilize a Terps offense that didn’t crack 100 rushing yards for the first time all season and allowed a season-worst three sacks. Without Dyches, Terrapins tight ends caught just one pass for 20 yards.
Maryland’s cornerback group, with Corey Coley Jr. playing outside instead of Still, gave up multiple long completions. Illini receiver Casey Washington beat Coley down the left sideline for 29 yards, setting the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Locksley also said sophomore running back/wide receiver Ramon Brown should make his season debut Saturday.
Brown, a former four-star recruit, ran the ball 34 times for 122 yards and caught nine passes for 41 yards as a freshman. Locksley called him an “explosive”, “fast-twitch” player with the ability to create explosive plays last season.
Locksley did not have an update about freshman defensive end Neeo Avery, who has yet to play this season. NCAA rules say that players can be redshirted if they appear in four or fewer games — Avery is close to meeting that threshold with just five regular season games remaining.
Donnell Brown getting comfortable in Maryland’s defense
Everything has come in pairs for Donnell Brown.
The Maryland linebacker has two sacks and two tackles for loss in his last two games and ranks second on the team with two picks. He also ranks second on the team in pressures, showing his effectiveness as a pass rusher.
Brown, who transferred from Football Championship Subdivision school Saint Francis, switched positions from defensive end and adapted to a role in Maryland’s scheme that didn’t allow for as much freelancing.
“Just starting to get more comfortable with myself and figuring out what lanes I can take and what rushes I can actually do depending on the call,” Brown said.
Locksley said the Terps expected this kind of production from Brown, calling him a “high-motor, high-effort” player.
“You’re starting to see the skill that we expected and he’s become a guy that people have to game plan against,” he said. “Because he has been disruptive and has created chaos plays with the sacks, the tackles for losses and we hope to continue to build with that with Donnell.”
Maryland on alleged Michigan sign-stealing scandal
Maryland’s Week 12 opponent — No. 2 Michigan — is currently under an NCAA investigation over allegations that scouts went to future opponents’ games to steal the signs they use to call offensive and defensive plays.
“I was surprised because I didn’t know anything about it. Didn’t bother me,” Locksley said. “I mean, it goes on in college football, now maybe not as elaborate as maybe that. ... I don’t know if it had any effect in anything we’ve done.”
He also noted the Terps have a wide array of anti-spying techniques, including going no-huddle on offense or switching up the lead signaler. Maryland will sometimes throw up a number from the sideline which corresponds to a play on Tagovailoa’s wristband, the quarterback said.