Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Jared Bernhardt, Big Ten freshmen show conference has a bright future

Maryland men’s lacrosse freshman midfielder Jared Bernhardt jumped onto the scene right away this season, scoring his first career goal in his first game against Navy, and he has been incredible ever since. His journey as a Terp is just beginning and it is already looking like a promising one.

When the No. 3 recruit in the 2016 class first committed to Maryland last fall, he was also the quarterback for undefeated Lake Brantley High School in Florida. Bernhardt had an offer from Navy to play football as a dual-threat quarterback but ultimately chose lacrosse because of the rich tradition and atmosphere, something he is very happy to be a part of at Maryland, he said.

Bernhardt’s two older brothers, Jake and Jesse, also came through Maryland as great lacrosse players, a fact that played into his decision to come to College Park. Jake and Jesse now play Major League Lacrosse and Jared said he has been talking to them this season.

“We text sometimes, not too much,” Bernhardt said. “They just give me words of advice and tell me some things I can improve on.”

Bernhardt has not needed to improve much this season, however. He has at least one point in every game of his freshman campaign, including his first career hat trick against Saint Joseph’s on Feb. 14 in Philadelphia. He currently has 16 goals and seven assists on the season.

Maryland’s starting offense is very experienced, including four seniors, a junior and Bernhardt. Developing chemistry is something they have been working on since the fall and that trait is only growing with the number of games they play together.

“We just need to keep playing with each other and the more you play, the more you develop something,” Bernhardt said. “Hanging out off the field helps too.”

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Junior midfielder Connor Kelly said Bernhardt’s greatest strength on the field is his athleticism, which has definitely showed in the first 12 games of his career.“He’s a great athlete and a great asset to the offense,” Kelly said. “He’s doing anything he can do to help this team.”

Senior defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen said Bernhardt is also very calm for a freshman.

“He is very even-keeled and he has an insane work ethic,” Davis-Allen said. “For a freshman, the moment is never too big for him.”

Along with his calm demeanor, Davis-Allen said it is hard to ignore the Bernhardt’s great athleticism on the field.

“Jared is so athletic that you could pass him a long pole and he’d probably be on the best long poles on the field,” he said.

Bernhardt has been a huge component of Maryland’s success this season, but he is not alone. Across the Big Ten, various freshman have been vital to their teams.

“There are some terrific young players in the league this year,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “Every team has great young players and that has to do with the great recruiting some teams have done over the past few years.”

Freshman have been igniting teams across the conference all season and three are even their team’s leading goal scorer.

No. 9 Penn State’s attackman Mac O’Keefe has definitely had the biggest season of any freshman in the country and is making a case for player of the year. O’Keefe is currently third in the nation with 42 goals scored, averaging 3.23 per game.

No. 12 Rutgers attackman Kieran Mullins is leading the Scarlet Knights with 32 goals scored and is also second on the team in assists with 16.

Perhaps the biggest impact has come from No. 4 Ohio State’s freshman attackman Tre Leclaire. Leclaire is leading the Buckeyes with 28 goals and has four game-winners this season, which is tied for first in the Big Ten.

All four of these freshmen were among the nation’s top recruits last year and all of them going to the Big Ten shows the conference’s increasing ability to draw the country’s top talent. Bringing in players like this has also increased the level of respect shown toward the conference.

“Big Ten schools have a lot to offer and there are lots of kids that would love to be at any of them,” Davis-Allen said. “They are starting to draw some talent as the league has gotten better and better and top notch kids want to play at big state schools.”

Davis-Allen also added that school spirit has a lot to do with players deciding to join Big Ten schools.

“A lot of kids want to be at a school with a lot of school spirit and the Big Ten has that,” Davis-Allen said.

While Jared Bernhardt is not putting up the same numbers as the other freshmen in the league, he is still helping out the Terps in anyway possible, whether it be scoring goals or drawing attention away from other midfielders.

Don’t be surprised if the coaches decide to move Bernhardt to attack next year, just like they did with senior attackman Colin Heacock between his sophomore and junior years.

When asked if he would alter anything about choosing lacrosse at Maryland over football, Bernhardt said he wouldn’t change a thing.

That is a pretty good sign for what is to come in Bernhardt’s future at Maryland. Davis-Allen had some bright words about him and his career as a Terrapins lacrosse player.

“I think he’s going to probably be one of the best players to ever walk into this place,” Davis-Allen said.