Early Enrollees: None
USA TODAY Sports
To say that the tight end wasn’t featured in Maryland’s offense last season would be an enormous understatement. Many had higher hopes for the position entering the 2016 season because of the glimpses of potential that then-sophomore Avery Edwards showed and offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s extensive history of producing talented tight ends.
But prospects of the Terps creating mismatches with the H-back never came to fruition as Maryland tight ends combined for five receptions, 40 yards and a touchdown.
Then-junior Derrick Hayward started all 13 games at tight end for the Terps but only hauled in four receptions for 17 yards. He was, however, the lone tight end to score for Maryland with a 9-yard touchdown reception against Florida International.
Despite looking solid throughout the offseason and leading Terps tight ends in receiving the year prior, Edwards was never able to get anything going in 2016. He played in all 13 games for Maryland but didn’t start any and only recorded one catch for 23 yards.
Behind Hayward and Edwards, then-junior Andrew Isaacs--who has since switched to the defensive side of the ball--contributed on special teams, while 2016 recruiting class signee Noah Barnes did not appear in any games and took a redshirt.
Will Maryland’s tight ends have more of a chance to be pass catchers in 2017?
The tight end room pretty much looks the same in College Park as it did last spring, minus Andrew Isaacs. Incoming freshman Andrew Park will arrive in the summer and add some depth to the position, but it’s a stretch to think he will come in and change the dynamic of the Terps tight ends right away.
Hayward appears to be in line to start once again but, much like last year, it’s his blocking that will likely be on display more often than not. A few passes have been thrown to Hayward this spring but it’s still mostly the wide receivers and running backs that get the looks from the quarterback. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Hayward has good speed and is as athletic as it gets, but his hands are inconsistent and his route running leaves a lot to be desired.
Edwards on the other hand seems to run better routes and have more of a knack for catching the ball, but for whatever reason, he has not shown the Terps coaching staff enough yet for them to trust him. It’s been hard to spot Edwards doing much of anything but blocking this spring, but he is playing a lot in two-tight end sets with Hayward in order to bolster the line on certain running plays.
Barnes also appears to still be transitioning into the college game, and while he has the height, he’s a bit thinner than the other tight ends on the roster and doesn’t bring as much to the table yet in terms of blocking.
Hayward will catch at least three touchdowns next season. It’s not a huge spike in production for the rising senior, but it would triple his career output up to this point. There are two main reasons for this prediction. First is improvement at the quarterback position. It appears the Terps could be in line to start a signal caller next season that is able to do more with his arm than Perry Hills could last year. Better quarterback play, especially in the red zone, should help Hayward get a few more looks throughout the season. The question will be whether or not Hayward can make the most of his early opportunities so that he can gain the trust of whoever is throwing him the ball. Secondly, while the Terps are talented at the offensive skill positions, Maryland still lacks height in that area overall. Other than the incoming freshmen, most of the wide receivers on Maryland’s roster are under 6-foot, which isn’t usually the best recipe for red zone effectiveness. If Bell can design plays to get Hayward open in the red zone, he could prove to be a valuable weapon to the Terps offense, especially since opposing defenses likely won’t be expecting it.