10 bold predictions for Maryland in 2020
The much anticipated debut of Taulia Tagovailoa as a Maryland Terrapin is finally almost here. The COVID-19 pandemic initially resulted in the B1G indefinitely postponing the season, but now Year 2 under Mike Locksley is but weeks away.
Maryland will kick off an 8-game conference schedule with a road matchup at Northwestern on Oct. 24. Expect the Terps to look better than they did in last season’s 3-9 campaign.
How much better? Here are 10 bold predictions for what could go right for Maryland football in 2020:
1. Maryland finishes with a .500 record
In Locksley’s first season at the helm, Maryland struggled to a 3-9 record. Maryland experienced woes on both sides of the ball. The offense averaged a meager 25.2 points (95th in the nation), while the defense allowed a whopping 34.7 points (115th nationally).
Maryland has a challenging conference slate but a 4-4 record is attainable.
The Maryland offense will show marked improvement under new quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. Linebackers Ayinde Eley Jr. and Chance Campbell will anchor a rejuvenated Maryland defense. Kicker Joseph Petrino and punt returner D.J. Turner will be special teams standouts.
Add it all up and Maryland will have its first non-losing record since 2014.
2. Maryland defeats a ranked opponent
Maryland lost all four of its games against ranked opponents last season. The narrowest defeat was a 31-point loss against No. 18 Michigan.
This season, Maryland has four games against currently ranked opponents. Maryland hosts No. 25 Minnesota on Oct. 31. Maryland travels to No. 9 Penn State and No. 6 Ohio State the following two weeks. Maryland also has a road matchup against No. 20 Michigan on Dec. 5.
It’ll be too much of a task for Maryland to knock off either Penn State or Ohio State, but expect a better effort in those games. The game against Michigan will be even more competitive than the aforementioned other two matchups but a victory is still difficult to envision.
Maryland’s upset will come in the home opener against Minnesota. It’ll be a back-and-forth affair, with Maryland pulling away late for an exciting victory. This will be the first signature win for Locksley at Maryland and will set the tone for what will be a turnaround campaign.
3. Taulia Tagovailoa will post 25 total touchdowns and 3,000 yards from scrimmage
The brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will begin to craft his own collegiate legacy at Maryland after playing sparingly in mop-up duty last season at Alabama. Tagovailoa is a former 4-star prospect, and his dual-threat capabilities will be a boon to the Maryland offense.
Aloha means Eligible! 😉@tauliaa12 is IN for 2020. pic.twitter.com/7rS5ZUJ9hr
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) August 7, 2020
The accurate Tagovailoa will have a dynamic group of receivers to throw to, including Dontay Demus (41 receptions, 625 yards, 6 touchdowns) and 5-star freshman Rakim Jarrett. Tagovailoa will be a threat to reckon with on the ground as well behind an improved offensive line.
4. D.J. Turner will score multiple punt return touchdowns
Turner was explosive in his limited sample size last season, averaging 35.7 yards along with a touchdown. Turner will carry that momentum into this season and Maryland will have a great advantage in terms of establishing strong field position.
Turner will score at least two punt return touchdowns and will have a handful of other solid returns.
5. Freshman LB Ruben Hyppolite II will start by the end of the season
True freshman linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II has excellent potential. The 4-star recruit from South Florida has the speed and agility to harass running backs while also possessing a knack for making plays in coverage.
Hyppolite II is currently slotted behind Cortez Andrews at the SAM. However, Hyppolite II will make such an impact with his snaps that it’ll be impossible for the coaching staff to keep him off the field. Expect Hyppolite II to earn a starting spot by the time the season concludes.
6. The Maryland secondary will make major strides
It was quite the struggle for the Maryland secondary last season. Overall, the secondary was last in the B1G in passing yards allowed (271.3). However, the lumps taken last season by the young secondary will pay dividends in 2020.
Anchored by strong safety Nick Cross, the Maryland secondary won’t be as porous this season. Cross will prove why he’s a bonafide NFL Draft prospect. Redshirt senior safety Antwaine Richardson will bounce back admirably from last season’s ACL injury. Sophomore cornerback Deonte Banks will make the necessary next step in his game.
Overall, opponents will find it much more difficult to pass against an improved Maryland secondary.
7. WR Dontay Demus will significantly increase his production
Demus will be Tagovailoa’s top target and the main vertical threat for the Maryland offense. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Demus is adept at using his frame to create separation and break tackles. What Demus lacks in speed he compensates for with shiftiness and agility.
Expect Demus to nearly double his stats from last season. Demus should have double-digit touchdowns and at least 1,000 yards.
8. The offensive line won’t be a sack-surrendering sieve like in 2019
A shaky Maryland offensive line allowed a B1G-worst 38 sacks last season. However, senior center Johnny Jordan will be the centerpiece of a revived line. Redshirt sophomore Jaelyn Duncan and junior college transfer Johari Branch will make positive contributions as well.
Also, the shifty Tagovailoa will bail out his guys up front by escaping pressure better than last year’s QBs did.
9. Chance Campbell will develop into an NFL Draft prospect
Campbell, who had 54 tackles (4.5 for loss), a forced fumble and an interception, will step into a more prominent role. The 6-3, 225-pound linebacker has excellent athleticism and football IQ. Campbell will be an impactful presence on the interior. Campbell will be a dominant force against both the rush and the pass.
Campbell’s play will turn heads with draft scouts and his stock will rise.
10. Joseph Petrino will convert 80 percent of his field goal tries
After an impressive freshman campaign, kicker Joseph Petrino didn’t get many opportunities last season because of Maryland’s offensive woes. Petrino went 2-for-5 on field goals and 36-for-38 on extra points.
Petrino should get more chances this season with the offense’s improvement. With more opportunities, Petrino will rise to the occasion and convert at a proficient clip.