This is late, and I apologize for that, but I figured I’d run down some of my notes from last Friday’s practice anyway. Just a few key things that I’d like to point out:
CJ Brown is the starter, but the entire staff needs more work.
Perhaps the most concerning part about the entire practice was that none of the quarterbacks were able to throw with much consistency. Brown took more reps than anyone else, but failed to complete over 50% of his passes. But hey, that’s what practice is for, right? All that being said, I felt as if Brown had a lot more zip on his balls than we’d previously seen out of him. He’s not going to turn into Brett Favre anytime soon, but he most certainly has the velocity on his throws necessary to make short completions.
Brown still has a tendency to stare down his receivers, and a couple balls looked like they might get picked off at any time, but of the group he’s got to be the starter. It also doesn’t look like his athleticism has gone anywhere, and I can tell you right now that if there were any lingering effects from his injury, that wasn’t apparent to anyone watching him. You can now breathe a sigh of relief.
Young didn’t take a ton of snaps, but he did show off his ability to run; at one point, he scrambled for about 20+ yards down the sideline. Young has a better arm than every quarterback not named Caleb Rowe, but he still releases the ball too late in his motion. The end result is that a lot of his balls don’t have enough air, or look like grounders. That’s a timing issue, and I think one that could be corrected with time.
As for Hills, Cockerille, and Rowe, it’s pretty much the same as always. Accuracy issues for Rowe and Cockerille, not enough pop on the ball for Hills.
I really like Veii
Jacquille Veii was probably the most exciting player on the field for the majority of practice. The true freshman is giving Edsall more and more reasons to not redshirt him this season. Veii showed off some really impressive agility in the backfield, dancing around and buying himself time over and over before moving through the hole. He’s not a power runner by any stretch, but he’s probably the most elusive back on the roster, surprising as that may seem.
I could legitimately see Veii contributing in one form or another with the way he performed at practice, be it as a receiving option or simply a change of pace back. He’s a very good athlete, and if he played a similar role to Justus Pickett last season, I think the fans would be alright with that.
Kicking might still be an issue
As is pretty well documented at this point, Maryland’s kicking staff is going to need to get good at a much quicker rate. I came away less than impressed with the kicking situation, as I saw a few more misses than makes. Craddock absolutely has the leg to become a competent kicker, but he just has to start having that short term memory great kickers seem to possess. Edsall attributed his errors to lapses in focus, and I think that’s a fair statement to make. Craddock needs to start going out to practice with the mentality that every single kick is the “NC State kick”. That is to say, he really needs to pay attention and just start kicking the ball like he’s a kid playing outside with no real pressure. So maybe not so much like the NC State kick.
Deon Long is out, but for how long?
Go figure the first practice I’m at all year doesn’t involve the guy I wanted to see most: Deon Long. Week to week with a back injury doesn’t sound great, but then he might already be healthy. Edsall was pretty mum about the whole situation, but losing Long isn’t something Maryland wants or needs. Losing Leak is something we could recover from, but losing both Leak and Long is a scenario that gives you nightmares. It’s asking a lot out of the wide receivers to not miss a beat in spite of losing two starters.
That said, it didn’t sound grave, so hopefully Long is back in action in no time.
Finally, the defense looks fast
Initially heading into this season, I was a little concerned about the size of the Terps defense. Maryland doesn’t sport too many bruisers and a lot of their players are smaller guys (not to mention that the Terps lost a fair amount of starters). Now? I really don’t see it being much of an issue. I might go so far as to say this unit is one of the most athletically gifted ones I’ve seen. Ngakoue in particular is a freak of nature, and the explosiveness and strength I saw out of him is going to really help out this team. The corners looked very capable of staying in front of the ball, and the defensive line looks stout.
The Terrapins should have no problems keeping up with, more or less, any team. The fact that so many guys on defense are versatile enough to play a few different positions is going to add up to problems for opposing teams. I can see Edsall lining guys up all over the field to create some scouting problems for teams.