Six Maryland Players to Watch in Duke’s Mayo Bowl

With the Terps losing eleven players to the portal along with three receivers opting out of the bowl game in favor of  the 2023 NFL Draft, the extra reps creates opportunities for the next crop of talent to get some playing time and give fans a chance to see what they will see from them next season.
“When you look across the board, we’ve prepared for this because we play a lot of players,” head coach Mike Locksley said last week. “And I always say this at the beginning of the year, that when we rotate and play a lot of these guys, it’s because of times like this where they have to play. And now we’ve got some seasoned young players that have been able to maybe get their feet wet some.”

With that, we take a look at six possible players to watch out for in the Duke’s Mayo bowl game that you might not expect.

TE Leron Husbands

Husbands is a 6-foot-3, 230 pound redshirt freshman out of Archbishop Carroll in DC. Husbands has not appeared in a game in his first two seasons, but with tight end CJ Dippre and Weston Wolff entering the transfer portal, that leaves just Corey Dyches as the only player with game experience on the roster. In an offense like the Terps have where they go to the TE a lot, with Dyches and Dippre combining for 65 receptions and 763 yards this season, someone other then Dyches will be getting some playing time in the bowl game against a very good NC State defense. What helps Husbands is his ability to become a blocking tight end, a void in the room with Dippre not allowed to play.

CB, Lionell Whitaker

Whitaker is a 5-foot-11, 175 pound freshman CB out of Miami, Florida. After enrolling in June, the former three-star prospect drew immediate praise and was tabbed as a young Terp able to fill into the rotation behind the three starters. That’s similar to Gavin Gibson, who proved an integral part of the cornerback room after switching from safety and will also likely get additional reps. While most of his action came on special teams this season, Whitaker did a fairly good job filling in for some injured Terps in the secondary this season when his name was called upon. Whitaker tallied nine tackles, one tackle for loss, and a pass break up for the Terps this season while appearing in nine games. With Deonte Banks opting out of the bowl game and declaring for the draft, as well as Jayon Venerable entering the transfer portal, it will give Whitaker some more chances to get reps at corner in the bowl game. Against an NC State team that threw the fifth-most passes this season, those reps will help the first year corner.

LB Caleb Wheatland

Freshman LB Caleb Wheatland was one of the most intriguing prospects in spring ball and summer camp for the Terps. The 6-foot-2, 235 pound LB out of Centreville, Virginia was widely known as one of the biggest gems from the 2022 freshman class. Wheatland appeared in ten games for the Terps this season tallying 6 tackles and two tackle for loss. With rotational starter Ahmad McCullough, as well as Kameron Blount entering the portal, expect Wheatland to have some kind of impact on the field in the bowl game and give Terps fans a preview of what is to come in 2023.

RB Ramon Brown

Last bowl game, fans saw Roman Hemby and Antwain Littleton shine out of the backfield en route to a 54-10 win over Virginia Tech. Even with a four-headed attack leading the Terps against the Wolfpack, former four-star running back Ramon Brown is a prime candidate to thrive in an expanded role. Brown played in all but two games this season and finished with 122 yards on 34 carries, including 46 yards in the season finale win against Rutgers. Brown also proved a factor in the passing attack after reeling in eight catches for 40 yards this fall, but what makes the former Manchester (VA) star such a prized player is his potential to become an everydown back. He’ll get a chance to do so alongside the next wave of receivers who will fill in for the departing talent.

WR Octavian Smith Jr.

The four star 6-foot-1, 175 pound freshman out of Burtonsville, MD was considered an athlete on the recruiting scene with his play making ability on offense and NFL potential at cornerback, but head coach Mike Locksley was adamant the MoCo star would play on the offensive side of the ball. After enrolling in June, it quickly became evident why Smith was so coveted on offense after consistently turning heads in practice. After flashing his quickness and top-end speed as a returned as a true freshman, Smith became a reliable contributor on special teams and led the Big Ten in kick return yards through the first ten games. On offense, Smith tallied nine receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown, as well as 313 kickoff return yards while appearing in all 12 games for the Terps this season. Just like Shaleak Knotts, with Demus, Copeland, and possibly more WRs opting out of the bowl game for the Terps, look for Octavian to have an impact on offense while also being a special teams weapon as well.

The same could be said for Tai Felton, who played the most among the underclassmen receivers. While Leon Haughton could provide the room the length that’s missing with Demus sidelined, Felton’s top-end speed is an unmatched trait in the room and he’ll get his first chance to flash his full arsenal.

Maryland will face NC State on December 30 for a 12 PM kickoff.

Related Links

Another last-minute OV, this time out of the portal (+)

Early OV feedback (+)

Former Cincy CB Ja’Quan Sheppard breaks down transfer to Maryland (+)

Another OV visitor (+)

Friday evening rumblings (+)

Rumblings from Friday evening (+)

Flip in the works for Locksley and the Terps (+)

Maryland’s 2024 recruits shine over the weekend

Rico Walker to Maryland: How it Happened, What it Means, What’s Next (+)