While a report date for Maryland remains unanswered ahead of the 2020 season, we take a look ahead to fall camp as the Terps prepare for year two under head coach Mike Locksley. Which four positions could be the most interesting and critical battles heading into fall camp? We break it down.
The Terps’ quarterback room will have some new and some fresh faces heading into 2020 compared after an offseason of attrition. This offseason, seniors Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager announced their decisions to enter the transfer portal back in January, while sophomore Tyler DeSue announced his retirement from football just weeks later. Maryland does return senior Josh Jackson, while head coach Mike Locksley has previously confirmed that redshirt freshman Lance Legendre has fully recovered from his dislocated shoulder suffered last fall. Former Evan Lewandowski will sit out this upcoming fall due to NCAA transfer rules, however will be put on scholarship beginning 2021, but his status for the season doesn’t aid the Terps’ quarterback room.
Who could provide immediate aid to the room is Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. Taulia announced his decision to transfer into the program earlier this month to give the offense another young option in the room, however his status for the fall remains in limbo. As Tagovailoa and his family work to get a waiver approved through the NCAA for immediate eligibility this upcoming fall, he’ll face the tall task of getting acclimated to his new teammates as he transitions into the offense. The familiarity between the style of offense could help Taulia curb the learning curve, but Jackson will look to reclaim the job heading into senior year.
As a junior, Jackson battled with consistency and his short arm accuracy which attributed to confidence issues. After suffering a foot injury in last year’s win against Rutgers, Jackson was never able to fully reclaim the starting job which ultimately turned the position into a revolving rotation down the stretch. Could he come into fall camp with a chip on his shoulder, looking to cap off his career on a high note? It’ll be very clear, though, that Legendre will be ready to make his own noise through the competition.
Regardless, Maryland will look to make up for lost time when they hit the ground running for fall camp.
The expectation is there will be consistency at center and both tackle spots, but offensive line coach John Reagan will look towards the depth to fill both starting spots at guard. The offseason transfer of senior Terrance Davis leaves a vacancy at right guard, but it was his former high school teammate that filled the hole last fall as converted defensive lineman Austin Fontaine leaned on his high school experience to become the swing guard to aid the run game. Fontaine could take that step into year two and help become the next young piece along the front five, but who replaces Sean Christie without versatile lineman Ellis McKennie?
Maryland did sign Independence Community College guard Johari Branch during the 2020 early signing period and his experience at Eastern Illinois helps curb the learning curve in his first offseason with the Terps. It’s no surprise that Maryland turned to the junior college market last cycle as head coach Mike Locksley was clear to point out the benefit. “I think the big thing is that when you sign high school guys, especially on the O-line, it takes a little more time there, and that’s why you see us with a few more junior college prospects on both sides of the line,” Locksley said in December. “When you look at the junior college O-linemen, these are guys that we’re bringing in to have the opportunity to compete.”
Sophomore guard Evan Gregory saw limited action as a redshirt freshman last fall as he entered the two-deep late in the season. The former DeMatha lineman could push Branch at left guard, while the development of sophomore Spencer Anderson, junior Tyran Hunt and senior TJ Bradley could help solidify the depth at tackle.
Maryland’s pass rush in 2019 was far from optimal despite the quick defensive start to the season. In his second season with the program, Brian Williams shifts from outside linebacker to the new defensive line coach with the program as he helps turn the page. Junior pass-rusher Lawtez Rogers will look to build off a season where he saw action in all but two games, while his two starts a season ago could transition into becoming a full-time starter as an upperclassman. To end the 2020 cycle, defensive end Mosiah Nasili-Kite was one of four signees from Independence Community College as he’ll look to reprove himself on the college stage.
Redshirt freshman “Tank” Booker, meanwhile, could take that next step with another year in the program. The Ohio native played in just three games as a true freshman, but showed a burst off the edge. It’ll be interesting how he pushes the upperclassmen as the staff irons out the starting rotation during fall camp.
Maryland leaned on Keandre Jones and Shaq Smith to man the outside linebacker spots, but with Jones off to the NFL, Maryland will look at their underclassmen to fill the void. Sophomore Cortez Andrews played in six games last season to build that experience and could have the inside track at the position, though redshirt sophomore Ahmad McCullough now has two seasons through strength and conditioning to make that impact. The Baltimore product played in just one game a season ago, so while the experience isn’t there, he’ll be leaned on in the rotation this season.
Another opportunity to shift the linebackers could be to shift senior Shaq Smith inside, bumping either junior linebacker Chance Campbell or Ayinde Eley to the SAM while giving someone like Durell Nchami a chance to take over at JACK linebacker. Regardless, the Terps will lean on a new face to take over Keandre Jones’ role.