- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 1, 2022

Maryland will find out its bowl fate on Sunday, but a handful of key contributors won’t be joining their teammates in the postseason. This week’s Terps Top Three looks at who’s leaving College Park and the two likely landing spots for the Terrapins’ final game of the season.

Declaring for the draft: The end of the regular season begins a fury of moves in college football for the next two months. As is the trend in recent years, a number of Terrapins have opted out of playing in a bowl game and will instead focus on the NFL draft.

Specifically, those departures will hit Maryland’s receiving corps —  rated as a top-five unit entering this season — hard.

Receiver Jacob Copeland will forego both the bowl game and an additional year of eligibility and declare for the draft. The transfer from Florida caught 26 balls for 376 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior Dontay Demus Jr. will also skip the bowl and prepare for April’s draft. The D.C. native made a comeback from a knee injury that derailed a promising 2021 season, but his production was limited, finishing 2022 with 233 yards and a touchdown.

Teammate Rakim Jarrett is expected to do the same as Copeland, but has yet to officially announce his intentions. The junior receiver posted a thank you to Terrapins fans from the locker room following Maryland’s win last week against Rutgers. 

With those significant absences, expect coach Mike Locksley to push hard to keep senior Jeshaun Jones in Maryland’s receiver room. The fifth-year player was the Terrapins’ leading receiver with 40 catches, 478 yards, and four touchdowns. The Fort Myers, Florida, native still retains a year of eligibility due to the pandemic-riddled 2020 season.

Opening the portal: At least 10 Terrapins have announced they will depart College Park through the NCAA’s transfer portal. Most are reserve players that will look to make a name for themselves at a different stop. A few, however, are starters and key contributors.

The biggest among them is sophomore tight end C.J. Dippre, who scored three times in 2022 along with tallying 314 receiving yards.

Fellow tight end Weston Wolff will join Dippre in seeking a new home. Wolff only played in two games early this season. But combined with Dippre’s departure and the losses at receiver, the level of experience among Maryland’s pass catchers has significantly dropped for next season.

With one more year of eligibility left, linebacker Ahmad McCullough also announced he’ll also leave College Park and play elsewhere after notching 45 tackles and recovering two fumbles this season. 

The Baltimorean continues a two-year string of departures from the center of Maryland’s defense after linebackers Branden Jennings and Demeioun ‘Chop’ Robinson transferred after last season.

The transfer window opens officially Monday.

Going bowling: Conference championship week means the bowl picture comes into acute focus. Maryland, which was bowl eligible on the earliest date in program history, will finally learn its destination on Sunday. 

With three Big Ten teams in line for New Year’s Six bowl bids, as well as fewer bowl-eligible teams than there are spots, the normal pecking order could be in for some chaos. Still, for the Terrapins, it’s likely one of two places.

Aside from an outside shot at Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, Phoenix’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl would be the better-rated of the potential landing spots. The Dec. 27 game from Chase Field, the home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, against a Big 12 opponent would be a first for Maryland.

The other option is the Terrapins ending up in Detroit’s Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26. It’s a game they’ve played in before (2016), but would represent a lower-tier opportunity with a Group of 5 opponent from the Mid-American Conference.

Why would Maryland end up there with a 7-5 season? Should the Rose Bowl select Penn State to play in its game instead of Ohio State — which is their prerogative — it would set off a chain of bowl swaps that would remove a Big Ten team from the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa and bump everyone else in the conference down a slot. 

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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