The 2023 Maryland football season is finally here.
The Terps will open the season at home against Towson in the third all-time meeting between the two programs. Maryland handled the Tigers with ease in the previous two meetings, winning by a combined 71 points.
But head coach Mike Locksley and the rest of the team know they are competing against themselves on Saturday. While four-year starter Taulia Tagovailoa is back under center, the Terps have new faces at each position group, including four new starters on the offensive line, two highly-touted wide receiver transfers and substantial change in both the secondary and defensive line — all of which will be on full display this weekend.
“The start of the season is always important because it’s about momentum,” Locksley said. “It’s gonna be important not that we focus on Towson, but that we focus on Maryland.”
The game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.
Maryland football’s 2023 season kicks off on Saturday against Towson. The Terps are coming off an 8-5 season with back-to-back bowl game wins.@keara_bruno has the preview ahead of game one. pic.twitter.com/5anBvQAbqp— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) September 1, 2023
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Maryland is a 39-point favorite against the Tigers. The game has an over/under of 54 points.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Towson Tigers (0-0)
2022 record: 6-5 (4-4 CAA)
Head coach Pete Shinnick is entering his first season at Towson. Previously, he led West Florida to a Division II national championship in 2019 and playoff appearances in four of the last five seasons. Shinnick also earned Division II National Coach of the Year honors twice during his 20-year career.
Towson relieved Rob Ambrose of his duties following a 6-5 record last season, hoping Shinnick can repeat his Division II success. The Tigers are also facing a change at quarterback, as former Terp Tyrrell Pigrome is now playing in the CFL.
“[I’ve] got a lot of respect for coach Shinnick and the staff that he’s put together,” Locksley said. “The guy — all he does is win.”
Players to watch
Scott Smith III, redshirt sophomore quarterback, No. 16 – Smith earned the starting role in Towson’s season opener last year, but was limited throughout the season after suffering an injury. In his lone appearance, Smith completed four passes for 30 yards and picked up 18 yards on the ground. He is Towson’s expected starter come Saturday and will face a tall task in his first game back from injury.
Jesus Gibbs, graduate defensive lineman, No. 8 – Gibbs was Towson’s best defensive player last season, earning an All-CAA second-team selection. As a senior, Gibbs played in all 11 games — starting in 10 — and led the team with eight tackles for loss and five sacks. He also led all Towson defensive linemen with 44 tackles and seven quarterback hurries.
Robert Javier, graduate defensive back, No. 3 – Javier started 10 games at cornerback last season and finished first in the conference in pass break-ups (12) and second in total passes defended (14). He also had two pick-sixes — one of which was a 97-yard return at Delaware — and will most likely be tasked with guarding Jeshaun Jones.
Devin Matthews, senior running back, No. 3 – Pigrome, along with his team-high 574 rushing yards, is no longer with the team, which puts much of the rushing work on Matthews’ shoulders. Last season, Matthews had 478 rushing yards on 5.3 yards per carry. His 90 attempts and five touchdowns from last year will almost certainly see an uptick this season.
Returns. Towson ranked first in the Colonial Athletic Association in yards per kickoff return (22.1) and second in yards per punt return (13.1) last season. All of this production primarily comes from one player, though: D’Ago Hunter. While listed as a running back, Hunter is Towson’s return specialist. He was named CAA Special Teams Player of the Year last season, along with a All-CAA first-team selection as a kick returner and second-team selection as a punt returner. If the Tigers want to upset Maryland, Hunter will need to be impactful.
Level of competition. As an FCS school, Towson is simply not built to face teams of Maryland’s caliber. The Terps have won 19 straight games against FCS opponents, while Towson holds a 1-13 all-time record against FBS programs. Although anything can happen on any given Saturday, history is not on the Tigers’ side.
Three things to watch
1. Who will start on the offensive line? Locksley has been quite reserved when it comes to talking about the starters on the offensive line. Besides Delmar Glaze, the only starter returning from last year, no one entered fall camp with a guaranteed spot. With the unit being such an important piece to the Terps’ success this year, who the starters will be and how they perform is definitely something to look for.
2. What will Maryland’s wide receiver hierarchy look like? With three of its top receivers from last year’s team leaving and two transfers coming in, Maryland’s receiving room looks completely different. Outside of Jones, there is not a clear depiction as to who the Terps’ starting receivers will be. West Virginia transfer Kaden Prather was getting first-team reps during Tuesday’s practice, while FIU transfer Tyrese Chambers was running with the second team. Junior Tai Felton and sophomore Octavian Smith Jr. are also names to watch.
“We got a bunch of receivers that have the ability, have played some games for us and played other places,” Locksley said. “We know how we want to rotate them. They’ll all have roles for us.”
3. How quickly can Maryland adjust? With an entirely new coaching staff and a relatively inexperienced quarterback, Towson is somewhat of a mystery to the Terps. There’s no simple way to predict how the Tigers will operate this season with a new scheme and personnel, which may play to their advantage.
“The challenge is knowing that a team that we don’t know a lot about [is] going to come in here really well-coached, really well-disciplined and will play with great effort,” Locksley said. “The chess match starts once the game is played, and we’ve got to do a great job of kind of figuring out quickly what it is and how they want to attack us in all three phases, and then be prepared to make the necessary adjustments.”