Ohio State will travel to College Park this weekend to take on the Maryland Terrapins in both teams’ penultimate regular season game. Mick Locksley’s bunch owns a 6-4 record, making them bowl eligible in back-to-back years — which is something the program had not achieved since 2013 and 2014.
As per usual under Locksley, UMD’s offense has been leading the way. However, unlike in recent campaigns, the team’s defense is not too far behind in terms of performance. And that balance has led to a few nice wins, with primarily close losses for the Terps in 2022. Now they will be aiming for the biggest win of their head coach’s career (solely as a HC), as they look to upset the Buckeyes.
While Maryland’s defense is much-improved, that unit has still allowed 30+ points in four games, so we’re not talking about the ’86 Bears here. The team’s offense is still the star of the show, and their best shot at giving OSU a scare on Saturday. Under normal circumstances, this is where I would have recognized quarterback Tualia Tagovailoa as a player to watch and the star of said show, but the Alabama transfer – who followed Locksley from Tuscaloosa to College Park – suffered an injury in last month, and has not looked the same since. Instead, I wanted to focus on UMD’s skill players. Because there are plenty of good ones to choose from.
For the season, eight different Terps have reeled in at least 10 receptions. All eight of those players have gained at least 137 yards through the air, helping Tagovailoa reach his current passing total of 2,152 yards in nine starts. Former five-star recruit and Ohio State target Rakim Jarrett is arguably the most notable member of Maryland’s pass-catching core, but Cory Dyches, Jeshaun Jones, and Florida transfer Jacob Copeland are all right behind him in terms of both yards and receptions.
And let’s not forget 6-foot-3 Dontay Demus. He only has 14 receptions for 153 yards and one touchdown this season, but the fifth-year WR totaled 872 yards and seven TD in 10 games played between 2020 and 2021 – including a four-game stretch of 446 yards and three TD last year, prior to suffering a significant leg injury. That was a lot of stats, so I hope I did not lose you, but none of the aforementioned players (including Tagovailoa) were chosen as this week’s Offensive Player to Watch!
And that is because an unheralded and under-the-radar recruit from UMD’s 2021 class has, in my opinion, been the engine powering this team’s success on offense. Running back Roman Hemby has been an efficient jack of all trades, racking up 1,054 total yards and earning him the title of Offensive Player to Watch.
ROMAN HEMBY IS FASTER THAN YOU pic.twitter.com/DxFUaIgkCK— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) October 22, 2022
Hemby was a three-star recruit out of Bel Air, Maryland, and ranked No. 1,785 in the country (RB130) prior to signing with his home-state program. He appeared in four games last season, toting the rock 17 times for 71 yards and two TD. Although the true freshman stood no real chance of seeing meaningful reps early – as the Terps had four RB earn at least 40 carries – Hemby did make a cameo and find paydirt in the 2021 Pinstripe Bowl. Three of the team’s top four rushers then exhausted their eligibility or left after the season, leaving an opportunity for the Fresh Prince (sorry, I could not resist) to seize the starting RB role. Which is exactly what he did.
Hemby edged out fellow second-year back Antwaine Littleton, but Locksley’s plan seemed as if it was always to use the two in tandem. Littleton has 62 carries for 331 yards, and is a close second on the team with six rushing TD. However, it is Hemby who sees more action, and who the team gets the ball to in a variety of ways. In addition to 134 carries on the season, he also has 27 receptions, for a total of 161 touches from scrimmage – more than doubling up Littleton. And Hemby has been very efficient with his opportunities.
The more svelte of Maryland’s two primary ball carriers (Littleton is a thick 235-pounder), the 6-foot, 200-pound Hemby is averaging an impressive 6.1 yards per carry. He has been bottled up by Michigan and Michigan State (3.0 YPC in each matchup), but exploded versus Buffalo and SMU (combined 11.5 YPC). Nearly as impressive, is his average of 8.9 yards per reception. Such a number would have you believe that he is a capable route runner and/or difficult to bring down on screen passes and dump-offs near the line of scrimmage.
Hemby’s ability to hurt opponents on the ground, as well as through the air, makes him a threat to the Buckeyes’ defense. And while Tagovailoa has name recognition, and the Terps’ stable of WR is a formidable one, it is a versatile running who comes across as the tie that binds this UMD offense together. Hemby is a talented player on the ascent, and most certainly worth keeping an eye on come Saturday.