Takeaways from Maryland Football Media Day and Training Camp Opening Day

Wednesday was the first day of football training camp in Maryland, with all the players and coaches returning from summer break and gathering on the pitch to prepare for the September 3 game opener against Buffalo.

Head coach Mike Locksley, offensive coordinator Dan Enos, defensive coordinator Brian Williams and various players spoke to the media to share their excitement for the upcoming season.

One thing was clear: There is a lot of excitement attached to this repeat of Maryland football, and expectations at College Park are higher than they’ve been in a long time.

“I call it Christmas in August, where I get to open up all the new toys that we’ve recruited over the past six months,” Locksley said. “You just feel the excitement that our players have going into this season.”

Let’s come to some snack bars from the media day.

Continuity on offense inspires confidence for the Terps

From the playmakers, to the offensive line, to the coaches and the quarterback himself, there’s a feeling Maryland’s offensive line will be electric in 2022. After a record-breaking season for quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and the entire Maryland offense, this group is expected to take an even bigger step forward.

The optimism is rooted in the fact that nearly everyone who made the Terps offense so special last season has returned to College Park. That starts with Tagovailoa, of course, but it’s much more than just the man under the middle. Both players and coaches spoke about the offensive continuity in the group.

Tagovailoa’s two best weapons in receiver Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus Jr. return to the group, with Demus recovering quickly from a cruciate ligament rupture. He is expected to be back in the first week.

All five Maryland offensive linemen are returning to position with steady depth. With both Locksley and Enos and various players, the positional group that everyone keeps talking about is the offensive line, which Locksley describes as the “most improved unit” on the team.

And for the second straight season, Tagovailoa has his play-caller back with him in Enos. Familiarity throughout the offense should bode well for a unit that can field monster numbers.

“The continuity in our squad with our coaching staff is another real key to this excitement that I have,” Locksley said.

Those returning from injuries will try to recover and make a difference

After a 2021 season plagued by injuries to key contributors, many of those whose seasons were curtailed are expecting to be back in time for Maryland’s first game against Buffalo on Sept. 3. Most notably, Locksley expects wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. to fully recover in time for the season opener from the knee injury he sustained against Iowa on Oct. 1, 2021, echoing a similar statement he made at Big Ten Football Media Day made in Indianapolis.

“He’s ahead of schedule, not necessarily on track, and we think we’ll see him in the first game,” Locksley said. “He was in all the offseason workouts. He continues to be one of the great leaders we have in our program…Having him back was just great for our program and great for our offense.”

“I feel like I’m coming back for a bigger purpose than myself,” Demus added, explaining his motivation for returning to the Terps this season. “I play for my brothers, my family. There are people who count on me that I don’t even know, to be honest.”

Demus plans to be one of, if not the, best option in Maryland’s prolific passing game, a unit that drew a lot of attention last season. However, he’s not the only Impact player returning from injury. Fellow wideout Jeshaun Jones is also expected to return early in the season. Defense — particularly the linebacker position — should be rejuvenated by the presence of a few playmakers who missed a lot of time in 2021.

“We’re going into this off-season, this season I should say, relatively healthy. And we want to stay that way,” defensive coordinator Brian Williams said as he tapped the wooden podium in front of him for good luck. “We’re bringing back guys like Fa’Najae Gotay, Durell Nchami, Deonte Banks, guys that we lost during last year’s season and who are very influential players for us.”

The presence of Gotay and Nchami should give the linebacker some stability, and Banks will have to fill in for defenseman Nick Cross after his departure to the NFL.

With last season in the rearview mirror, the Terps are looking to reach new heights in 2022

After ending the 2021 season with a 7-6 record and the first bowl win in over a decade, expectations have risen both externally and internally for Locksley and the Maryland football program. While there is still a lot to do, last season has shown both fans and the team that progress is being made and that there is potential to improve further.

“I just want to show the world that we’re not the same Maryland that we’ve been for the past few years,” said Redshirt tight-end sophomore Corey Dyches. “I want to bring back that energy from the fan community. I will [Maryland] to be a successful culture and I think this is the year we will do that.”

Redshirt Senior Defense Lineman Greg China-Rose echoed this view. “I feel like last season was a breaking point, a turning point,” he said. “That was a little glimpse of who we are and I’m looking forward to this year. In the spring and summer I’ve seen what we’re going to be, I see us transforming into a different kind of team.”

With the continuity that exists across multiple position spaces and an influx of talent that will add a new dimension to the Terps’ game, Maryland has the bricks to make a leap in fourth-year under Locksley. It will try to maintain this bullish momentum in 2022.

“Going to a bowl game just goes to show that if you have the right habits and behaviors, that’s what happens,” Locksley said. “What I want to make sure we are all not misconstrued is that we can build on what we achieved last year because we really can’t. We have to start from scratch. Last year’s team is gone… as we line up for our first practice today it will be about this team creating an identity and maybe using some of the lessons learned from last year to help us take the next step this year .”

Leave a Comment