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An unproven group looks to bring Maryland football’s tight ends back to relevance in 2018

They’re a small part of Receivers Week here, but they shouldn’t be such a small part of Maryland’s offense anymore.

maryland football spring game practice

The lack of production by Maryland tight ends in the last two seasons has been well-documented, although there hasn’t been much to document. After Walt Bell was named offensive coordinator in 2016, the Terps have just five receptions from the position, zero of which came last year.

Bell has moved on to Florida State, and Matt Canada is now in charge of Maryland’s offense. All signs point to tight ends factoring in more prominently this season, even if that’s partly because it’s impossible to factor in less.

It doesn’t feel fair to discuss the entire tight end position group as simply a footnote in Receivers Week, but like all other Terps in the pass-catching business, the potential here far exceeds the returning production. Maryland’s four scholarship tight ends are all working toward changing the results and surrounding narratives from the old regime. Here’s what we know about them.

Avery Edwards, No. 82

Height: 6’4
Weight: 240 lbs.
Year: Senior
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
High School: Ravenscroft

Edwards is a college football anomaly in that his first year was by far his most productive. After joining UNC’s 2014 class as a three-star recruit but never enrolling due to a felony larceny charge, Edwards came to College Park and led Maryland tight ends with 14 catches, 115 yards and two touchdowns in 2015. But the Terps’ offense under Bell from 2016-17 didn’t rely on tight ends as much more than extra blockers. Edwards enters his senior season with one catch in his last 24 games.

But perhaps a new system will bring new hope. Canada seems intent on keeping all of his options open, which this season might mean placing different players in different spots to do different things. Edwards has enough experience to adapt well to whatever is asked of him this season, so expect to notice his number and hear his name a little more this fall.

Chigoziem Okonkwo, No. 17

Height: 6’2
Weight: 225 lbs.
Year: Freshman
Hometown: Powder Springs, Georgia
High School: Hillgrove

Okonkwo seemed like the kind of tight end Bell always wanted but never had: he’s big enough to be a blocker, but fast and agile enough to be a serious playmaking weapon. The three-star recruit was the only member of Maryland’s 2018 class to participate in the finals of The Opening, and his talent was on display all spring after he enrolled early.

As of now, Okonkwo and Edwards seem a step ahead of the two guys mentioned below, and it’ll be interesting to see how the duo splits up production and playing time. Edwards might be used more as a blocker and Okonkwo more as a receiver, or one might emerge as a better all-around asset. We also saw a couple two-tight end sets in the spring, so that’s in the arsenal as well.

Noah Barnes, No. 80

Height: 6’4
Weight: 225 lbs.
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Hometown: Auburn, Alabama
High School: Auburn HS

Andrew Park, No. 89

Height: 6’5
Weight: 260 lbs.
Year: Redshirt freshman
Hometown: Fairfax Station, Virginia
High School: Lake Braddock

Barnes and Park were both three-star recruits and both redshirted as freshmen. Barnes saw time on special teams last year, but neither has a college catch. As such, it’s easy to lump them together, although they’re definitely not the same player. Barnes has the extra year of experience, but Park’s size is comparable to what you’ll find in NFL tight ends, and he spent a good chunk of his senior year in high school as a slot receiver. Barnes has some explosiveness, as his 348 yards as a high school senior came on just 19 catches.

Both are still young and might not be needed as significant contributors yet, but there are spots on special teams and rotational offensive snaps there for the taking.

The Terps also have two walk-on sophomore tight ends on the roster, with nearly identical size—Zack Roski is listed at 6’7, 213 lbs., while Robert Schwob comes in at 6’6, 211. They’re the two tallest non-offensive linemen on the roster, which might pay dividends in some capacity, be it as an occasional red-zone target or on special teams. However, it’ll most likely be on the four players listed above to put up numbers and drag this position back toward relevance in College Park.