Maryland football’s 2019 season starts in 61 days. It’s the first year of the Mike Locksley era, and fans are hopeful it can be the start of something special. Once again, we’ll be spending our summer running through the Terps’ position groups as fall camp approaches.
We looked at the quarterbacks first, then examined the running back room, and last week we turned our attention to wide receivers. This week, we’ll focus in on the tight end group.
Maryland’s 2019 tight ends
|Tyler Mabry||GR||At Buffalo (27 rec, 230 yds, 2 TDs)|
|Noah Barnes||JR||No stats; 11 appearances|
|Chigoziem Okonkwo||SO||6 rec, 69 yds, TD; 3 rush, 72 yds, 3 TDs|
|Tyler Devera||FR||High School (3-star recruit)|
|Malik Jackson||FR||High School (3-star recruit)|
Expect the position to play a larger role this season.
To say Maryland has underutilized the tight end position is an understatement. The team hasn’t had a tight end with over 200 receiving yards in one season since 2013. Last season, all tight ends combined only had 82 receiving yards, accounting for just 4.8 percent of the team’s total receiving yards. The year before that the position didn’t account for a single catch.
At this year’s spring game, it was evident that a change was coming. Tight ends played a big role, with Chigozeim Okonkwo making seven catches for 63 yards and the sole two touchdowns for the White Team. On the Red Team, both of the receiving touchdowns came from tight ends, with Michael Cornwell, Noah Barnes and Robert Schwob accounting for 62 of the team’s 218 receiving yards (28.4 percent). After the game, coach Mike Locksley indicated they would be a bigger part of the offense this season.
Locksley knows how to use tight ends to his advantage offensively, as evident at Alabama last season. Tight ends had 15.2 percent of the Crimson Tide’s receiving yards and 19.2 percent of their touchdowns. Irv Smith Jr., the team’s top tight end, was taken 50th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft after producing 710 yards and seven touchdowns last year. The backup tight end had three touchdowns as well. And Locksley plans to run a very similar offense with the Terps.
There’s a lot of options, but little experience.
The Terps have seven different tight ends on the roster this season after Cornwell left the program and Andrew Park was removed from the online roster. Of the current group, Okonkwo is the only one to record receiving yards in a Maryland uniform. He had six receptions in 2018 for 69 yards, as well as 72 yards on three rushing attempts and three total touchdowns.
Okonkwo is likely to be the team’s top option, along with graduate transfer Tyler Mabry. At 6’3 and 235 pounds, Mabry had 27 catches for 230 yards and two touchdowns at Buffalo last season. He was a First Team All-MAC selection and should make an impact immediately.
Beyond that, no one at the position has much collegiate experience. Barnes appeared in 11 games last season, but never caught a pass, while walk-ons Zack Roski and Schwob have been on the team for two years without any playing time. Incoming freshman Malik Jackson was ranked as the best tight end in Maryland, while freshman Tyler Devera is a two-time New Jersey state champion. Fall camp will likely determine if any of these five can carve out a role.