Five Things to Watch for Maryland Football Versus Buffalo

Maryland (0-0, 0-0 B1G) vs. Buffalo (0-0, 0-0 MAC)
When: Sat., Sept. 3 | 12:02 p.m. EST
Where: Maryland Stadium
It’s finally here: gameday in College Park. After going 7-6 last fall with a bowl win over Virginia Tech, Maryland enters the 2022 season with ample confidence on offense and questions on defense, but still, some consider the Terps a sleeper team this year. With a dire need to get back to a bowl game in year four under head coach Mike Locksley, what does Maryland need to do to start out 1-0? We take a look at five storylines to watch on Saturday.
How does Taulia Tagovailoa start the season?

In his first full season as Maryland’s starter, Taulia set or tied school records for the most passing attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns by a quarterback. He now sits eighth in career passing yards and tied for fourth in passing touchdowns in school history. Another season like last year and Taulia will be number one on the list. It’s been an open secret that Taulia’s next step is his mental maturity and staying neutral, as Mike Locksley likes to say, through the course of a game. “He’s one of those guys that puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Locksley said at media days. “There’s nobody that has more expectations than he does and what we’ve seen him do here from, I say midpoint of last season on is I’ve seen the maturity in how he manages himself, whether it’s a good play, not letting that good play get ’em too high, or if it’s a bad play, letting it kind of get him too low.” Taulia has a chance to get off to a fast start against the Bulls with a special room of receivers at his disposal. Look for him and the Maryland receivers to try and run all over Buffalo’s secondary.

Ability to create balanced offense with run game?

With presumed starter Challen Faamatau sidelined, Maryland’s running back room might be the youngest in all of college football. Redshirt freshman Roman Hemby was named the top running back on Maryland’s depth chart thanks largely to his top-end speed and ability to pass protect, but expect a running back by committee approach with sophomore Colby McDonald redshirt freshman Antwain Littleton along with true freshman Ramon Brown rounding out the room. What Maryland’s backfield does well is complement each other—Hemby with his speed, McDonald’s ability to create positive plays through the trenches, Littleton’s efficiency in short yardage situations, Brown’s vision in the open field. Maryland was very conscious about rotating younger pieces to build experience, but it’s about adding to that experience ahead of conference play. Can the room generate the big plays, an area that was missed last fall?

How much does Dontay Demus play?

The biggest surprise from media day was when head coach Mike Locksley announced that star receiver Dontay Demus would be ready for week one. This came as a wonderful surprise as most people thought he would be out until at least Conference play after suffering a devastating knee injury against Iowa last year. Now the question is, how long will he be in the game and how effective will he be right away? Before the injury, Demus was leading the Big Ten in receiving yards per game and finished third in that category. He was also mentioned as a player to watch by Rece Davis on College Gameday. There’s only one ball for guys like Demus, Rakim Jarrett, Jeshaun Jones and Jacob Copeland but Demus must now show he is still the receiver he was before the injury.

How does the front seven look?

The front seven for Maryland was hit hard due to the transfer portal. The team lost Brandon Jennings, Terrence Lewis, Deshawn Holt, and Demeioun Robinson after the season. Sam Okuayinonu is also gone after using up all of his eligibility However, Mosiah Nasili-Kite, Ami Finau, Greg Rose, and Ruben Hyppolite are all back. Also back is Fa’Najae Gotay, who got hurt against West Virginia in last season’s opener. The team also added VanDaruis Cowan, via the transfer portal, and signed Jaishawn Barham and Caleb Wheatland. The biggest question for the front seven is where is the pass rush coming from. Arguably the biggest surprise on Maryland’s first depth chart was Durell Nchami at defensive end and Greg China-Rose at JACK, and whether they stay at the mentioned positions or flip, both will be integral parts to Maryland’s potential answer off the edge. So will Cowan, who has been the presumed SAM starter since the start of fall camp. Fans will start to see what their expectations should be for the front seven on Saturday, shedding light on possibly Maryland’s biggest question this offseason.

Debut for starting safety tandem

Last year’s starting safeties, Nick Cross and Jordan Mosley, are both gone and Beau Brade and Dante Trader are expected to step into their roles as starters. Brade takes over the starting strong safety spot from Mosley and will be counted on right away. The in-state product is known as a heavy hitter inside the box and that’ll be evident in run support, but how does he fare with the ball in the air? Brade has played in 17 games since enrolling but Saturday will mark his first career start. So will Trader, who takes the free safety spot from Cross. He appeared in 12 games as a true freshman last year. Despite entering just his second season in College Park, Trader has drawn rave reviews as a ballhawking safety that covers ground effortlessly. Does he put it all together in week one to flash those traits that stuck out through the offseason? With three starters returning in the cornerback room, there will be a lot expected from these young players and Buffalo will be their first chance to show they can replace two three-year starters.

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