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Six new players to watch on the 2019 Maryland football team

Six new players to watch on the 2019 Maryland football team
Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson (17) scrambles against Oklahoma State during the second half of the Camping World Bowl NCAA college football game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. Oklahoma State won 30-21. (John Raoux / AP)

A year ago, the Maryland football team opened its preseason camp still mourning the death of offensive tackle Jordan McNair. By the time the media was allowed to watch practice two weeks later, third-year coach DJ Durkin had been placed on administrative leave, replaced by offensive coordinator Matt Canada on an interim basis.

When the Terps open camp Friday in College Park, they will still have McNair in their thoughts. But much of the focus will be on new coach Mike Locksley, the former Maryland offensive coordinator under Randy Edsall who was brought back from Alabama, and several key additions hoping to help Maryland improve on last season’s 5-7 record.

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Here are six new players to watch in 2019.

Josh Jackson

A graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining, Jackson had a breakout redshirt freshman season at Virginia Tech in 2017 before breaking his leg in the team’s third game last fall. Jackson was ranked No. 1 among Power 5 freshman quarterbacks in 2017 with 2,991 passing yards and 236 completions, while ranking second with 20 touchdown passes. Jackson was a three-star prospect and 247Sports’ No. 12 dual-threat quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Saline, Mich. Jackson appears to be the likely starter going into the season.

Clemson defensive lineman Xavier Thomas (3) and linebacker Shaq Smith (5) celebrate a stop against Notre Dame in the second half of the NCAA Cotton Bowl semi-final playoff football game, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Arlington, Texas.
Clemson defensive lineman Xavier Thomas (3) and linebacker Shaq Smith (5) celebrate a stop against Notre Dame in the second half of the NCAA Cotton Bowl semi-final playoff football game, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (Jeffrey McWhorter / AP)
Shaq Smith

Another of Locksley’s graduate transfer recruits, Smith was expected to contend for a starting spot at linebacker this season for national champion Clemson before opting to return home. A former four-star recruit, he was considered one of the top high school players in Maryland as a junior at St. Frances before playing his senior year at IMG Academy in Florida. Smith is being counted upon to fill the void left by first-team All-Big Ten selection Tre Watson, a grad transfer last season.

Nick Cross

After decommitting from Florida State, then choosing Maryland over Georgia and Penn State, the former DeMatha star could wind up being the heir to Darnell Savage Jr. at safety. An early admit in January, Cross showed enough during spring practice to be in the conversation for playing time as a true freshman, and the spring knee injury to projected starter Antwaine Richardson opened the door even further. It wouldn’t surprise many if the 6-foot, 206-pound Cross shared time with redshirt sophomore Deon Jones at strong safety.

Tyler Mabry

A two-star recruit coming out of high school — like Smith, he played his senior year at IMG after playing the bulk of his high school career in Ypsilanti, Mich. — the 6-3, 265-pound tight end started at Buffalo the past two seasons. Along with being the team’s top receiver at tight end with 51 catches for 472 yards and three touchdowns over the past two seasons, Mabry’s blocking ability allowed the Bulls to set school records last season in points (484), touchdowns (64) and all-purpose yards (5,803). He was named first-team All-Mid-American Conference. With Locksley promising to make the tight end as big a part of the offense as it was at Alabama, Mabry and sophomore Chigoziem Okonkwo give the Terps playmakers at a position that was barely used for more than blocking the past three years.

Ohio State linebacker Keandre Jones plays against Tulane during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.
Ohio State linebacker Keandre Jones plays against Tulane during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (Jay LaPrete / AP)
Keandre Jones

The former Good Counsel star had committed to Maryland out of high school, but flipped to Ohio State with quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. when Locksley wasn’t promoted from interim coach after the 2015 season. He was mostly a special teams player in Columbus in the 33 games in which he appeared as a Buckeye, but the 6-2, 228-pound linebacker was in the mix for a bigger role with Ohio State had he stayed. Going into camp, Jones is still waiting for a hardship waiver from the NCAA to be immediately eligible for the Terps this fall.

Jaelyn Duncan

The highest-rated player in the 2018 recruiting class coming out of St. Frances, the 6-5, 335-pound Duncan is expected to challenge redshirt sophomore Tyran Hunt and fellow redshirt freshman Austin Fontaine, who converted from defensive line in the spring, to start at tackle opposite redshirt sophomore Marcus Minor. Duncan showed his versatility in the Red-White spring game in April by catching a pass for a 7 yards from quarterback Tyler DeSue.

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