VIP: Offseason in Full Swing, Upcoming OVs, Local Four-Star

Maryland football wrapped up its regular season last weekend and will now await an official destination for its second bowl appearance. With the offseason now in full swing and the team awaiting its bowl game destination, Maryland football has started its offseason review. Breaking down the latest heading into the busiest month of the year.

Bowl game…coming out of the weekend, I expected Maryland to draw the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix with the Duke’s Mayo Bowl being the other prominent bowl in the mix for the Terps post season. While I didn’t see any bowl reps in attendance for Maryland’s finale versus Rutgers, there’s growing confidence that the Mayo Bowl could end up being the pick. The hurdle for getting Maryland into the Duke’s Mayo Bowl (previously the Belk Bowl) is proving the fanbase is likely to make the trip to Charlotte and help fill the Carolina Panther’s stadium. Despite initial doubts, in recent days there’s an improved possibility that the Terps could stay on the east coast.

As for who coaches, that’s now a viable question with news that Mike Miller will become the offensive coordinator at Charlotte under new head coach and former Gilman and SFA head coach Biff Poggi. It’s a move that Maryland head coach Mike Locksley vouched for as Miller’s desire to become a play caller was evident with his promotion last offseason preparing him for that role. As for Charlotte, it’s a great fit with his extensive ties in the area and a chance to become a full-time player caller. It appears unlikely that Miller will coach in the bowl game as things stand, likely giving Gunter Brewer a chance to take over the room.

Portal activity…Maryland saw its first round of offseason attrition on Tuesday with Ja’Khi Green, Jayon Venerable, Kam Blount, Zion Shockley and TJ Butler announcing for the portal. As of now, we expect 14 available spots as of Tuesday night but I could see additional names hit the portal in the coming days with Locksley in the midst of player meetings. Maryland will have to replenish its depth in the front seven and find a portal tackle, but we’ll touch on targets to fill the tackle spot later in the article. It’s still early with the portal officially opening on December 5 for all athletes, but Maryland will be a big player. As for potential incoming portal targets, a pair of local wideouts hit the portal this week with FIU WR Tyrese Chambers and Oregon WR Dont’e Thornton now available. Contacts have hinted that for Thornton, a reunion with Caleb Williams, his former grassroot teammate, at USC is a possibility with Jordan Addison expected to head to the 2023 NFL Draft. There’s also speculation that Arizona State could be in play with the Sun Devils recently hiring Thornton’s OC at Oregon as their new head coach. Maryland will inquire but a return to the east coast doesn’t seem likely based on early feedback. Chambers however is one that Maryland has at least looked at. At this time there’s not a strong sense that Chambers, who had a very good opportunity to join the roster last offseason, is an active target for the Terps staff because of other more lucrative prospects who may become available at the position.

One not returning, bowl game…fans won’t see a large group of veteran players return in 2023 like they did in 2022 with their COVID years being exhausted, however though, both quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and receiver Jeshaun Jones remain two priorities for the staff to “re-recruit” who still have remaining availability relating to a redshirt and a medical redshirt respectively. NIL could help push Tagovailoa’s likelihood for a return and there’s real potential that he’s back in uniform in 2023, but no final decision has been made yet. Same can be said about WR Jeshaun Jones as Locksley wants the veteran to lead a young receiver room next season. While those two remain the top targets to return. A veteran who is unlikely to return is DE/OLB Durell Nchami. He’s expected to make the move to the NFL. His departure will leave the Jack pistol for the Terps in a potentially desperate situation and require the staff to find impact edge rushers in the transfer portal. As for bowl game opt outs, I would still be shocked if fans see Dontay Demus, Rakim Jarrett or Jacob Copeland in uniform.

Surprise visitor and upcoming week…Good Counsel (MD) four-star OLB Dylan Gooden made a last-minute visit to Maryland on Saturday and got a chance to watch the 37-0 win over Rutgers. Confidence remains high here and if academics check out, which still remains a viable question, there’s a very realistic chance that he ends up in Maryland’s class. As for this upcoming week, the bulk of the staff will stick around the area with a chance to check in with local schools and make sure their home base is covered before fanning out across the east coast and Midwest next week checking on their out-of-state and juco targets. One stop next week will be to Union County (FL) defensive end Markus Strong, who remains a high priority along the defensive line.

OVs…as of Tuesday night, Maryland won’t have official visitors this upcoming weekend with a big slate likely headed to campus next weekend. With Nyck Harbor as the headliner, the staff could see several juco targets visit next weekend with South Carolina verbal Isaiah Jatta. Elijah Phillipe and Daniel Ogundipe are both offensive linemen who are possibilities for taking officials along with Jatta. Coffeyville safety Bishop Fitzgerald is another who could OV next weekend depending on the schedule, and I’m hearing that despite not making the top 12, there’s still a chance that his teammate and coveted offensive tackle Keyshawn Blackstock makes the trip in. One target who was expected to officially visit was FSU verbal Jaden Jones, but that’s no longer the case as this past weekend’s trip to Tallahassee has shut the door on his recruitment.

Another who will officially visit next weekend is NC State verbal Tamarcus Cooley, who is a safety on Maryland’s recruiting board. Behind Rico Walker, Cooley might be vying for second among targets who I feel most confident that will end up in Maryland’s class as the staff’s strong visit through the weekend for the Ohio State game laid the foundation for a possible flip. Speaking of Walker…

Four-star update…Hickory (NC) four-star athlete Rico Walker will unofficially visit both Florida and Kentucky this weekend as he keeps his recruitment slightly open. I still have him listed as ‘warmer’ on the big board and when asking a contact, I was told to not be concerned about his status when it comes to Walker’s stance on Maryland. I still expect Walker to announce before signing day despite him saying so, so we’ll see if there’s any change in status coming out of the weekend.

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