Two days after former University of Buffalo tight end Tyler Mabry put his name into the NCAA transfer portal, he received a FaceTime call from Mike Locksley, who had been hired as head coach of Maryland two months prior.
The 2018 First Team All-MAC selection was seeking a new home for his final year of eligibility, and after the February call, Mabry knew the Terps meant business in the first year of the Locksley era.
“I knew he was legit,” Mabry said, “And I knew he wanted me.”
Mabry had seen what Locksley accomplished the year before with former Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr., and he wanted that success for himself with the Terps. As Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2018, Locksley helped lead Smith to 44 receptions, 710 yards and seven touchdowns. Following his career year, Smith earned Second Team All-America accolades and was taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the No. 50 overall pick in the second round of the NFL Draft.
“That was a big impact for me,” Mabry said. “Irv Smith Jr. had a big move with Alabama and my eyes just opened and I was like, ‘Yeah I want to come [to Maryland].’”
Last season, Maryland’s tight ends combined for 82 receiving yards, but Locksley has made it clear that will change this season, incorporating a similar offense to the one at Alabama with more production from the tight end position.
That was on display during this year’s spring game with sophomore tight end Chigozeim Okonkwo making seven catches for 63 yards and two scores for the White Team; and tight ends Michael Cornwell (who’s since left the program), Noah Barnes and Robert Schwob accounting for 62 of the teams 218 receiving yards.
“If you’re doing a scouting report, you better watch a lot of Alabama,” Locksley said.
Despite catching 27 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns last season for Buffalo, and a total of 60 catches for 537 yards and three touchdowns over three seasons, Mabry described himself as more of a blocking tight end. He hopes to improve his receiving ability at Maryland. The Ypsilanti, Michigan, native has been working with tight ends coach Mike Miller, who is only six years older than Mabry, to improve his overall technique.
“[We’re working on] everything. Footwork, coming off of breaks faster,” Mabry said. “[I’m] just very excited, because that’s the main thing is to helping you push towards being a better receiver.”
Mabry said he was impressed by Miller’s maturity and experience at programs such as Clemson and Alabama, where he served as a graduate assistant before taking his first on-field job with the Terps.
“I was like, ‘he’s only six years older than me?’” Mabry said. “But he’s very mature, I respect him a lot.
Mabry hasn’t been with the program long, but he’s caught the eyes of both teammates and coaches already. In the limited time he’s seen Mabry, Maryland offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery has been impressed with the tight end’s work ethic.
“In the places that we have seen Tyler, in the weight room, he’s a beautiful specimen,” Montgomery said. “He’s a great young man, very smart and detailed in the playbook, he knows it really well.”
Although Mabry says that his decision to come to Maryland took a little bit of time, he’s confident that he made the right decision and is looking forward to competing in the hard-hitting Big Ten conference. With the Terps and Locksley’s offense, Mabry has the opportunity to have a similar situation as Smith and become the first Maryland tight end with over 200 receiving yards in a season since 2013.
“He knows this is his final year so he’s not taking anything for, like, jokes. He just comes in every day and puts in the work,” Okonkwo said. “He takes film seriously. He takes his body seriously, like all his recovery stuff, everything on the field. And it really helps us. He gives us something to look to in terms of doing stuff the right way.”