The Terps’ tight ends were silent during the COVID-19 season, but that can change with new and returning faces.
After looking at Maryland football’s storylines at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions, our next section in the preview series will cover the team’s tight ends for the upcoming season.
The Terps are fairly thin at the tight end position, but they do have some returning talent coming back to the roster for the 2021 season. The tight ends group didn’t necessarily shine during the COVID-19 pandemic season in 2020 and they’ll look to make a larger impact this year with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa at the helm of the offense.
Let’s examine Maryland’s tight ends and a few takeaways entering next season.
Chigoziem Okonkwo should see the bulk of the action to start the season
Heading into the 2021 season, there might not be a clear-cut starter for Maryland at the tight end spot. However, senior Chigoziem Okonkwo is the best bet to get the majority of the snaps early on in the season, at the very least.
Okonkwo relented his starting role after missing the COVID-19 season due to medical complications, but his 2019 numbers and overall experience on the field should be good enough reasons to award him the top tight end position.
As a sophomore, Okonkwo appeared in 12 games and started three games as a tight end/wide receiver. He finished second on the roster with 19 total catches and third on the team with 201 yards, while also hauling in two touchdowns in the process.
Okonkwo has the skill to have another successful season and his versatility may just be the best out of all the tight ends on the roster. He stands at 6’2 and weighs 244 pounds, which is also a solid frame for both blocking and receiving at the tight end position.
To top it all off, Okonkwo was named to the 2021 John Mackey Award Watch List. The award designates the nation’s most outstanding collegiate tight end. If Okonkwo is able to perform well enough to make it further than just watch list consideration, Maryland’s offense will surely benefit from his rise.
Don’t be surprised if a few different tight ends make a push for more playing time
Even though Maryland played in just five games last season, it clearly did not receive enough production from its tight end crew on the field. With Okonkwo out due to medical reasons during the pandemic, the Terps’ tight end corps was thin and the offense operated with little help from that positional group.
In those five games, Maryland finished the entire season with just one total catch from the tight end position. As shocking as that may be, it isn’t a typo. The lone catch from a tight end that wore a Maryland uniform was from the likes of Malik Jackson, who had one reception that went for 20 yards against Rutgers in 2020.
Okonkwo is back for the 2021 season to help replenish the production from the tight end position, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see a plethora of young tight ends that could spend more time on the field in what could be a revolving door at the position.
Maryland has three freshmen tight ends — CJ Dippre, Weston Wolff and Leron Husbands — that can work their way up the depth chart to see more time on the field. The most notable of the three is Wolff, who is coming straight out of Venice High School in Florida to join the Terps. Wolff collected 1,822 yards and 16 touchdowns over three seasons in high school. He brings quality size to Maryland with a 6’5 height and he could work his way up the depth chart.
Dippre is an interesting freshman on the roster because he played both quarterback and tight end in high school. His versatility on the field can help him find some playing time. Husbands, on the other hand, is a Maryland native and was a member of the 2018 First Team All-WCAC and was selected to the 2019 Second Team All-WCAC.
While Okonkwo is a solid starter, Maryland can look to a few of its younger tight ends to produce offensively on the field.