Maryland Football’s Defense Ranked Top-30 in ESPN SP+ Rankings

Maryland football will look for its third consecutive bowl win for the first time in nearly 15 years when head coach Mike Locksley prepares for year five with the program.

In the latest offseason rankings, Maryland checked in at 41st nationally in ESPN’s first SP+ rankings for the 2023 season.

The surprise? Maryland ranked 44th on offense and 30th on defense. The SP+ rankings consider teams’ returning production, incoming recruits and recent results to project the upcoming season and while Maryland will debut plenty of new faces in 2023, they’ll also have some familiar faces leading the way.

While expectations remain high on the offensive side of the ball, the offensive ranking may be a surprise given Taulia Tagovailoa returns as a fourth-year starter with a loaded wide receiver room restocked with talent with guys like Kaden Prather, Tyrese Chambers, Jeshaun Jones, Octavian Smith and Tai Felton back. Maryland also bolstered the offensive side of the trenches with Gottlieb Ayedze, Corey Bullock and Marcus Dumervil signing with the program, but one big question is how Maryland’s new pieces gel together as head coach Mike Locksley looks to maintain his high-powered offense. Though the talent in place, the Terps are still replacing three offensive linemen and receivers after electing to enter the 2023 NFL Draft as the spring will give a chance for the skill players to build the on-field chemistry.

Many of the same names will once again lead the Terrapin defense with Jaishawn Barham, Ruben Hyppolite, Fa’Najae Gotay, Tarheeb Still along with the safety tandem leading the way once again. Recent portal signees like Donnell Brown, Jordan Phillips and Avantae Williams also bolster a defense that took noticeable strides during the first season under defensive coordinator Brian Williams. Maryland allowed just 12 points over the final two games of the season to finish 8-5, while second half adjustments were the theme of the 2022 season as the defense allowed ten or fewer points in all but three of their regular season games.

“Obviously, our defense has been improving all year long,” Locksley said after the game. “To carry [our mental intensity from the Ohio State game] over and have the first shutout since we joined the Big Ten, which is a great feat no matter the opponent,” Locksley said after the 37-0 win over Rutgers. The praise continued for the defense following the 16-12 bowl win over NC State.

“We put ’em in some tough situations today with short fields and we often times talk about holding the field goals and holding them to field goals today because we weren’t as clean as we needed to be on offense, and we had some red zone and goal line opportunities where we were just not clicking on offense. And so, you know what? Some games, it turns out the way it did today,” Locksley said following the 16-12 win over NC State. “Brian Williams, Lance Thompson, Wes Neighbors, James Thomas, Henry Baker and all those guys that work on our defensive side of the ball really did a tremendous job of what our goals are is to make kick field those in the red area and that was the difference in the game for us.”

The updated rankings come one day after the Terrapins were ranked as the fifth-most talented roster in the conference, according to Athlon Sports.

Maryland is expected to begin spring practice the last week of March.

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