Maryland football’s season continues with a Saturday home game against Charlotte, the second of three home contests to open the Terps’ 2023 campaign.
The Terps played Charlotte last season and won convincingly, 56-21. They’ll now host the 49ers in a return game under the lights at SECU Stadium. The matchup will kick off at approximately 7:30 p.m. on NBC — Maryland’s first prime-time game since the Big Ten signed its new media rights deal.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Terps are 24.5-point favorites (-2800 moneyline). The game has an over/under of 51.5 total points.
Charlotte 49ers (1-0, 0-0 American)
2022 record: 3-9 (2-6 Conference USA)
Charlotte brought in Biff Poggi to lead the program this offseason and usher in a new era as the university begins its time in the American Athletic Conference. This is Poggi’s first head coaching job at the collegiate level, but he has plenty of previous experience. He spent the past two seasons at Michigan as an associate head coach following a 23-year career as a Baltimore high school head coach, first at Gilman School and later at Saint Frances Academy, which he built into a national powerhouse.
“Coach Poggi, who I don’t just call an opponent — he’s a dear friend,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley, whose son played for Poggi at Gilman School, said. “... I’ve known Biff for a long, long time and got a lot of respect for him and the job he does as a coach.”
The 49ers took care of business against South Carolina State in their season opener, but face challenges in their first year after leaving Conference USA. They were picked last in the AAC’s preseason poll to the ire of Poggi, who hasn’t been afraid to ruffle feathers with comments expressing his annoyance at a perceived lack of respect for his team.
Players to watch
Jalon Jones, senior quarterback, No. 4 — Jones has the task of replacing Chris Reynolds as Charlotte’s starting quarterback after transferring in from Bethune-Cookman. He threw for 2,275 yards and 14 touchdowns with seven interceptions last season, adding 574 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. In the first game of the 2023 season, Jones went 13-for-19 with 125 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Shadrick Byrd, redshirt junior running back, No. 13 — Byrd was deservedly named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list this season because of his versatility and dynamism. He had nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards last season as Charlotte’s leading rusher and kick returner en route to an all-conference honorable mention.
Eyabi Okie-Anoma, graduate defensive lineman, No. 0 — A transfer from Michigan, Okie-Anoma had six tackles for loss and four sacks a season ago. He made an immediate impact in the 49ers’ season opener, recording a sack and two tackles for loss. He was ranked by The Athletic as the No. 95 most impactful transfer in the nation and earned a spot on the Senior Bowl watch list.
Wayne Jones, redshirt senior defensive back, No. 9 — As a safety, Jones finished second on Charlotte’s team in tackles last season despite missing the final three games with an injury. He picked up right where he left off against South Carolina State, totaling 10 tackles to lead all players.
Running the ball. Albeit against a weaker opponent, Charlotte had 220 rushing yards in its first game, with four players recording at least 40 yards. Byrd leads the charge in the running back room, but four-star freshman Durell Robinson also presents a threat behind a capable offensive line.
Roster continuity. The turnover on Charlotte’s roster that took place this past offseason is essentially unparalleled in college football. The 49ers have 70 new players this year, with over 40 from last year’s team either transferring or turning down the option to return. Their overall talent level has generally improved, but there may be some growing pains.
Three things to know
1. A homecoming. Charlotte’s roster is chock-full of players returning to their home state, previous school or both. Six current 49ers transferred in from Maryland, and a whopping 29 played high school football at Saint Frances Academy.
2. Securing the edge. Jalon Jones offers mobility at the quarterback position, something that has given Maryland plenty of trouble in the past. The Terps got a small glimpse of a similar type of signal-caller against Towson, but will need to step up and seal off Jones’ running lanes to stunt the 49ers’ offense.
“The quarterback, he’s a runner,” Maryland cornerback Ja’Quan Sheppard said. “... Containing will be something we’ve definitely got to work on from a secondary to line standpoint.”
3. National audience. Saturday’s game is Maryland’s first nationally-televised game of the season and presents a big opportunity. While other prime-time games may lead some viewers away from College Park, the Terps have a chance to make a statement and help shape the national narrative around them with extra onlooking eyeballs.
“It’s good for us to showcase the university. It’s good for us to showcase the things we have here in the DMV area,” Locksley said of the national audience for Saturday’s game. “So we’re excited about the opportunity.”
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