Maryland football found a unique route to a 3-9 record in 2019. The Terps won their first two games 79-0 and 63-20 to vault into the AP rankings, then lost eight of their last nine, beating only Rutgers. Maryland scored 142 points in its first two games and 161 in its last 10. It averaged 63.3 points in wins and 12.6 in losses.
There’s humor in this — Banner Society’s Spencer Hall likened it to eating all the snacks at the start of the movie. But a dismal season puts head coach Michael Locksley’s program at a crossroads. Several factors played into Maryland’s downturn in 2019, and he knows he can’t let them linger. His job isn’t on the line yet, but it’s tougher now than ever to sell Maryland to recruits, and another poor season next fall only makes the hole deeper.
Since Maryland closed the season with a 19-16 loss to Michigan State Nov. 30, the Terps’ roster has already undergone a litany of changes. There’s a long way to go in the offseason, but here’s a rundown of what’s happened so far.
THE NFL DRAFT DEPARTURES
Maryland’s top two offensive weapons in 2019, running backs Javon Leake and Anthony McFarland Jr., both had decisions to make about potential pro futures. Leake had a year of eligibility left. McFarland, who redshirted his first season, had two. But neither back took much time to decide. McFarland announced his decision Dec. 3, with Leake following him less than 24 hours later.
Leake led Maryland with 736 rushing yards on just 102 carries (7.2 yards per carry), scoring eight rushing touchdowns and adding two scores on kickoff returns. He won Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year and was named Maryland’s Offensive Player of the Year at the team’s awards banquet. He leaves the Terps with three career kick return scores, tied with Torrey Smith for the program’s all-time record.
McFarland had eight rushing scores of his own and added a receiving touchdown. After a 1,034-yard redshirt freshman season, McFarland’s numbers dipped to 614 yards on 114 rushes, plus 17 catches for 126 yards. But he closed his career on a high note, amassing 134 yards against Michigan State.
This leaves Maryland’s backfield without a proven workhorse next season. Tayon Fleet-Davis, the other member of the Class of 2017 backfield trio, was charged with a DUI in November and faces a somewhat uncertain future with the team. Redshirt seniors Lorenzo Harrison III and Jake Funk will be returning from serious knee injuries in consecutive seasons. The Terps have a trio of three-star commits — Ebony Jackson and Peny Boone committed in June, while Kyjuan Herndon did so Dec. 8 — to round out the position group.
This sort of exodus is reasonably common — it’s nowhere near the 24 transfers in Randy Edsall’s first 14 months. There was no serious purge when Locksley came aboard, which at the time seemed like a good thing. But as the season went on, it became clear that neither the talent nor the culture was where it needed to be, and that significant overhaul of the roster was necessary.
Three players — wide receiver Sean Savoy, tight end Tyler Devera and safety Treron Collins — all left the program during the season, although Savoy is still taking classes at the school. Eight more scholarship players either publicly announced intentions to transfer or disappeared from the online roster in the past week.
Twin linemen Brandon and Breyon Gaddy were perhaps the most notable names in that group. Breyon, a former four-star defensive tackle, switched to offensive guard and made five appearances this season, while Brandon recorded 16 total tackles and a sack in 10 games on the defensive line. Other departures from the Terps’ 2017 recruiting class include defensive back Fofie Bazzie and wide receivers Carlos Carriere, Sean Nelson, Jayden Comma and MJ Jarrell. Offensive guard Parris Heath, a JuCo addition last offseason, entered the portal Dec. 9.
None of these outgoing players started a game in College Park, which highlights the general ineffectiveness of the 2017 class. That group included McFarland and Leake, but out of 28 total signees, only eight have started a single game for Maryland. The four wideouts all got passed on the depth chart by 2018 recruits, and nobody in this group was more than a rotational piece.
It’s likely most of these exits were mutual decisions to some degree. Expect the majority of these players to seek more playing time at a smaller school and for Maryland to replace them with fresh faces.
Maryland just held a massive recruiting weekend and has already come away with five commits for the 2020 class. Only two commits, three-star running back Kyjuan Herndon and unrated safety Glen Miller, are high school prospects. Herndon becomes the Terps’ third running back commit in the cycle, helping replenish a backfield losing McFarland and Leake. Miller, who didn’t have any other Power 5 offers, adds size to the Terps’ secondary at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds.
The other four are junior college recruits — in fact, they’re all from Independence Community College, which was featured on the third and fourth seasons of Netflix’s “Last Chance U.” Johari Branch is a 325-pound offensive guard. Ami Finau is a 320-pound defensive tackle. TJ Kautai is a three-star linebacker, the No. 6 JuCo prospect at the position. And three-star defensive end Mosiah Nasili-Kite rounds out the group. Locksley knew Maryland needed more size in the trenches, and that’s the story of this quarter.
Last week, the Terps had 58 scholarships on the books for 2020, leaving 27 open spots with only 14 players committed. This weekend flurry brought that number to 20, but Heath’s departure means Locksley and the staff still have at least eight vacancies remaining.
There are several candidates to join the fray before the early signing day Dec. 18. Maryland is the 247Sports crystal ball leader for three-star guard Zack Perkins, unrated tackle Delmar Glaze, JuCo cornerback Geovonte Howard and prep school wideout Alante Brown, who’s listed by 247Sports as a four-star prospect but unrated on the composite. This wouldn’t be the splash some fans dreamed of when Locksley was hired, but it’d be a start. (And the Terps are still at least in contact with several committed local blue-chippers, just in case.)
As for further attrition, there aren’t any high-profile names expected to leave, but it’s worth monitoring the situation at quarterback. All five of Maryland’s signal callers have eligibility remaining, and three will be redshirt seniors next year. It’s hard to imagine everyone staying, although some could be waiting to see how spring camp unfolds.
Locksley’s first offseason at Maryland was littered with headline additions, from grad transfers Josh Jackson and Shaq Smith to blue-chip signees Lance LeGendre and Nick Cross. After a 3-9 season, though, he’ll have a tough time luring big names to College Park. But if enough additions in the coming weeks can turn into productive Terps, fans might remember this offseason as the start of something good.
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