Midseason Evaluation: Maryland Football’s 2022 Season

Maryland football is officially at the halfway point of the regular season, sitting at 4-2 (1-2) with a chance to get back to .500 in conference play this weekend. But how has Maryland fared compared to offseason expectations? We take a deeper dive.

Bright spot: Run game, special teams

Much has been made of Maryland’s passing attack heading into the season, but what was the young backfield going to produce this year? So far, Maryland has produced three 100-yard rushers include two from Roman Hemby within the first three games of the season. You’d be surprised to find that Maryland has the same number of rushing touchdowns as they do passing touchdowns (13) so far this season, but all Maryland needed from the rushing attack was to show big play ability to complement the passing game. Hemby leads the unit with 395 yards while it’s Littleton who has a team-high 6.6 yards per carry, while freshman Ramon Brown has filled in as the fourth back with 14 carries so far. Maryland’s backs have also been able to catch well out of the backfield, including Roman Hemby who sits third on the team after reeling in all 20 targets this year. Still, Maryland sits ninth in the conference with 157 yards per game, but they also rank ninth in rushing attempts. Maryland does sit at fourth in the Big Ten with a 5.1 yard per carry average, giving credence to the offense’s ability to show balance.

And for all the flack that the third phase caught last season, Maryland’s special teams has been a pleasant surprise through the first half of the season. After head coach Mike Locksley spoke fondly of kicker Chad Ryland following both scrimmages during fall camp, the former Eastern Michigan specialist started red hot. Ryland is 8-of-10 on the season while nailing all but one of his 23 XPs. Ryland also has the most 50-yard field goals in the nation and became the first Maryland kicker to drill two 50-plus yard field goals in the same game (Michigan).

On the flip side, the woeful coverage unit from a season ago is a distant memory. Maryland benefits from leading the Big Ten in average yards per kickoff (64.6). The Terps have limited the explosive returns, holding opponents to roughly 20 yards on kickoffs and just five yards on punt returns, while Maryland’s returners have had a handful of chances to take the first kickoff to the house. Still, it’s a much improved unit under first-year assistant James Thomas.

Good, Not Great: Passing Game

The first few weeks of the season, the passing game looked like it had another level still left to reach in order to be as explosive as it’s been tabbed to be. So far, it’s Rakim Jarrett who leads the team with 24 catches while tight end Corey Dyches leads the way with 322 yards. The surprise? Dontay Demus and Jacob Copeland combining for just 27 catches. Copeland had his breakout game in week two with a 100-plus receiving and two touchdown performance, while adding four catches in three games this season. Demus, however, has gradually shown signs of returning to his usual form and is coming off a season-high 40 receiving yards. Freshman Octavian Smith has already played more than four games, officially burning his redshirt this season, while fans got their first true glimpse at Shaleak Knotts against Purdue courtesy of a few deep shots. Jeshaun Jones looks back to his usual self, though, flashing across the middle for big chunks of yards though unsportsmanlike penalties have reemerged this season. While the stats are indeed a byproduct of so many stars available for just one football, the passing game has still been sufficient this season.

Maryland’s passing offense ranks 19th nationally and second behind only Ohio State. And for the second straight season, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa continues to shatter the record book. Currently standing first in passing efficiency, Taulia now holds the program record for 300-yard passing games with eleven and sits in the top 25 in the country in completion percentage (74.1), completions per game (24.3), passing yards (1,731), total offense (303.2) and passing efficiency (161.3). Still, this comes days after the offense turned three turnovers into zero points in a game that ultimately ended in a two-point loss. While Taulia has 11 touchdowns to five interceptions through six games, there’s an asterisk there with the two-interception performance against Michigan called into question. Maryland has shown to be a lethal attack with their four receiver sets so far, but there’s another level the passing game can go. To close it out, they’ll do so against top competition but only Ohio State and Rutgers currently sit in the top half in passing defense in the Big Ten.

Needs Improvement: Pressure in Front Seven

Ironically, this comes off Maryland’s best performance of the season after generating a season-high five sacks. One bit of pessimism? Just one sack against both Charlotte and Michigan State. Maryland will have an opportunity to maintain momentum against an Indiana offensive line who is fresh off its position coach fired after allowing 19 sacks through six games, the most in the Big Ten. As for Maryland, the front seven needed a big year from Durell Nchami in order to be productive and Saturday’s defensive efforts were evidence of that. His two sacks on the season came against the Boilermakers with one generating a fumble recovered by Maryland, a sign that Maryland fans hope is to come for the second half of the season. Maryland sits third in the Big Ten in sacks, but saw the inability to seal the edge loom large against Michigan after running back Blake Corum bounced outside the tackle twice for a pair of touchdowns. It’s been a steady work in progress and clear development since Locksley took over, but against run-heavy teams to close out the season, Maryland will need to buckle down like it did against Purdue.

Ugly: Penalties

Maryland’s penalties in each game this season: 8, 8, 15, 1, 9, 9. It’s no surprise that Maryland leads the Big Ten in both penalties and penalty yards and sit tied with Syracuse for 124th-nationally. It’s been a problem not just this season, but throughout Locksley’s tenure at Maryland. The disappointing takeaway from the self-inflicted mistakes is that Maryland entered the season with the most returning experience among any Big Ten team. While Maryland is comfortably favored against Indiana and should be again next weekend when they host Northwestern, the margin of error narrows to close the year. After Maryland’s bye, they’ll travel to Wisconsin then Penn State before hosting Ohio State. There’s no doubt that topping the Big Ten’s elite is on the to-do list this season and for Maryland to do so, cutting the penalties in half is a must. Of Maryland’s 50 penalties this year, 22 have been attributed to Maryland’s offensive line that returned all five starters from one season ago.

Related Links

Player Profile: PG Jahmir Young

Locksley talks defense, communication ahead of Indiana

Willard, Scott, Young delve into Maryland’s offseason progress

Good news from FB practice (+)

SFA LB planning return visit to Maryland (+)

Maryland basketball picked to finish tenth in preseason Big Ten standings

Maryland expected to host JuCo tackle for official visit (+)