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Maryland football vs Howard preview: First game of the Mike Locksley era

The Terps open the season at home against the Bison.

Howard v UNLV Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After a long offseason that saw a new coaching staff brought in, a first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, three transfers arrive and earn starting jobs immediately, and much more, Maryland football is back for the 2019 season.

It’s the first game of the Mike Locksley era, and the Terrapins will battle it out against Howard University, which sits less than seven miles south of College Park in Washington, D.C. On Saturday, the Bison and Terps will meet on Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium as the two look to start the year on a strong note.

Saturday’s game is slated to kick off at noon ET, and the action can be watched on the Big Ten Network and streamed on BTN2Go.

Howard Bison

2018 record: 4-6 (4-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference)

Head coach Ron Prince, like Locksley on the opposite sideline, is entering his first season as head coach of his current team. His last stint in charge of a program was a three-year run at Kansas State that saw the Wildcats go a combined 17-20 and lose their only bowl game. Since, Prince has shuffled around in the college game as well as the NFL, most recently serving as an offensive analyst at the University of Michigan in 2018. Before that, he spent four seasons with the Detroit Lions as an assistant head coach.

Players to know

Caylin Newton, junior quarterback, 6’0, 195 lbs, No. 3. If Newton’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s for a reason. He’s the younger brother of Carolina Panthers signal caller and former NFL MVP Cam Newton. While Caylin isn’t playing at a powerhouse like Auburn, he’s been mightily impressive under center for the Bison. After a season that saw him throw for 2,629 yards and 22 touchdowns while also adding 504 yards and four scores on the ground across 10 games, Newton was named 2018 MEAC Offensive Player of the Year. That came on the heels of a Rookie of the Year Award in 2017.

“[Newton] is a dynamic player,” Locksley said at a press conference Tuesday. “He extends plays with his feet, he can make plays with his arm. He has a lot of experience, he’s been starting since he was a true freshman. We’ve got to do a good job of containing him and making him win in the pocket... It’s a great challenge for us going into Week 1.”

Dedrick Parson, redshirt sophomore running back, 5’8, 195 lbs, No. 31. Parson took a redshirt in his first year with the program in 2017, and that ended up to be a tremendous turn of events for him. When he was finally ready to be unleashed last season, Parson made the most of his opportunity, rushing for 706 yards and nine touchdowns on just 125 carries. He also added 14 catches for 226 yards and a receiving touchdown, and when his debut season was over, Parson was named MEAC Rookie of the Year.

Jequez Ezzard, senior wide receiver, 5’9, 190 lbs, No. 12. Though Ezzard may lack the prototypical frame of a dominating wide receiver, that hasn’t stopped the now-senior from decimating opposing secondaries. Named a first-team MEAC All-Conference weapon last season, Ezzard hauled in 40 catches for 1,064 yards and 12 touchdowns, all of which led the Bison. Known for his speed and agility, he averaged a whopping 26.6 yards per catch last year, and he could be a headache for any and all defensive coordinators in his final campaign.

Zamon Robinson, sophomore defensive lineman, 6’4, 225 lbs, No. 40. While Howard’s offense is what stands out, the defense has some playmakers as well. That includes Robinson, who has a great mix of length and speed on the edge. As a true freshman a season ago, he racked up 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss, both of which led the Bison. In total, he racked up 32 tackles, and after a full offseason in a college weight room, he could be even more of a force in 2019.


Offense. Led by Newton, who is flanked with playmakers like Parson, Ezzard and more, the Howard attack was a force to be reckoned with in 2018. The Bison led the MEAC in scoring and total offense with 33.6 points per game and 470.8 yards per game, which ranked 21st and 15th in the FCS, respectively. And given Newton’s growth as a passer and the continued development of those around him, this year’s offense could be even better.


Defense. As great as Howard was on the offensive side of the football, things fell apart for the Bison on the back end. The Bison surrendered 50-plus points in games against Kent State and Bryant, and while the rest of their season wasn’t horrible defensively, their year-long stats suffered. The unit ranked last in the MEAC in scoring defense with 34.1 points per game surrendered, and it allowed a conference-worst 448.1 yards per game as well.

However, like the team as a whole, the Bison defense is under new leadership in 2019. Elijah Sandweiss (also previously an analyst with Michigan) is now coordinating the unit, and that affects how the Terps gameplan offensively.

“We don’t have a lot of tape,” Terps quarterback Josh Jackson said Tuesday. “We’ve been watching Michigan because that’s where [Sandweiss] is from. But other than that, you don’t have any tape. And you can watch last year and see their personnel but that’s it.”

Three things to watch

1. How does Josh Jackson perform in his debut? After a long quarterback battle that lasted the entire summer, Locksley named Jackson as the guy he wants leading the offense. The redshirt junior has a history of success at the helm of a collegiate offense from his days at Virginia Tech, but entering 2019, he has a clean slate. The past is behind him, and it’s time to see what Jackson has in store for this season. While returning to the field coming off a season-ending injury may be an emotional moment for some, he’s just ready to play his favorite sport again.

“It’ll just be football,” Jackson said Tuesday. “It doesn’t change. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play against Howard and hopefully each game after that. But not too much will change.”

2. Does Anthony McFarland’s success carry over to 2019? As a redshirt freshman making his collegiate debut a season ago, McFarland took the conference by storm, toting the ball 131 times for 1,034 yards (7.9 per carry) and four touchdowns. That included a 298-yard performance against Ohio State, showing that he can take over a game against the best of the best. Facing an FCS opponent in Howard, McFarland can start his redshirt sophomore campaign with a bang.

3. Can Jon Hoke’s defense contain the Bison offense? Locksley’s new staff includes Hoke, and the defensive coordinator’s scheme will be tested right out of the gates against Howard. Newton, Parson and Ezzard may be lacking in build, but all three have blazing speed and are dynamic athletes. In years past, the Terps have struggled mightily in rushing the passer, and while sacks are wonderful, the key to stopping Newton and Co. could be to contain the quarterback to the pocket and make him beat you in the air (he threw 17 interceptions last season).


Vegas: Maryland -29.5, O/U 65.5

ESPN FPI: Maryland 98.9% chance to win

Me: Maryland 45, Howard 24

Catch up before the game