Maryland Terrapins: CFN College Football Preview 2021

·11 min read

College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Maryland season with what you need to know.

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– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Maryland Terrapins Schedule Analysis
– Maryland Terrapins Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 2-3 overall, 2-3 in Big Ten
Head Coach: Mike Locksley, 3rd year, 5-12 (8-43 overall)
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 52
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 73
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 113

Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: Offense

The Terp offense was freaking weird. It had moments when it couldn’t be stopped – like in the comeback win over Minnesota – and at other times it did absolutely nothing. it couldn’t run the ball a lick against Indiana, it couldn’t seem to score against Rutgers even though the O rolled, and it totally face-planted against Northwestern.

There’s experience. There’s talent. There’s a coaching staff in place with high-end assistant resumés that should know how to make this rock. Oh yes, the 2021 Terps will be a whole lot of fun, but consistent? That’s another issue …

The Terps have their quarterback. There might have been some fight for the gig if VMI transfer Reece Udinski didn’t suffer a torn ACL late in the 2021 FCS spring season, but even if he was healthy this would be Taulia Tagovailoa’s job. He threw too many picks and – like the rest of the O – he wasn’t consistent, but he’s still growing into the job.

He’s got the receivers to throw to. If this isn’t Maryland’s biggest strength, it’s No. 1A with just about everyone who matters returning. Everyone can hit the home run – the top four guys averages close to 15 yards per catch – and it’s a large group. It starts with 6-3 Dontay Demus – who led the team with 24 grabs – as the main man, but he’s not alone with more shooting guard types around the rest of the veteran receiving corps.

The running game didn’t work well enough, and now leading rusher Jake Funk is out of the mix. He ran for 516 of the team’s 725 yards and three of the five scores – Tagovailoa got the other two.

Meny Boone is a 6-1, 245-pounder and senior Tayon Fleet-Davis is 220 pounds. There might not be a ton of flash with this group, but it’ll be fine if the O line does its job.

The front five lost guard Marcus Minor to Pitt and center Johnny Jordan to Virginia Tech, but three starters return around Jaelyn Duncan, a 6-6, 315-pound left tackle who should be a lock for the All-Big Ten team. Pass protection is Job One after finishing last in the conference in sacks allowed per game.

– What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Maryland Terrapins Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: Defense

4. Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: Defense

The defense started poorly and got stronger, but still finished the season allowing 430 yards and 32 points per game. The pass rush was great, the run defense wasn’t, and coming up with third down stops was an issue. With ten starters back, though, there’s no excuse not to be better. However …

The linebacking corps lost its star. Leading tackler Chance Campbell is off to Ole Miss, but it’s a deep group overall with 225-pound Ruben Hyppolite looking like a player in the middle and several options on the outside to rotate with 216-pound Ahmad McCullough.

Hyppolite and fellow linebacker Durrell Nchami can rush the passer – when Nchami is healthy – but 305-pound tackle Mosiah Nasili-Kite led the team in sacks from his spot in the interior. He’s big, 330-pound Ami Finau is bigger, and there’s bulk behind them.

Two. That’s how many interceptions the Terps came up with in their five games, but the secondary should be a plus with everyone returning around all-star-level safety Nick Cross and second-leading tackler Jordan Mosley.

Again, there weren’t any interceptions even with the good pressure and pass rush. However, that’s about to change after Maryland went really, really young on the outside. Once 6-1, 182-pound Tarheeb Still figures it out after a good freshman year, look out.

– What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Maryland Terrapins Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best Maryland Terrapins Offensive Player

OT Jaelyn Duncan, Jr.
The 6-6, 315-pounder will soon be some NFL team’s tackle. No, he wasn’t good enough to carry the Maryland line all by himself – the Terps couldn’t keep anyone out of the backfield and didn’t power away well enough for the ground game – but Duncan was still able to earn All-Big Ten honors.

He’s still growing into the job and has room to keep on improving, but he’s a rock for an offense that needs the consistency.

2. QB Taulia Tagovailoa, Jr.
3. WR Dontay Demus, Sr.
4. WR Rakim Jarrett, Soph.
5. WR Brian Cobbs, Sr.

Related

Maryland Football Schedule 2021: Analysis, Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Best Maryland Terrapins Defensive Player

DT Mosiah Nasili-Kite, Jr.
The quick 6-2, 305-pound veteran stepped in from the JUCO ranks and became the team’s most effective player in the backfield. It would be nice to have a pure pass rusher from the outside, but until one emerges, Nasili-Kite has to be a disruptor after coming up with 17 tackles with four sacks in his first year.

2. CB Tarheeb Still, Soph.
3. S Nick Cross, Jr.
4. LB Fa’Najae Gotay, Jr.
5. S Jordan Mosley, Jr.

Top Incoming Maryland Terrapins Transfer

WR Marcus Fleming, Fr.
The Terps were on the wrong end of way too many decent parts leaving through the transfer portal, but they’re getting a deep threat to help an already great situation better.

The former Nebraska Cornhusker made five catches for 75 yards in his little bit of work, but the guy who could’ve gone just about anywhere should soon find a role – inched as a kick returner – for Maryland.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Maryland Terrapins Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Maryland Terrapins Biggest Key: Offense

Stop someone from hitting the quarterback. It’s been a problem for a long, long, long time. From the 49 sacks allowed in 2016 on, Maryland hasn’t been able to keep teams out of the backfield – and it showed as quarterback after quarterback got banged up.

Maryland allowed over 30 sacks in four straight years before giving up 18 – 3.2 per game – over the five games.

The Terps have the devastating deep threat playmakers at receiver, and even through the backs are unproven, the running game should be fine with better blocking. Maryland has the star tackle in Jaelyn Duncan to start with, and it has plenty of size and options to play around with, but everyone needs time to work.

Maryland Terrapins Biggest Key: Defense

Start taking the ball away. Maryland has ten starters returning on D, a lot of depth, and it gets pressure in the backfield, but it’s not going to be a rock.

This isn’t going to be one of the Big Ten’s better defenses, but if the offense does what it’s supposed to do, it just needs to hold serve, not get gouged against the run, and make enough big plays to make up for the other issues.

The Terp D came up with three takeaways against Penn State. It took the ball away once in the other four games – the team lost the turnover margin in four of the five games.

Maryland has lost the turnover margin in 11 of the last 12 games with just 11 takeaways during the span.

Maryland Terrapins Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Taulia Tagovailoa, Jr.
Left tackle Jaelyn Duncan is the team’s best player. He’s the one who’ll be off to the NFL and he’s the one who’ll anchor the offense from his spot up front. However, Tagovailoa is the one who can take the Terps over and make them a big of a player.

Tua’s brother came over from Alabama and showed a spark with a huge day against Minnesota and a brilliant performance against Penn State. But he struggled against Indiana and couldn’t go against Rutgers.

Maryland has other options at quarterback, and it has a whole slew of areas it has to improve, but if No. 3 is amazing, everything else should work out.

Maryland Terrapins Key Game To The 2021 Season

West Virginia, Sept. 4
Winning a big game in the season opener hasn’t always been an indicator of a special year – ask the 2017 and 2018 teams that kicked things off with wins over Texas in each season – but for head coach Mike Locksley and this year’s team, getting by West Virginia would be a big deal.

With Howard to follow, beating the Mountaineers would lead to a 2-0 start with a trip to Illinois next. Win that, and with Kent State next there’s a chance to make a big splash before diving into the rough part of the Big Ten slate.

Maryland Terrapins Schedule Breakdown & Analysis

2020 Maryland Terrapins Fun Stats

– Time of Possession: Opponents 34:37 – Maryland 25:23
– Penalties: Maryland 44 for 398 yards – Opponents 21 for 174 yards
– Rushing Yards: Opponents 230 – Maryland 145

NEXT: Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Maryland Terrapins College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Seriously … how the hell do you try figuring out this team?

Mike Locksley’s 2019 debut started with wins over Howard and Syracuse by a combined score of 142-20, and it looked like the offensive talent he showed at job after job as a coordinator was about to translate over to the Terps.

And then the team couldn’t score for most of the rest of the year and went 3-9.

Last year, Maryland didn’t look like it knew how to play football – that’s not hyperbole – in the 43-3 loss to Northwestern to open the season, was getting its doors blown off by Minnesota, came back to beat the Gophers, was wonderful against Penn State, and then went back to being bad at college football again over the last two games.

By all normal indications, this is a team that at best should be fighting for a bowl spot, but could possibly go completely in the tank fast. However …

That spark against Minnesota. That performance two years ago against Minnesota. This should be a team that’s about to turn it on, but …

Set The Maryland Terrapins Regular Season Win Total At … 4.5

18 starters and both specialists might be returning, and there’s real talent at several spots, but there are too many losses in the transfer portal, too many question marks even with the good players back, and there hasn’t been a smidge of positive consistency with Maryland football for a long, long time.

The Terps will beat Kent State. It won’t be easy, but they will.

They’ll beat Howard, and they’ll beat … uhhhhhh …

It’s a guess. Maryland will win a few games from out of nowhere, but against who? West Virginia? against Illinois on the road? Rutgers on the road?

This isn’t the Big Ten East of last year – Michigan State isn’t going to be miserable, and that’s on the road, too. So are the dates against Ohio State and Minnesota.

There’s no Wisconsin or Northwestern, but it’s going to take a whole lot of upsets to get to come up with a winning season.

But with this program, go ahead and surprise us. For fun’s sake, it would be great if Locksley can finally put it all together and make Maryland a team everyone in the Big Ten has to worry about.

And do it for a full season.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
Maryland Terrapins Schedule Analysis