Sep 14, 2013; East Hartford, CT, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Randy Edsall during the second half of a game against the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The Maryland Terrapins took the field Monday afternoon, signaling the start of the 2014 college football season. Coming off of a 7-6 record that ended with a defeat at the hands of Marshall in the Military Bowl, Edsall’s boys look to make their presence felt in their new confines of the Big Ten.
Here are some notes and observations from practice #1:
*per UMD request, depth chart, injuries, and drills cannot be discussed
– The players donned helmets, jerseys and shorts for practice. As mandated by the NCAA, teams can only wear helmets the first two practices (one per day), 3-4 practices in helmets and shoulder pads, and then full pads; Friday will be the first practice where pads will be in action. Saturday the team will do a double-session in pads and will have an intersquad scrimmage on Sunday.
– Maryland will be running two-a-day practices; there will be a morning practice (which is closed to the media) and an afternoon practice (with media access). Camp will break on August 19th, in which case there will be one team practice with no media access allowed (outside of Edsall’s press conferences).
– The only two players sitting out for practice (due to medical reasons) was freshman DB Milan Collins and senior DB Rashid Conteh. Everyone else from previous injuries (Diggs, Long, Cudjoe-Virgil, Johnson, etc.) were a full go.
– Coach Edsall made sure to give well wishes to recent transfer WR Nigel King, saying that he graduated and that is the number one priority. Edsall continues to impress with his team’s graduation rate.
– Edsall said that he really wants to see someone “take the bull by the horns and claim a starting spot” at both left guard and at running back. Last year’s starters at left guard and running back were Michael Dunn and Brandon Ross. Edsall also noted that tight end could be a three way battle between PJ Gallo, Andrew Isaacs and Derrick Hayward. He pointed out that Isaacs and Hayward had really good summers; Gallo not so much.
– Edsall gave praise to Sal Canaboy for being on the watchlist for the Remington Award (best center in the country). He said he is a leader in the clubhouse and the leader of the offensive line; said getting experience in earlier years really helped him get better year to year.
– Wide receiver’s Stefon Diggs and Deon Long came out of the gates hollering and jumping around. It wouldn’t stop for the majority of the practice; you could tell they were happy to be back on the field.
– This was the first practice of the preseason, and that was certainly evident. Everyone had their miscues, but that is to be expected. Players are expected to shake off rust from their short summer break, but that didn’t keep the coaches from getting on the players.
– New coaching additions Chad Wilt (DL), Keenan McCardell (WR) and Greg Studrawa (OL) are all very animated. But the crown goes to coach Wilt, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite coaches. I can see why recruits have raved about him.
– CJ Brown was clearly the leader of the pack, which is no surprise. He looked very sharp in drills and his passes were crisp. He has good chemistry with the receivers and he knows the playbook like the back of his hand, which was evident with his decision-making yesterday. He had a couple passes that were a little behind and low, but he certainly commands the offense, something coach Locksley had to stress to other QB’s.
– Caleb Rowe has an impressive arm, and it showed on his passes down field. Some of the shorter throws were erratic, but an overall impressive practice for Rowe.
– I can’t stress enough that this is just one practice and nothing is determined by 2 hours of watching drills. With that being said, I really like what I see from Shane Cockerille. He’s got a good combination of speed and arm strength. He just needs to work on his technique and leading his receivers more. He missed a few receivers throwing over the middle, but for a redshirt freshman, it’s easy to get excited about Cockerille’s future.
– It was a rough day for freshman Will Ulmer. There’s no denying his speed, but he has a lot of work to do throwing the ball. There were a few cases of miscommunication between him and the receivers, and a lot of underthrown balls. A redshirt year will do him good.
– Brandon Ross had an excellent day catching the ball out of the backfield. His hands are impressive, and he seemed to be quicker making his cuts at the line of scrimmage. There was little hesitation with the ball in his hands, which is a good sign (that was a big issue last season).
– Wes Brown appeared to be in excellent shape, and he looked as if he didn’t miss a beat. He was very impressive in his running back drills, staying low and exploding in the open field. There’s no doubt that he will challenge Ross for the top running back spot.
– Hopefully this will be the year that Albert Reid gets more touches. His biggest strength is his vision, and he put that on display yesterday. He has some shake to him, but Reid will need to work on being consistent.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
– The most anticipated return was Stefon Diggs, but Deon Long was more than impressive in his return. He has gotten stronger, and had little issue getting separation from DB’s. He also threw in some circus catches along the way. Diggs will command a ton of attention, but Long is poised for a huge year if he can stay healthy.
– It was a rough go for sophomores Malcolm Culmer and Amba Etta-Tawo. They had a number of drops, along with DeAndre Lane. Again, it’s the first day of practice. Drops are to be expected.
– Freshmen Taivon Jacobs and JuWann Winfree had a couple of drops as well, but they also had their shining moments. Jacobs put his speed on display, taking a few short passes for big gains. It would be nice to redshirt Winfree this season, but the coaches may not have much of a choice. The kid is a stud.
– I was most enthralled with tight ends Andrew Isaacs and Derrick Hayward. Both were mismatches for linebackers trying to cover them, and both were able to find the end zone against the defense. Both tight ends will be nightmares for defenses this season. Isaacs is 6’3” and 245lbs while Hayward (a freshman, mind you) is 6’5” and 235lbs. There aren’t a lot of linebackers and safeties that can cover that.
– The offensive line, to my surprise, got the best of the defensive line in one-on-one drills.
– As crazy as it sounds, freshman Derwin Gray was the most impressive. After a few forgettable moments in the beginning of practice, Gray rebounded very well and was very dominant at times. He won his battles more times than not, and coach Studrawa had a lot of good things to say to Gray in between drills.
– Michael Dunn, Sal Canaboy, and Maurice Shelton won battles in the trenches. I liked what I saw from Damian Prince; he showed good foot work and use of his hands. Coach Stud gave his props to Prince on more than one occasion. The sky is the limit for this freshman, and he could factor in the two-deep this upcoming season.
– Andre Monroe might be small in stature, but he uses that to his advantage. He stays so low it’s almost impossible for 6’5” offensive linemen to stay on him. Between Monroe, Kilgo, and Jefferson, Maryland has a strong front three. Coach Wilt had a lot of praise for these three individuals.
– Depth behind the starting three will be tested. Coach Wilt, along with senior Keith Bowers, was getting on the young pups for sloppy technique. Bowers had the best line in practice: “Cut the bullshit and let’s get this money!”
– Freshmen Brett Kulka and David Shaw are large individuals. After a year or so in the strength and conditioning program, one will most likely be moved to nose tackle. That kind of size would be effective against quarterbacks trying to throw passes over the middle.
– Maryland is very deep at linebacker; their second string LB’s could be starters (some of them actually have been starters at some point), and the competition for playing time is going to be fierce. The drop off after substitutions should be minimal.
– Cavon Walker was very impressive in coverage. He jammed tight ends and running backs well off the line in one-on-one drills and came close to a couple picks.
– Freshman Jesse Aniebonam is quick off the line of scrimmage. He’s added more bulk and will be a force sooner rather than later. He needs to work on his technique and add some more moves to his arsenal. But when he does, Aniebonam, along with sophomore Yannick Ngakoue, will be a terror for bookend tackles.
– Freshman Nnamdi Egbuaba is still relatively new to football, and he will get better with time. Another prime redshirt candidate, Egbuaba struggled in coverage, along with the other young LB’s. Don’t put too much stock in it though; these drills are made for the offense to shine. Keep an eye on Egbuaba down the line.
– The drills may favor the offense, but Matt Robinson had a ton of success against the competition. His size and speed make him the perfect coverage linebacker. He was able to jam the receivers, throwing them off their route. He also has the size to match up with tight ends.
– I didn’t get a chance to look at the corners and safeties, but I was able to watch new transfer Denzel Conyers in 11-on-11’s. He’s 6’3, so he’ll match up well with taller receivers. I’m interested to see him match up with the 5’10” receivers.
– It was great to see Jeremiah Johnson back out on the field. He was having a solid season last year before injuries cut it short. I think he could have a big season if he’s able to stay on the field. Johnson looked very fluid in his drills.