Notebook: Starters Return, Freshman Honor, Versatile Lineman

Maryland football returns to action this weekend when they face Wisconsin as the Terps look for their first win in four times against the Badgers. Head coach Mike Locksley updated the status of his team one final time before kickoff as more injured Terps will return to action.

Pair of Starters Return

Maryland’s linebacker depth was significantly tested against Northwestern with Ruben Hyppolite, Jaishawn Barham and VanDarius Cowan all sidelined. While the extra week of rest helped quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa miss just one game as he recovered from a reaggravation of a strained MCL, Locksley confirmed two more key contributors will return with Barham and Hyppolite available against Wisconsin. “They’re both back and practicing and will be able to play this weekend,” Locksley added.

Hyppolite has been battling his high ankle sprain since suffering the injury during the week three win over SMU as he returned for the Michigan State game, but did not travel with the team to Indiana. Barham, meanwhile, went down in the closing minutes of the Indiana win and was initially ruled out with a stinger before being sidelined for Northwestern.

The assured depth in the front seven will be leaned on as the defense will be tasked with limiting running back Braelon Allen as he enters Saturday averaging over 100 yards on the ground per game.

Barham Named Finalist for Freshman of the Year

While Barham will look to make his eighth career start in as many games this weekend, the former four-star prospect was named one of 14 semifinalists for the Shaun Alexander National Freshman of the Year Award on Thursday, becoming the first Terp nominated for the honor. The former DeMatha and St. Frances product is currently tied for the team lead in sacks (3) and is second in tackles for loss (4.5). It’s no surprise that the first-year linebacker is excelling after becoming a mainstay as a standout during offseason workouts following his January enrollment, a big reason why Locksley tabbed Barham as a “robot” earlier this season.

“When you come in as a freshman, you’re planning against some of the top teams in the country that we get to face as a Big Ten member, the lights aren’t too big, he doesn’t get overly excited. Nothing kind of pushes his buttons. He just really, really consistent with his habits and behaviors. How he prepares. How he plays and it shows in terms of this production he’s had as a young player.” Hyppolite was a veteran who took note of Barham’s work ethic heading into the season, too.

“The way he dissects plays, how he moves within the box and then how he makes plays. He’s always around the ball,” Hyppolite added. “He’s very special with that.”

Lineman Proving Versatility This Fall 

Maryland fans have seen veteran Austin Fontaine move across the field so far during his career in College Park, joining the program as a defensive lineman before moving to tight end, offensive line then back to defensive line. Fontaine’s experiences in the trenches have proven valuable so far this season as Locksley has leaned on the veteran in short yardage situations on the offensive side of the ball. “I think the big thing with Austin is we’re always going to utilize our personnel and we have more than just Austin,” Locksley added.

“Don’t be surprised if all of a sudden you see a Mo Kite or Ami Finau in the back field. I’ve done that before during my time at Alabama. We want to use the personnel and the skill sets they have and it’s not to be fancy or cute, It’s, you know, Austin gives us a chance to block the C-area better than a 220-pound Corey Dyches. The tight end position group to where we have another CJ when we want to run the ball, we’re gonna try to put the best people in the position to do it and Austin gives us that ability.” Locksley pointed to Fontaine’s understanding of the blocking fundamentals as another key point, an area that Maryland could lean on given Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig stands opposite of the Terps’ offensive line.

Herbig enters Saturday leading the Big Ten in both tackles for losses and sacks while Maryland has allowed the third-most sacks in the Big Ten this season, ironically tied with the Badgers with 17 sacks through eight games.

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