2023 Maryland football position overview: wide receivers

Maryland’s wide receiver room took all the buzz and glory with three NFL wide receivers headlining the Terps’ 2022 room, but this offseason gave wide receiver coach Gunter Brewer and the staff a chance to restock the room. After signing five receivers out of high school and a pair out of the portal, Maryland will look to build on its third-best passing offense in the Big Ten from one season ago.

Maryland has at least one veteran with ample experience in the offense to lead the unit once again with Jeshaun Jones back in College Park for his sixth season. Despite the three departed wideouts drawing the buzz heading into last season, it was Jones who led the unit with 44 catches for 557 yards including nine catches for 152 yards and a touchdown in the season finale win over Rutgers. The smooth wideout is back in College Park and gives Taulia Tagovailoa a trusted option through the air, whether it be across the middle or downfield.

Jones won’t be along as Kaden Prather, a former West Virginia wideout, makes his long-awaited debut in a Terps uniform. Prather, a former four-star prospect out of Northwest (MD), gives the room an NFL-caliber wideout where his 6-foot-4 frame makes him a dynamic downfield threat to fill the void left by Dontay Demus. Prather has become a mainstay inside Jones Hill-House this offseason in preparation for his first season inside SECU Stadium with a chance to become the next local wideout to star in the Terps’ offense.

Prather isn’t the only local looking to solidify his legacy in College Park with Baltimore native Tyrese Chambers now in College Park. Chambers, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound receiver, is nothing but speed mixed with great route running. Chambers joins the program from Florida International where he shined with former Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager, posting 1,618 yards and 13 touchdowns in his two seasons with the program. Chambers is a fast and twitchy wide receiver that is great at using his quickness to his advantage to get by defensive backs as well as get out of breaks and have crisper routes. Chambers has the skillset to beat an opposing defense deep, but with Jones’ versatility and Prather as a downfield threat, it could be Chambers who feasts across the middle of the field to help the offense move the chains.

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Just like Chambers’s speed, second-year wideout Octavian Smith has plenty of that and will look to build off the 2022 season. It was Smith who came down with the Terps’ final touchdown last season, proving to be the difference-maker in the bowl win vs. NC State, but Smith’s blazing speed gives him a chance to explode out of the slot as Maryland utilizes the Paint Branch star in space. Don’t sleep on Virginia native Tai Felton, either, whose deceptive speed adds confidence to the Terps’ perimeter receivers. Felton can lean on his speed in man coverage while he’s shown he can find the open gaps against the zone, but 2023 could be the season he breaks through to become a routine playmaker.

Fans were able to see glimpses of Shaleak Knotts, a 6-foot-2, second-year wide receiver, as he’ll look for a strong fall camp to propel him into the season as another downfield threat. Leon Haughton, a 6-foot-4 wideout, enters his second season with the program and gives the room experienced depth behind Prather as the room exudes a healthy blend of size and speed.

Freshman wide receivers Ryan Manning and Braden Wisloski both enrolled in January, with Wisloski’s athleticism on full display as he hones in on the technique of the position. Manning, meanwhile, has been practicing with the team since the day after national signing day as he’s done well picking up the terminology and playbook heading into the fall as he maximizes his first-year role. Maryland also welcomed Sean Williams, St. John’s most productive player on offense one season ago, along with Josh Richards in June as the two big-bodied wideouts add more length to the room. Zeke Avit, a former two-sport star at Churchill, also enrolled in June as the high potential athlete adds to the future of the room.

Bold Prediction: Terps to have a 100-yard receiver in 8+ games

Even with mounting expectations heading into last season, Maryland only finished with 100-yard receiving performances in four games in 2022. Maryland may not have the same level of buzz nationally as it did last year, but the talent and complementary pieces are what add confidence to the room. Consider the fact that Taulia Tagovailoa returns for his fourth season in College Park, and there’s reason to be optimistic.

Sure, the success of the passing attack will also be tied to the protection up front as Maryland introduces four new starters on the offensive side of the trenches, but the ‘pick your poison’ mantra that carried the room last preseason still holds true in 2023. Jones is a proven piece who can find success inside and out, but having a reliable target in Tyrese Chambers, downfield threats in Prather and Haughton along with speed demons like Felton, Smith and Wisloski give the room enough pieces at Tagovailoa’s disposal. Maryland will also have a veteran run game to lean on, but more importantly, strong pass blocking from its unit to aid Tagovailoa’s protection.

In addition to its non-conference schedule, Maryland also faces Nebraska, Michigan State and Indiana this season–the three worst pass defenses in the Big Ten in 2022. The Terps’ offense still has its juice as Tagovailoa looks to put the bow on his four-year career.

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