Five Maryland football freshmen most likely to burn their redshirt first

Every freshman from Maryland’s 2022 class played in at least one game last season with eight current players using their redshirts, and this fall, similar is expected as Maryland welcomes its next wave of talent for head coach Mike Locksley’s fifth season with the program. Maryland signed a full 25-man class last cycle with four-stars Rico Walker, Neeo Avery, Mike Harris and Dylan Gooden headlining the 2023 class, while five signees at receiver and along the defensive line have replenished both rooms. Which five freshmen could be first to burn their redshirt this season? We take a look at the five most likely candidates.

LB Neeo Avery:

Former Good Counsel four-star edge rusher Neeo Avery gave Maryland its prize on signing day after flipped his commitment from Ole Miss to Maryland, giving the Terps a local blue-chip prospect at a position of need. After enrolling in June and with a fresh wave of talent replenishing the edge along the Terps’ defense, Avery and fellow freshman DJ Samuels will have an opportunity for a big role right away. Avery gets the nod here because of his combined size, listed at 6-foot-5, 234 pounds, and athleticism. His quickness and first step look to be a deadly combination and a nightmare for offensive coordinators. Being a former quarterback at Good Counsel gives him a different perspective on what it takes to put pressure on them. Whether he is the starter or not this year, Avery looks to be the guy that fills the pass-rushing void left after the loss of Durell Nchami.

DE Dillan Fontus:

Maryland is set to replace all three starters along the defensive line this season with Jordan Phillips, Tommy Akingbesote, Taizse Johnson and Tre Colbert all in line to fill the bulk of the reps. But defensive lineman Dillan Fontus, who enrolled in the program back in January, has been able to add mass to his 6-foot-5 frame to give the unit a young piece to turn to in the rotation. Fontus is among the latest recipients to win ‘Iron Terp of the Week’ with Maryland’s offseason conditioning program in full swing ahead of fall camp, set to begin on August 1. Fontus was a primary target for Maryland in the 2023 cycle with cornerbacks coach Henry Baker leading the way, prioritizing the New York lineman early in the cycle before reeling in his commitment in late July. His athleticism and power were evident in his high school film and after acclimating himself during spring ball, Fontus has the makings of a disrupter in the trenches as defensive coordinator Brian Williams restocks the room.

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LB Michael Harris:

Maryland has done a good job stockpiling talent at linebacker with guys like Ruben Hyppolite, Jaishawn Barham, and Caleb Wheatland making an instant impact. While the room exudes experience, Harris looks to be the next freshman who plays right away despite arriving in June. Harris has flashed in conditioning since arriving in College Park, while his instincts and tackling are the traits that teams want to see from their linebackers. The only thing that’s holding Harris back is his lean frame, only listed at 181 pounds, but his range and pursuit give the room another athletic piece with the linebackers a strength of the Terps’ defense.

TE Rico Walker:

Maryland will look to fill its blocking tight end role this fall, but behind Corey Dyches, the offense has another potential gem at the position with former four-star Rico Walker in the midst of his first season with the program. While Preston Howard and Leron Husbands are going to put up a fight for that role, Walker’s athleticism and speed for his size makes him an early candidate in  He is coming in with experience splitting out wide and the power to take on edge rushers. He should have an understanding of how edge rushers think due to his experience in the position in high school. Walker, the highest-rated signee for Maryland this year, was an early enrollee, which has given him more time to learn his roles in the offense. Even if he doesn’t win the backup role, Walker’s skill and upside will make it hard for the Terps to keep him off the field in 2023.

WR Ryan Manning:

Maryland signed five receivers in the 2023 class and even with a veteran room, the offense will give a chance for a long list of skill players to get their feet wet. Manning, a former three-star out of St. Frances, has taken advantage of his time with the program after joining the team 24 hours after signing day where he practiced during bowl prep. Manning’s quickness and ability to create separation were traits that flashed out of high school and the local wideout has benefitted from picking up the terminology and playbook well heading into fall camp. Early enrollee Braden Wisloski will get a chance to flash his vision and speed out of the slot while outside receivers in Sean Williams, Josh Richards and Zeke Avit get comfortable within the offense.

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