If you were walking around the campus of the University of Maryland yesterday, you likely didn’t enjoy your walk very much. While the temperature wasn’t as cold as in recent weeks, the light rain made it just wet enough to be a nuisance. But if you were walking around campus yesterday, you likely saw the lights on inside Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. For those of us who knew what that means, the walk wasn’t so grim. Spring football has begun for the Maryland Terrapins.
The weather may not have been the most ideal for the beginning of spring camp for the Maryland Terrapins, but the first day of practice always brings excitement regardless of the conditions. There are a number of questions that will need to be answered before the 2015 season starts, and they’ll begin to resolve themselves over the next few weeks and the next few months.
Mike Locksley’s offense will be without its starting quarterback for the duration of spring practice. Senior Caleb Rowe suffered a torn ACL during the 2014 season and will be unable to participate in drills this spring. While this does leave the Terrapins with a rather thin stable of arms, it does give Randy Edsall and his staff the opportunity to evaluate some other players. It was rather surprising news when Maryland’s head coach made the announcement that lefty Shane Cockerille would be taking the first-team reps at quarterback instead of the more experienced Perry Hills. Cockerille is a redshirt sophomore out of The Gilman School in Baltimore, and was a 4-star recruit in 2013. Most people remember Hills as the young man who performed admirably in 2012 when he was thrust into a starting job as a true freshman after watching C.J. Brown go down with an injury mere weeks before the season began. Hills did not see any playing time in 2013, but helped the Terps to a homecoming win over Iowa last season after C.J. Brown went down with an injury. Cockerille has never taken a snap at the collegiate level.
Running back Wes Brown, wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, tight end Andrew Isaacs, defensive linemen Ruben Franco and Quinton Jefferson, defensive backs Elvis Dennah and Alvin Hill, and long snapper Christian Carpenter are among the other players who will be absent from spring practice. However, Randy Edsall has said that Hill, Jacobs, and Jefferson could participate in non-contact drills. Of these players, I have projected that every one but Franco will be on the team’s two-deep depth chart when the season begins.
One of the biggest questions for the Maryland Terrapins in 2015 will be their offensive line. After a 2014 season that saw them get dominated off the ball by some of the stronger defensive lines in the Big Ten Conference, what will offensive line coach Greg Studrawa change in order to get better production from the big men up front?
The most noticeable change that the Terrapins have made is to bulk up their offensive linemen. Fans will notice a much bigger and stronger offensive line than in recent years. For awhile, the Maryland coaching staff adopted a “lean and mean” strategy on the offensive line. While that is certainly a strategy that can work in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it is much tougher to execute in the Big Ten. Therefore, all of the linemen on Maryland’s roster have added weight and muscle.
Fans will also likely see some new faces on the offensive line. While Jake Wheeler and Silvano Altamirano were the only graduating starters, the struggles of some other players could lead to some open competition for certain spots. Randy Edsall has seemed to indicate that the right side of the offensive line is essentially locked up. Andrew Zeller will start at right guard, and Michael Dunn will start at right tackle. Zeller started at right guard in every game during the 2015 season, and Dunn performed much better at right tackle once he was moved over there from left tackle later in the season.
It seems likely that Evan Mulrooney will move back to his normal center position after spending last season as the team’s backup left guard. He suffered through a viral infection for a large portion of 2014, and will be looking to come back stronger and more healthy in 2015. Damian Prince and Derwin Gray seem to be the team’s next two most talented linemen. While both were recruited as offensive tackles, Prince spent most of last season practicing as a left guard. It seems only natural that Gray would take over the left tackle position and Prince would take over the left guard position. Gray’s height likely makes him better suited for a tackle position than Prince, but make no mistake that Prince will be starting at a tackle spot for the Terrapins in the very near future. His talents are far too great to keep him inside.
It’s time to recap the week in recruiting for the Maryland Terrapins. Here are the players who the Terps offered scholarships to this week:
3-star DT Jake Saunders (Loveland, OH) – Class of 2016
0-star DE Joshua Kaindoh (Essex, MD) – Class of 2017
4-star OLB Julian Okwara (Charlotte, NC) – Class of 2016
3-star DT Christian Colon (Charlotte, NC) – Class of 2016
3-star DT Rashad Wheeler (Pittsburgh, PA) – Class of 2016