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Terps

Five takeaways from Maryland football’s 8-5 season in 2022

The 2022 season was a success for Maryland football.

With the Terps’ 16-12 victory over No. 23 NC State in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Friday, they secured their first eight-win season since 2010 and won bowl games in back-to-back years for the first time since 2003.

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Maryland still has a long way to go before being considered among the top teams in the Big Ten Conference like College Football Playoff participants Ohio State and Michigan, but fourth-year coach Mike Locksley has the program moving in the right direction.

From the defense taking major strides to wide receiver Jeshaun Jones’ remarkable comeback to quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa further solidifying his legacy, here are five takeaways from their 8-5 campaign.

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Maryland's Roman Hemby signals after running for a first down against NC State during the first half of the Duke's Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium on Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Young running backs provide optimism for 2023

The running back trio of Roman Hemby, Antwain Littleton II and Colby McDonald are young but each flashed their potential at some point during the season.

Hemby, a redshirt freshman and former John Carroll standout, finished sixth in the Big Ten Conference in rushing yards (989) and rushing touchdowns (10) after totaling 65 yards on 24 carries in the bowl game. He rushed for 100-plus yards in four games, including a 179-yard performance in a 31-24 win over Northwestern in October.

Littleton, also a redshirt freshman, used his size and power to rush for 379 yards and six touchdowns on 76 carries, while McDonald, a sophomore, added 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries.

“I think they made our offense more efficient and balanced,” Tagovailoa said. “[They] opened up our offensive package. They are all very versatile.”

Each is expected to be back next season.

Defense took major strides

The Terps’ defense struggled in 2021, allowing the second-most points in the Big Ten Conference (30.7 per game) while allowing 249.5 passing yards per game. This season, under first-year defensive coordinator Brian Williams, Maryland gave up 23.2 points per game while opponents averaged 223.3 passing yards.

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Maryland was dominant in the last two games against Rutgers and NC State, allowing a combined 12 points and no touchdowns while blanking the Scarlet Knights, 37-0, for their first shutout of the Scarlet Knights of a conference opponent since 2008. Maryland limited the Wolfpack to four field goals and 296 total yards while forcing two turnovers in the bowl victory. Overall, the Terps didn’t allow a touchdown in the final 132 minutes played.

Senior cornerbacks Jakorian Bennett and Deonte Banks were solid on the outside, showcasing their abilities to play at the next level. Safety was a question mark heading into the season after Nick Cross was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft in April but the duo of junior safety Beau Brade (River Hill) and sophomore Dante Trader Jr. (McDonogh) held their own in their first season as starters. They finished first and second on the team in tackles with 85 and 62, respectively.

Freshman linebacker Jaishawn Barham (St. Frances), a highly regarded recruit, starred in his first season and showcased the potential to be a defensive cornerstone for the Terps. He was third on the team with 59 tackles to go with a team-high four sacks and a forced fumble.

Maryland wide receiver Jeshaun Jones celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Charlotte on Sept. 10.

Wide receiver Jeshaun Jones came back strong

Jones’ Maryland career has been a testament to his perseverance. After making some noise as a freshman, Jones tore his ACL before his sophomore campaign. In 2021, Jones tore his other ACL, forcing him to miss the final seven games of that season.

In his first full season since his freshman year, Jones led the team in receiving yards (557), touchdowns (four) and receptions (44). The redshirt senior ended the season on a high note as well, totaling 152 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers before catching four passes for 79 yards in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

Locksley said he’s been actively recruiting Jones to return for a sixth season. With wide receivers Rakim Jarrett, Jacob Copeland and Dontay Demus Jr. having declared for the 2023 NFL draft, Jones would provide much-needed leadership and be a go-to target for Tagovailoa.

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“Jeshaun plays the game the way it should be played,” Locksley said. “If you look at our receivers room and the way it has been impacted with guys leaving. It would be great to have a veteran presence like him back.”

Jones said he wants to see how the recruiting process goes before deciding on whether to return to Maryland for another season, saying, “it’ll be sooner than later.” He said the decision to either return or leave for the NFL draft will be tough because of the love he has for his teammates and wanting to see some of the young wide receivers grow.

“I feel like this team was like together, and I’m so excited for all these guys,” Jones said.

Maryland kicker Chad Ryland (38) and holder Colton Spangler (99) prepare for an extra point attempt during the first half of a game against Michigan State on Oct. 1.

Kicker Chad Ryland was the Terps’ best offseason pickup

While the offense struggled to score touchdowns in the bowl game on Friday, Ryland, an Eastern Michigan transfer, converted three field goals, including a 42-yarder in the first quarter and a 45-yarder in the fourth, to help secure the win. It wasn’t the first time his big leg helped the Terps win games in the fall.

“There’s something about [players] from the transfer portal that [come from] lower-level schools,” Locksley said. “Those guys show up with a chip on their shoulder. Chad is the perfect example of what a transfer portal player should look like.”

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Ryland showed throughout the season why he could be kicking on Sundays. The second-team All-Big Ten selection went 19-for-23 on field goal attempts and made 10 in a row to close out the season after he tied the Big Ten record with 24 consecutive made field goals dating to Eastern Michigan earlier in the year. Against Michigan in September, Ryland became the first player in school history to make two 50-yard field goals in one game.

Ryland is one of three Maryland players to be invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, joining Bennett and left tackle Jaelyn Duncan in Mobile, Alabama, where they will showcase their skills in front of NFL coaches, scouts and key decision-makers.

Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa looks to pass during the first half of the Duke's Mayo Bowl game on Friday against NC State at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa further cemented his legacy

Tagovailoa’s performance against NC State was not pretty, but he did enough to break yet another program record and further solidify his status as one of Maryland’s best quarterbacks.

Tagovailoa completed a 26-yard pass to sophomore Tai Felton in the second quarter to set the program’s all-time completions record (670). Five plays later, the redshirt junior threw a beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Octavian Smith Jr., setting the total touchdowns record (59).

Tagovailoa also holds school records for passing yards (7,879), passing touchdowns (51), completion percentage (68%) and total offensive yards (8,067).

Heading into the season, Locksley called the three-year starter one of the most underappreciated players in college football. Tagovailoa received much-deserved recognition this season, becoming the first Terps quarterback to be named second-team All-Big Ten, and he finished with 3,008 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions despite battling a sprained MCL, which sidelined him against Northwestern.

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Tagovailoa is the first Maryland quarterback to have two seasons of 3,000 or more passing yards after throwing for 3,860 yards in 2021, which was the sixth-most in Big Ten history. Most importantly, he’s provided unmatched stability and consistency at the position after nearly a decade of the opposite. Last year, Tagovailoa became the first Maryland quarterback to start every game since 2014. From 2012 until Tagovailoa’s arrival in 2020, Maryland had 24 starting quarterbacks.

Locksley has previously said that expects Tagovailoa to return. While he might not have many more records to set, the quarterback gives Maryland hope for an even better season in 2023.


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