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Forecasting Maryland football’s 2023 season: Top players, bold predictions and more

The editors give their predictions for the 2023 season.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State
Taulia Tagovailoa will be Maryland’s starting quarterback this season — his fourth with the Terps.
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just days away from Maryland football’s season opener against Towson, and with the season right around the corner, Testudo Times’ editors gave their predictions for the season.

Emmett Siegel, Andrew Chodes and Colin McNamara offered their choices on who they think Maryland’s most valuable players and newcomer of the year will be, along with a bold prediction and the team’s record.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Maryland’s over/under win total this season is seven. In a survey on last week’s schedule breakdown, Testudo Times readers voted on how many games they thought the Terps would win this season, with the majority (62%) saying they believe Maryland will win eight or nine.

Let’s get into the editors’ predictions.

Offensive MVP

Emmett’s pick: Taulia Tagovailoa

This is the boring pick, but Taulia Tagovailoa is the single most important player on Maryland’s team. His play has the ability to elevate the team to great heights when he’s on, and if Maryland’s going to have the season it hopes to it’s going to need more good than bad from Tagovailoa.

Assuming the offensive line can hold up reasonably, I see a big year coming from Tagovailoa given the multitude of weapons at his disposal. He will be put in plenty of positions to succeed, and a favorable early-season schedule should help build confidence as he heads into the home stretch.

Andrew’s pick: Roman Hemby

Is the obvious choice here Taulia Tagovailoa? For sure. Maryland had the third-best scoring offense in the Big Ten last year, only behind Ohio State and Purdue, and the Terps still have one of the top receiving corps in the conference.

But if Maryland’s offense wants to take the next step, their backfield — and Roman Hemby — is the key. As shown by his redshirt freshman campaign, during which Hemby tallied 989 rushing yards — over 600 more than the closest player — he has the talent to take over games.

Teams in the upper echelon of the Big Ten constantly have a deadly rushing attack, and Hemby has the potential to bring Maryland close to that, provided the Terps’ new offensive line can adjust and adapt as the season goes on.

Colin’s pick: Taulia Tagovailoa

Tagovailoa is the obvious pick for Maryland’s offensive MVP, yet his importance is insurmountable. Much of the Terps’ season will live and die with Tagovailoa. Late-game interceptions or touchdowns will likely be the difference in multiple games this season.

Tagovailoa is already the program leader in career passing yards (7,879), passing touchdowns (51) and completions (665). He finished third in the Big Ten in passing yards (3,008) last year and should be in line for another top-three finish with new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis.

“With coach Gattis, you know, our offense, I feel like we’re more Air Raid and it’s kinda [tailored] toward my strengths,” Tagovailoa said. “Us quarterbacks, in our room, we like to have the gunslinger mentality.”

Defensive MVP

Emmett’s pick: Beau Brade

Maryland’s defense has a number of players that could be viable options here, but I’m going with safety Beau Brade.

With Deonte Banks and Jakorian Bennett off to the NFL, Brade is the top defensive back on this roster. He was one of the defense’s most productive players a season ago and is poised for an even more impressive year, making him a prime candidate to lead the group. Jaishawn Barham may be the most talented player on this defense, but Brade’s role may be slightly more important given the team’s recent losses in the secondary.

I could also very well see Brade as the first Maryland player drafted in April.

Andrew’s pick: Jaishawn Barham

Easy decision for me here. Despite entering only his sophomore season, Barham is the most talented defensive player on the team in my eyes.

He was one of the best young defenders in the nation last year, managing 58 tackles and four sacks en route to an All-Big Ten honorable mention.

Outside of Beau Brade and Dante Trader Jr., Barham might be the most reliable and proven player on the entire defense. Expect him to be a monster in the middle of the field and rack up the best defensive stats of any Terp this year.

Colin’s pick: Jaishawn Barham

My second MVP pick won’t create much controversy either, but there is no denying Barham’s talent and role in Maryland’s defense. Linebacker is perhaps the Terps’ strongest defensive position group and Barham leads the room.

As a freshman, Barham totaled the most tackles by any Big Ten freshman and led the team with 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.

He will be tasked with rushing the passer, generating turnovers and clogging passing lanes across the middle of the field, all of which will make him indispensable.

Newcomer of the Year

Emmett’s pick: Jordan Phillips

There are plenty of options for newcomer of the year, and many of them come on the offensive side of the ball. But the wide receiver room could get a bit too crowded for any one player to stand out, and with multiple fresh faces on the offensive line, that unit encounters a similar issue. That’s why I’m choosing defensive lineman Jordan Phillips to make the biggest impact of any new player on the roster.

Maryland’s ability to rush the passer was lackluster last year, but camp buzz has been nothing but positive for Phillips, a Tennessee transfer. I see him making a notable impact and offering a big boost on the defensive line.

Andrew’s pick: Kaden Prather

When discussing breakout players, look no further than the wide receiver room.

A guy with plenty of skill, experience and an immense passion for the school that once recruited him is West Virginia transfer Kaden Prather. Not to mention he’s lit it up in practice, with head coach Mike Locksley raving about his speed and size.

“He’s a down the field, big play threat kind of guy,” Locksley said.

The 6-foot-4 wideout, ranked as the 10th-best wide receiver in the transfer portal by 247Sports following his sophomore campaign, tallied over 500 yards last season despite being the third or fourth choice for the Mountaineers.

Prather possesses all the skills to lead the Terps’ receivers this season.

Colin’s pick: Mike Purcell

There are multiple exciting transfers and freshmen on Maryland’s roster, but I believe Purcell will have the greatest impact this season.

The offensive line remains Maryland’s biggest question mark heading into the season. However, recent comments from Locksley provided some hope.

“We feel like we’ve got eight, nine guys that have, up to today, shown us that they have the ability to play winning football now,” he said. “A year ago, we probably had seven [linemen] that could play winning football for us in this league.”

While I could’ve picked any of the four new offensive lineman, I chose Purcell, who is trending toward being the unit’s center. Purcell and the rest of the offensive line will truly make a major impact in how this season plays out.

Bold Prediction

Emmett’s pick: Maryland will earn its highest ranking in 20 years.

Maryland’s schedule shapes up perfect for the Terps to inflate their record early in the season, and by doing so they could garner some national buzz that earns them plenty of votes in the polls.

The last time Maryland was ranked in the top 20 of the AP poll was 2003, when it entered the season ranked No. 15. Although they didn’t receive any votes in this year’s preseason poll, the Terps have an avenue to enter their Nov. 4 home game against Penn State at 7-1, which would almost assuredly allow them to crack the top 20. I’m predicting them to do just that, setting up not only Maryland’s highest ranking in two decades, but potentially a top-15 matchup in College Park.

Andrew’s pick: Tagovailoa flirts with 4,000 passing yards.

The best statistical quarterback in Maryland history is going to add another impressive accolade to his resume this season.

Interestingly enough, the feat of throwing for 4,000 yards has only been accomplished 94 times in FBS history, but I think all the stars are aligned for Tagovailoa to have a record season.

First and foremost, look no further than the schedule. To be frank, Maryland is very fortunate with its first few games, and Tagovailoa will have a legitimate chance to tally over 1,500 yards in the first four or five games. While the competition stiffens as the Terps enter Big Ten play, Tagovailoa, in his fourth year, has the experience under his belt to have his best season yet.

And the other factor lies with new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, who brings his own twist to the offense to College Park, giving Tagovailoa ample opportunities to pile up passing yards.

Colin’s pick: Maryland will play in an overtime thriller against a top opponent.

While I am not confident enough to choose which game, or pick the Terps to win, my bold prediction is that Maryland will push either Michigan or Penn State to overtime at home.

As far as the Michigan game goes, look no further than last year’s outcome. The Terps were a touchdown away from forcing overtime, but a Tagovailoa interception squandered their hopes. This time around, a home crowd on their side could be all the difference.

Maryland’s matchup against Penn State will most likely generate the largest turnout all season. It’s going to be an extremely emotional and energetic game at SECU Stadium, and one that can produce this unlikely outcome. Penn State quarterback Drew Allar has also yet to prove himself, and such uncertainty gives me an additional reason to make this prediction.


Emmett’s pick: 8-4

Two seasons ago, Maryland went 6-6 in the regular season. Last year, it went 7-5. I’m picking that progression to continue in 2023 and for the Terps to go 8-4.

It’s certainly possible that Maryland will upset one of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, but I’m not going as far as picking those games as wins. The Terps will be favored in most of their other games, and after what should be an undefeated non-conference slate, I see them tripping up once more outside of those three matchups, maybe in a road game against either Michigan State or Nebraska. Overall, an 8-4 record would be a very solid season and one that continues the program’s upward trajectory under Mike Locksley, landing the team in a favorable bowl game.

Andrew’s pick: 8-4

Not to insult Locksley, but the Terps won’t be competing for Big Ten championships this year. But they will have their best season under the fifth-year head coach.

Like we’ve seen in recent years, Maryland looks primed for another 3-0 start, but there are some trap games after that. Illinois and Nebraska will present tough challenges for the Terps, with Nebraska hosting one of the best gameday environments in America and Illinois presenting one of the most bruising teams to play against in the conference.

Finally, it’s been a few years since all three of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State were genuine national championship contenders, but they are this year. I just don’t see Maryland taking a game from any of them, and it feels like the Terps are bound to drop one of those games either at Nebraska or against Illinois.

Colin’s pick: 8-4

Looking at Maryland’s schedule and the talent on its roster, it’s hard to imagine the Terps finishing with less than seven wins, and I also have them winning eight.

Maryland’s three non-conference opponents — Towson, Charlotte and Virginia — don’t pose much of a threat. Towson is an FCS program, Charlotte lost 40 players to the transfer portal and Virginia doesn’t have the talent to make this game a legitimate rivalry.

In Big Ten play, I, as does everyone else, expect Maryland to lose to the conference’s powerhouses. For the rest of the Big Ten, Indiana, Northwestern and Rutgers are virtually layups at this point, while Nebraska, Michigan State and Illinois could knock off the Terps. I believe Illinois will be the only team outside of the “Big Three” to defeat Maryland, primarily because of its stout defense and the Terps’ refurbished offensive line.

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