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Predictions for Maryland football’s 2021 season

The editors choose their offensive MVP, defensive MVP, x-factor, freshman of the year and give a record prediction ahead of Maryland football’s season.

Maryland football season is returning in a week and the editors at Testudo Times decided it was time to reveal our program predictions for the upcoming year.

Without further ado, check out our favorite selections for offensive and defensive MVP, biggest team x-factor, freshman of the year and our record predictions for the 2021 Maryland football season below.

Dylan’s Predictions

Offensive MVP: QB Taulia Tagovailoa

This was the easiest selection of the entire prediction slate. Tagovailoa is primed to have a breakout year and his potential successful season can lead directly to a solid record for his team. The junior quarterback has already been named to three separate watch lists prior to the season. After racking up 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns over just four games in 2020, the only thing stopping Tagovailoa this season could be his decision-making. Tagovailoa threw seven interceptions last year, but if he limits his turnovers, this year could be special for him and he’s likely going to be the team’s most impactful offensive player.

Defensive MVP: DB Tarheeb Still

Still is the most exciting piece on this Maryland defense and he’s expected to take a colossal step forward in his sophomore year with the program. He started four out of five total games for Maryland last year and led the nation with two pass breakups per game en route to becoming a 2020 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. Keep in mind he was just a freshman a year ago, meaning Still is in line to lead Maryland’s defense in his second season.

X-Factor: RB Tayon Fleet-Davis

Jake Funk is gone from Maryland’s backfield, which leaves redshirt senior Tayon Fleet-Davis with a bigger role on offense with the running back position wide open for the most part. He only played in one game last season and went for 23 yards on the ground, but he should receive the most usage out of any Maryland running back in 2021. If Fleet-Davis can help get the Terps’ running game anywhere close to where it has been the last few seasons, it’ll be a big sigh of relief for the offense as a whole.

Freshman of the Year: LB Branden Jennings

Jennings is making the most noise out of any Maryland freshman during the preseason. Head coach Mike Locksley has praised Jennings’ abilities on the field recently, and it shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise. The Jacksonville, Florida native came to the program as a consensus four-star linebacker and is a very hard-hitting, physical player, per his scouting report on 247Sports. Jennings should see some time on the field early on in the season, and if he’s given the opportunity, he can turn some heads with his skill set.

Record prediction: 5-7

Looking at Maryland’s schedule, the Terps can grab wins over Howard, Illinois, Kent State, Minnesota and Michigan State and potentially even over Rutgers as well. Everything else for Maryland will be an uphill battle on a difficult schedule. The Big Ten will not get any easier this season and the Terps will likely find themselves in the middle-of-the-pack if all goes well offensively and defensively. One potential upset game that most will look forward to will be against Penn State in College Park on November 6.

Sam’s Predictions

Offensive MVP: QB Taulia Tagovailoa

This might seem like the obvious choice, given the quarterback is the most impactful position on the field, but I truly believe this team will go as far as Taulia can take this offense. There is a ton of promise surrounding the guy behind center in College Park because of some dominant performances in 2020. Tagovailoa will have to keep the turnovers down to allow this offense to go where it is capable of, but he will have a plethora of weapons all over the field to help him take the next step. I expect a terrific season from Taulia, earning him the MVP honors for Maryland football.

Defensive MVP: DB Tarheeb Still

Still had an impressive freshman year for Maryland and will look to build on that in year two. Still is incredibly athletic and has great instincts. He was named a Freshman All-American by The Athletic and selected as an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. He led the nation in pass breakups per game. Defensive Coordinator Brian Stewart will look to Still as a premier player in the secondary and I believe he’ll be the most impactful player on defense.

X-Factor: TE Chigoziem Okonkwo

It may seem naive to have a tight end as an X-factor, but Okonkwo is primed for a breakout year that can take this already dangerous Terps offense to the next level. The senior from Powder Springs, Georgia did not play in 2020 due to medical reasons, but is back and ready to build on an impressive sophomore campaign. In that 2019 season, Okonkwo was second in the team in receptions and third in receiving yards. He also has found himself in the end zone six times in 24 games. All indications are Okonkwo has had a great camp and with the elite playmakers on the outside, there will be even more opportunity for Okonkwo to make plays in the middle of the field.

Freshman of the Year: LB Demeioun Robinson

Robinson was a huge get for Maryland and is expected to have an impact on the defensive end as a freshman. As a four-star linebacker, Robinson was the top-ranked player in the state of Maryland, according to ESPN. There’s no question Robinson will be on the field for plenty of the defensive snaps and his ability to get to the quarterback from an outside linebacker position will be on full display. Although he’s not considered the best freshman on the defensive side of the ball, I expect Robinson to have a monster year and prove his worth as a freshman.

Record prediction: 5-7

The excitement surrounding Maryland football this season is justified. It has the talent and potential to have its best season in a long time, and certainly in head coach Mike Locksley’s tenure. When evaluating the Terps schedule, there is a three-week stretch where Maryland will play Howard, Illinois and Kent State. Those are three games the Terps should win early on in the season.

Maryland might not be favored in any other game the rest of the season, but could easily pick up a win against Rutgers the last game of the season. This Maryland squad is also built to take down favorites, which they did twice last year against Minnesota and Penn State. I believe Maryland will take down one of Michigan State, Minnesota or Iowa to get them to five wins.

While a losing record may not seem like a successful season, five wins and a bowl game would mark the beginning of a legitimate turnaround in College Park.

Lauren’s Predictions

Offensive MVP: QB Taulia Tagoviloa

As Tagoviloa enters his second season with the Terps, he’s now had an entire offseason to continue to get acclimated with the program. As a sophomore during the abbreviated 2020 season, Tagovailoa completed 75 of his 122 passing attempts, threw for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns. However, when looking at the most promising aspects of Tagovailoa’s 2020 performance the Minnesota game stands out. The quarterback had an explosive game as he threw for 394 yards and five touchdowns displaying his potential to have a break-out season this year in College Park. With seven interceptions over four games in the 2020 season, Tagovailoa will have to keep the turnovers to a minimum however, if he can, he will have a great season and be the cornerstone for this Maryland team.

Defensive MVP: DB Nick Cross

Cross has the potential to make an even bigger jump than he did between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Over four games in 2020, Cross had 23 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and broke up three passes. Ahead of the season, Cross was named to the Pro Focus Football All-Big Ten Second Team as expectations are high for his junior year.

X-Factor: DB Tarheeb Still

Still is a defender who is coming into the 2021 season with high expectations surrounding him and it’s for a good reason. In his freshman season, Still started in four matchups and led the nation with two pass breakups per game. He totaled 20 tackles and his performance earned him freshman All-American honors by The Athletic. Similar to Cross, ahead of this season, Still was named to the Pro Focus Football All-Big Ten Second Team and is expected to play a key role in leading this Maryland defense.

Freshman of the Year: LB Branden Jennings

Jennings is joining the program as a four-star recruit out of Jacksonville, Florida and head coach Michael Locksley has already expressed through the preseason camp that he’s been pleased with the young linebacker so far. Locksley said that Jennings exudes confidence as well as leadership and plays physically which will serve him well in Maryland’s tough slate that lies ahead. As a senior in 2020, Jennings had 127 tackles, 19 for loss, 12 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. If Jennings sees time on the field and carries his momentum from his high school career with him, he will be an impact player for the Terps.

Record prediction: 5-7

The Terps have a challenging schedule ahead of them as they prepare to face four preseason AP Top 25 teams along with two that received votes. However, Maryland should be able to secure wins against Howard, Illinois, Kent State, Michigan State and Rutgers. The Terps also have the potential to pull off an upset over the likes of either Minnesota or Penn State. Ultimately, Maryland has a tough slate and will have to play at a consistent level all season if it hopes to finish with its best record under Locksley’s leadership.