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Corey Dyches represents the only proven commodity among Maryland’s tight ends

Dyches is the only tight end on the roster with a collegiate reception to their name.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Rutgers at Maryland
Corey Dyches is Maryland’s only returning tight end that caught a pass last season.
Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our Maryland football position previews continue with a look at the Terps’ tight ends. Thus far, we have analyzed the team’s linebackers, secondary, special teams, offensive line and defensive line.

Maryland’s tight end room is under new leadership with the hiring of Kevin Sumlin as the group’s position coach. Sumlin brings a swath of high-level experience to the table, having previously been a head coach at Houston, Texas A&M and Arizona. At Maryland, he inherits a collection of tight ends with a proven returner in Corey Dyches, but a unit still looking to establish depth with C.J. Dippre off to Alabama.

Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Terps’ tight ends this year.

Maryland’s 2023 tight end depth

Corey Dyches Junior (RS) 39 receptions, 494 yards, 3 TDs
Preston Howard Freshman (RS) N/A
Rico Walker Freshman High School (4-star recruit)
Leron Husbands Sophomore (RS) N/A
Dylan Wade Freshman High School (3-star recruit)
A.J. Szymanski Freshman High School (3-star recruit)
Maxwell Brown Sophomore (RS) N/A
Joshua Jennings Sophomore N/A
Thomas McCluskey Freshman High School

Dyches is primed for a big year

Last season, Maryland had a two-headed monster in the tight end room with Dyches and Dippre, who combined for 69 receptions, 808 yards and six touchdowns. But Dippre, who began to garner NFL buzz, transferred to Alabama in the offseason, leaving Dyches as the undoubted leader at the position — the only returnee that has caught a pass in college.

Dyches has shown flashes of stardom in his career and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention this past season. But with Dyches being the only proven threat at his position, 2023 will be his best shot to break out as one of the best tight ends in the conference.

“He’s really the only guy with experience,” Sumlin said in the spring of Dyches. “But 500 yards of experience is pretty good. It’s a good place to start.”

Last season, Dippre emerged as a high-level blocker while Dyches showcased more athleticism in the receiving game. The Terps used plenty of two-tight end sets to take advantage of that one-two punch, but Dyches didn’t necessarily have an opportunity to prove his blocking ability as much. That remains his biggest question mark heading into the season.

Now, that’s not to say that Dyches doesn’t have the strength and ability to become a complete tight end that can make an impact at the next level. He’s shown his ability to excel at the more physical aspects of the game, namely when he dragged a Purdue defender nearly 15 yards into the end zone for a highlight-reel touchdown last October. In fact, as a freshman, Dyches sat behind Chigoziem Okonkwo on the depth chart — a similarly-built tight end that was primarily considered a threat in the passing game due to his athleticism, but has found early success with the Tennessee Titans in the NFL. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Dyches slots in a bit smaller than what the 6-foot-3, 250 pounds Okonkwo was listed at ahead of his senior season, but the athleticism is impossible to ignore.

By default, Dyches’ presence provides a de facto extra receiver on the field for the Terps, but one of the key factors in improving their running game from last year — one that was far better than anticipated — will be blocking provided by the tight end position. If Dyches showcases an improved overall skillset this fall, Maryland’s offense could take on another dimension.

Who else will step up?

If the spring game is any indication — and that’s an assumption at best — Preston Howard is in line for the second-most snaps at tight end behind Dyches. Howard had three receptions for 61 yards in the spring game, one of the top performances among pass-catchers.

“Not playing last season kind of took a toll on my confidence a little bit, you know, not being able to show what I can do against college players. But this spring really showed me they’re the same as me,” Howard said after the spring game. “I’ll be good. I just gotta have confidence in myself. And when I have confidence in myself, the sky’s the limit.”

Howard played quarterback in high school and was one of the highest ranked players from the state of Maryland in his class, but standing at 6-foot-5 without an obvious path to substantial playing time, he was moved to tight end and redshirted during his first year in College Park. And now with Dippre gone and the role of the team’s second tight end up for grabs, Howard seems like the most likely candidate to see an uptick in repetitions during the season.

Another highly-ranked recruit that moved to tight end is Rico Walker, Maryland’s top signee in the class of 2023 that transitioned from outside linebacker, although he did gather some experience at wide receiver in high school. He made two catches for 18 yards in the spring game after enrolling early.

Also, Leron Husbands saw action in one game last season but didn’t record a statistic. He could, however, be a good candidate for a blocking-first tight end considering his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame and relative experience.

Other incoming freshmen Dylan Wade and A.J. Szymanski will figure into the program’s future plans, but are likely too early in their careers to make major impacts.

On paper, Maryland’s tight end group seems like Dyches and everyone else. But the importance of depth in football can never be underestimated, and in order to reach its full potential, the collection of tight ends on the roster will have to do just that.

“The other guys, we gotta find out,” Sumlin said. “They understand that. We’ve talked about that and what their roles are going to be and how they’re going to be able to help us win.”