Red-White Spring Game Recap
Maryland Terrapins fans got their first glimpse of what the DJ Durkin era will look like in College Park last weekend during the football team’s annual Red-White Spring Game. It was a beautiful day for football, and the thousands of fans who came out to Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium were treated to a well-played game, which the Red Team (defense) won 51-35. While there are still some big question marks for this year’s squad, the game cleared up a few of those questions.
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All eyes were on Maryland quarterbacks Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. As Durkin promised earlier in the week, they split snaps with the first-team unit. Their final statistical lines are shown below:
Hills: 14/25, 102 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rowe: 7/16, 161 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Both quarterbacks had their good moments and their bad moments. They didn’t show anything unexpected, with Hills having a better completion percentage and living more on shorter throws, while Rowe’s completion percentage was lower but he threw more balls down the field. Hills was more risk-averse, while Rowe was his typical gun-slinging self. Hills avoided the rusk much better than Rowe and showed his mobility, while Rowe was sacked a lot in the pocket and was slower to react to the rush.
This is a competition that will continue into fall practice. I still expect Hills to win the job, but he and Rowe looked much closer in competition than expected based on the glowing reports for Hills that came out of spring practice. Gage Shaffer took snaps with the second-team unit and was generally unimpressive. It looks like his chance to surpass one of the other quarterbacks on the depth chart has passed, and he’ll serve as the third-stringer in 2016.
We also saw the debut of the team’s up-tempo spread offense under new offensive coordinator Walt Bell. All three quarterbacks were moving very quickly, and the offense already seems to be running at a high pace.
While the quarterbacks were generally unimpressive as a unit, the running backs shone brightly, led by sophomore Ty Johnson, who looks primed for a breakout season. He took the most snaps of any running back on the roster, and did not disappoint. He ran for 167 yards on just 11 carries, including a 64-yard touchdown run which showcased his excellent speed and elusiveness. Wes Brown also had a few nice runs, while Trey Edmunds and Jake Funk were relatively unimpressive.
Most of the reports out of camp pertaining to this competition have been about true freshman Jake Funk, but it was Johnson who stole the show during the game. Much like the quarterbacks, this is a competition that will stretch well into fall practice. In fact, I’d expect a three-headed running back attack from the team once they begin the season with Edmunds, Brown, and Johnson splitting carries.
One of the biggest things that the game provided was an opportunity to clear up some of the offensive line confusion. The first-team and second-team offensive lines lined up like this:
LT – 1. Michael Dunn, 2. Derwin Gray
LG – 1. JaJuan Dulaney, 2. Quarvez Boulware
C – 1. Brendan Moore, 2. Joe Marchese
RG – 1. Maurice Shelton, 2. Sean Christie
RT – 1. Damian Prince, 2. EJ Donahue
There aren’t too many surprises with this group, but it was good to see where some of the younger players have slotted in with the new coaching staff. Dunn seems to have the starting left tackle job locked up, much like Moore has at the center position. Dulaney starting at left guard is fairly surprising, as he was primarily a tackle under Edsall’s coaching staff. However, it’s important to remember that Mike Minter has been injured during camp, and he may very well regain his starting job from Dulaney. Shelton is a senior, and provides good experience at right guard. Prince starting at right tackle isn’t surprising, but time will tell whether or not the coaching staff wants to get he and Gray on the field at the same time. If they do, the most likely scenario seems to be to start Prince at right guard and Gray at right tackle.
The defense debuted their new multiple 4-3 scheme under new offensive coordinator Andy Buh, with some interesting wrinkles. Since Maryland’s offense is a pure spread scheme, operating exclusively with 3-4 wide receiver on the field at the same time, the defense ran nickel packages exclusively during the game. We never saw more than 2 linebackers on the field at the same time, which makes the position relatively difficult to project. However, it looks likely that, against 3, 4 and 5-wide receiver formations, Buh will use defensive formations with an extra defensive back. This will be especially interesting considering Maryland’s lack of depth at the defensive back position.
There were a few fluctuations, but for the most part, we saw the first-team and second-team defensive line units line up like this in the game:
SDE – 1. Roman Braglio, 2. Chandler Burkett
DT – 1. Brett Kulka, 2. Cavon Walker
NT – 1. Keiron Howard, 2. Oseh Saine
WDE – 1. Melvin Keihn, 2. Jesse Aniebonam
Based on the fact that Aniebonam was getting snaps almost exclusively with the second-team, I wouldn’t look too much into how this unit lined up during the game. Braglio (who dominated the game with 6 tackles and 4 sacks) and Aniebonam should have both defensive end positions locked down, with Keihn getting snaps during passing situations. However, the interior of the defensive line is up for grabs. What’s interesting is that Azubuike Ukandu, Adam McLean, and Kingsley Opara saw very limited snaps during the game. They are expected to be the leading competitors for the two starting jobs (along with the injured David Shaw), so it may be the case that Buh and Durkin wanted to get snaps for some of the younger, more inexperienced players. Regardless, the defensive tackle competition will be an interesting one to watch during fall practice.
Since the defense lined up exclusively in a nickel formation, there were only two linebackers on the field at any given time. The first-team and second-team units looked primarily like this:
MLB – 1. Jermaine Carter, Jr., 2. Jalen Brooks
WLB – 1. Shane Cockerille, 2. Nnamdi Egbuaba
Carter will be on the field for nearly every snap this season, that has always been a sure thing. However, Cockerille’s presence as a starting linebacker was rather surprising. He seems to have impressed the coaching staff enough to get first-team reps at his new position, at least while Abner Logan is recovering from his injury.
With the defense lining up exclusively in a nickel formation, the defensive backs had a chance to shine. Here is how the first-team and second-team units lined up (for the most part):
CB – 1. Alvin Hill, 2. Antwaine Carter
CB – 1. Darnell Savage, Jr., 2. J.T. Ventura
Nickel – 1. RaVon Davis, 2. Tene Samuto
FS – 1. Josh Woods, 2. Jarrett Ross
SS – 1. Denzel Conyers, 2. Luke Cheswick
If you don’t recognize some of these names, don’t feel too bad, especially since Cheswick isn’t even on the roster yet. Of course, William Likely was missing from the starting lineup due to an injury, but he’ll line up across from Hill when the season begins. The two safety spots will be handled by Woods and Conyers, but most of the backup spots will be up for grabs. Look for players like Carter and Savage to step up in fall practice. Ross could be an interesting piece, who has been improving his versatility by playing both cornerback and safety during the spring.