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Week 6 opponent preview: Maryland

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Hello, turtles

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 10 Maryland at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

(Editor’s note: With the season fast approaching, we want to take some time to familiarize ourselves with each of Indiana’s opponents this fall. This week, that’s exactly what we’ll do. Contributors from every SB Nation Big Ten team site have offered overviews of their respective programs, and we’ll run through each school in the order in which they appear on IU’s schedule.)

Up next: Maryland

Maryland - Testudo Times (Wesley Brown)

List your team’s key departures (name, position, role):

  • Anthony McFarland Jr, Running back: Lead back
  • Javon Leake, Running back: 1A back to compliment Leake
  • Tyrrell Pigrome, Quarterback: Was the longest-standing QB on the roster (Transfer to WKU)
  • DJ Turner, Wide Receiver: Senior figured to be top slot option but transferred to Pitt after B1G postponement

Key opt-outs:

  • TE Chigoziem Okonkwu
  • DL Olu Oluwatimi

List your team’s key returnees (name, position, role):

  • Antwaine Richardson, Safety: Senior leader on defense (Missed 2019 with injury)
  • Jeshaun Jones, Wide receiver: Breakout freshman season in 2018, missed 2019 with ACL tear
  • Aiynde “Ace” Eley, Linebacker: Key leader in the heart of the defense
  • Dontay Demus Jr, Wide receiver: Top receiver in 2019 who will hold a key stake in 2020
  • Jake Funk, Running back: Senior leader on the offense who hasn’t had a chance to hold that starting role due to strong depth in previous seasons

List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact (name, position, role):

  • Taulia Tagovailoa, Quarterback: Sophomore transfer from Alabama, brother of Tua — competing for QB1
  • Rakim Jarrett, Wide receiver: 5-star NSD flip from LSU, figures to be a key receiver playing inside of outside
  • Ruben Hyppolitte II, linebacker: 4-star freshman could be a gem — already taking leadership role and pushing for time
  • Jakorian Bennett, Cornerback: 2020 JUCO addition that could start immediately

Brief overview of 2020 team:

For Maryland, the 2020 season will be about continued growth. Head coach Mike Locksley often talked about the 2019 season being “Year 0” of his tenure as he works to truly rebuild the program.

With the shortened season, pause then restart and other factors, Locksley has dubbed this fall as “Year 0.5” to start out. The 3-9, 1-8 record in 2019 will serve as a baseline, and 2020 will be about showing improvement. While the Terps have been able to compete with out-of-conference opponents and Rutgers, there is a strong desire by fans to be a more competitive team in conference play.

Moving forward, the expectation for the team should be to win games against teams that have already proven they can beat, be competitive with the middle-tier of the Big Ten and avoid the large blowout losses whenever possible against the top programs. The Terps’ numerical record in 2020 will not matter too much, but it will be important to show some sort of improvement.

What’s your team’s biggest strength?

Skill positions. The Terps brought in Taulia Tagovailoa at quarterback to compete with redshirt freshman Lance Legendre and the position looks the most promising it has in a decade. Despite losses at running back, true freshmen Peny Boone and Isaiah Jacobs will work to shore up the room and create a balanced attack.

Wide receiver is by far Maryland’s best position with Jeshaun Jones returning from injury and Rakim Jarrett joining a room of receiver that have already proven their talent. If the quarterbacks have time to make plays, Maryland can pose a threat in the passing game.

What’s your team’s biggest weakness?

The trenches. Some of the biggest questions for Maryland football comes on both sides of the line. Both the offensive and defensive lines have questions about who will step up in 2020, and the offensive side will play a large part on the success of the team. If the unit can find a way to protect the quarterback, it will mean a ton. The defensive side needs to find ways to pressure opponents and make the job of defending easier for the defensive backs.

How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?

Even after a 3-9 season in 2019, the Maryland fanbase still feels positive about Mike Locksley and his staff. The program has rinsed and repeated the firing and hiring process, but with Locksley’s past at Maryland, there is more optimism.

Locksley has proactive and dedicated assistants who have done well to locate and draw talent into the program. It is understood that the rebuild will not be fast, but the positive momentum of the 2020 class has been followed well in 2021, so fans will just be looking for growth on the field.

Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?

Junior linebacker Aiynde “Ace” Eley had a breakout season in 2019, making the All-B1G Honorable Mention team, and is poised to become more of a leader in 2020. Eley started nine of 11 games played last season, tallying 79 tackles (including 44 solo tackles), four tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and one interception. His ability to continue his production and become a vocal leader of the defense will be important not only in 2020, but the future as well.

Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss:

3-5

Best win: Indiana

Rutgers would really be the only surprise loss.