Maryland football enters 2023 season with high expectations

Photo by Mackenzie Miles/Maryland Terrapins

2022 proved positive for the Maryland Terrapins, who finished 8-5 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten conference. Finishing fourth out of seven teams in the Big Ten East, the Terps ended the season defeating North Carolina State in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, giving Maryland its first pair of back-to-back bowl wins since 2003. 

Losing 21 players to the transfer portal (most notably CJ Dippre and Ahmad McCullough), and 14 of its biggest playmakers to the NFL, Maryland in many ways is a brand new team heading into the 2023 season with plenty of new faces who have big shoes to fill. 

The Offense – A fresh fleet of wideouts

Maryland’s offense bid farewell to key players in its receiving corps this offseason, losing Jacob Copeland, Dontay Demus Jr. and Rakim Jarrett who moved on to have their go at the NFL. Projected to step up in their places this season are Tyrese Chambers, Jeshaun Jones and Kaden Prather. 

A Baltimore native, Chambers transferred from Florida International University to play his senior year at Maryland. At FIU, which belongs to Conference USA, Chambers separated himself from his teammates by leading with 544 yards (averaging 10.7 per catch) and four touchdowns. Expected to play in the X-slot, Chambers will fill Dontay Demus Jr.’s position in the receiving corps.

“Coming down with contested catches is something that I’ve been doing since I was young,” Chambers said during an August 2 presser. “If they need a first down or a big play, I gotta show up and make those plays.”

Joining Chambers on the offense this year is Kaden Prather, who transferred from West Virginia. Prather was third on the team last season in receiving yards, trailing junior Sam James and senior Bryce Ford-Wheaton (who’s now on the New York Giants). At a similar pace with Chambers last season, Prather totaled 504 yards while averaging 9.6 yards per catch and finished the season with three touchdowns.

Last but not least is senior Jeshaun Jones who led the Terrapin receivers last season with 557 receiving yards (averaging 12.7 per catch) and four touchdowns. Entering his sixth year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones will be looking to lead the receivers once again with the potential to finish as Maryland’s next-greatest receiver since D.J. Moore and Stefon Diggs. 

The Defense – Brand new line, same ol’ reliable safeties

A majority of last year’s biggest defensive playmakers including Deonte Banks, Jakorian Bennett, Ami Finau and Ahmad McCullough are now absent from the team, leaving big gaps in both the defensive line and secondary.

Entering his third season as defensive coordinator, Brian Williams had to find replacements for his entire defensive line. This position group will no doubt be the least-experienced headed into the 2023 season, with junior Quashon Fuller projected to start at defensive end alongside freshman Jordan Philips at nose tackle and junior Tommy Akingbesote at defensive tackle. 

Akingbesote finished the season with 14 combined tackles and two sacks. Fuller finished with seven combined tackles and a single sack. 

“Some of the guys that are helping us now were developed over the course of the last couple of years,” head coach Mike Locksley said during a press conference on August 29. “And so, we got a little more depth than we had a year ago.”

Senior Beau Brade and junior Dante Trader Jr. will return for their starting safety jobs. Last season the duo led the entire defense on the stat sheet. Brade distanced himself with 55 solo tackles (85 combined), followed by Trader Jr. who finished the season with 34 tackles (62 combined). 

“We’re all pretty confident but also know we got a lot to prove,” Brade said at Media Day on August 29. “We’ll always have doubters, so everyday we go in and act like we got something to prove, no matter who we are.”

Right behind Brade and Trader Jr. last year was inside linebacker Jaishawn Barham with 59 combined tackles and four sacks. Now a sophomore, Barham returns with starting linebackers Fa’Najae Gotay and Ruben Hyppolite II. Expect to see the same levels of production out of this group from last year when the trio remained healthy. 

Coaching Staff – New faces at the helm of the offense

The offensive side of Maryland’s coaching staff experienced significant personnel changes in the offseason by losing offensive coordinator Dan Enos to Arkansas and co-offensive coordinator Mike Miller to Charlotte. 

Replacing them are offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin.

Named Maryland’s OC in March, Gattis comes from Miami University after serving as offensive coordinator for one season. In 2022, the Hurricanes finished 5-7 overall and ranked tenth out of the 14 teams in the ACC for touchdowns scored (33). 

Miami finished tenth in its conference in rushing yards but ended in fifth in passing yards, which could indicate that Maryland will rely more on the passing game this season.

Sumlin has been brought onto the staff not only as co-offensive coordinator but also as a tight ends coach and assistant head coach. He has quite the resume, having head coached at Houston, Texas A&M and Arizona. Last year, he was the head coach for the Houston Gamblers of the USFL who finished last in their division with a 3-7 record. 

As of now it’s unclear how much of a role Sumlin will have in the play-calling, but it’s important to keep in mind that he was once the head coach for quarterbacks Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel, each who surpassed 3500 yards in every full season they started.

Schedule Preview

Week 1: Towson at Maryland – September 2, 3:30 p.m.

Week 2: Charlotte at Maryland – September 9, 7:30 p.m.

Week 3: Virginia at Maryland – September 15, 7:00 p.m.

Week 4: Maryland at Michigan State – September 23, 3:30 p.m.

Week 5: Indiana at Maryland – September 30, TBA

Week 6: Maryland at Ohio State – October 7, TBA

Week 7: Illinois at Maryland – October 14, TBA

Week 8: Maryland at Northwestern – October 28, TBA

Week 9: Penn State at Maryland – November 4, TBA

Week 10: Maryland at Nebraska – November 11, TBA

Week 11: Michigan at Maryland – November 18, TBA

Week 12: Maryland at Rutgers – November 25, TBA