Terps Football: 5 Things to Watch This Spring
On March 5th, the Maryland Terrapins began their spring practice schedule in College Park. It’s their first spring practicing inside the renovated Cole Field House, and it kicks off DJ Durkin’s third spring as the team’s head coach. The spring season will culminate with the annual Red-White Spring Game on April 14th.
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A New Offense
After Walt Bell unexpectedly left to become the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Florida State, Durkin hired former LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada to join his staff in College Park. He brings 24 years of coaching experience with him, and was one of the most sought-after coordinators on the market before the Tigers hired him last season. He has 14 years of experience coaching in the Big Ten Conference with Indiana and Wisconsin.
Canada’s track record of developing very successful offenses speaks for itself, and history tells us that he won’t attempt to overhaul Maryland’s offensive scheme overnight. He’s a coaching chameleon, preferring to match his scheme to the players at his disposal instead of the other way around. The Terrapins have run an up-tempo spread scheme for the last few seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see how different the offense looks under Canada’s leadership.
Thin QB Herd
With Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome still rehabilitating knee injuries they suffered last season, Maryland will be down to just 3 healthy quarterbacks this spring. Max Bortenschlager will be the team’s top option after playing in all but one game last season. Legend Brumbaugh, son of co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh, walked on to the team and redshirted last season. Tyler DeSue is the signal-caller most people will have their eyes on, as he arrived in College Park in January as a very talented 4-star recruit from Virginia Beach. These three players will be forced to carry the load this spring, and potentially into the summer depending on the timetables of Hill and Pigrome’s rehabilitation.
Replacing 5 of the Front 6
There’ll be plenty of new faces along Maryland’s defensive front this season, as they’ll be replacing 5 starters from last year. Defensive linemen Chandler Burkett, Kingsley Opara, and Cavon Walker have graduated, as have linebackers Jermaine Carter, Jr. and Shane Cockerille. The lone returning starter is pass-rusher Jesse Aniebonam, who missed the majority of last season after suffering an injury against Texas.
Fortunately, the Terrapins have a number of experienced players to fill these holes. As has been the case during Durkin’s entire tenure in College Park, expect a healthy rotation of players along the defensive line. Isaiah Davis is more than ready to fill Carter’s large shoes at linebacker this season, and a number of talented upper-classmen will compete for the weak-side spot alongside him.
Last season, D.J. Moore racked up more receiving yards than the other 10 players to catch passes combined. He also had more touchdowns than all of those players combined. He’s gone now after departing early for the NFL, and one of the biggest jobs for Canada this spring will be to find a group of dependable wideouts who can replace Moore’s production.
Taivon Jacobs returns for his sixth season in College Park as the team’s top option. He came on strong to finish the 2017 season, providing a solid option for Bortenschlager when teams were double-teaming Moore. Jahrvis Davenport and DJ Turner are the only other wide receivers on the roster to have caught multiple passes last year, and both will be competing for starting jobs.
That competition will likely be fierce and crowded. Players like Rayshad Lewis and Tahj Capehart should be able to make an impact, and Anthony McFarland could find a role as well. There are a number of freshmen (redshirt and true) with abilities as well, and all signs point to a fully open competition.
Despite losing two starters from last season’s secondary, this 2018 unit looks like the most talented unit on the defensive side of the ball. It’s been said before, but nickle cornerback Antoine Brooks may be the most athletic player on the roster. He’s the team’s top returning tackler, and led the team in tackles for loss last year.
Darnell Savage, Jr. returns to lead the safeties after a stellar 2017 campaign. He finished 5th on the team in tackles and tied JC Jackson for the most interceptions with 3, including one returned for a touchdown. While there’ll likely be some competition at cornerback and strong safety, players like Tino Ellis, Qwuantrezz Knight, RaVon Davis, Antwaine Richardson (among many others) should be able to fill those gaps nicely.