Terps Football: 5 Spring Storylines to Watch
The Maryland Terrapins begin their second spring under head coach DJ Durkin today. The team will hold 14 total practices over the course of the next few weeks, which will culminate with the annual Red-White Spring Game on April 22. They will practice three times this week before taking next week off for Spring Break. While we know a lot more about Maryland’s offensive and defensive schemes than we did last season, there are still a number of storylines to keep an eye on. In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 5 things to watch this spring.
#1 – Quarterback Competition
Last season, it became clear fairly quickly that Perry Hills would be Maryland’s starting quarterback. There wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare or speculation surrounding the position leading into fall camp. This season however, the competition will be open a lot longer, with Durkin stating that he fully expects it to stretch deep into August. This spring will finally give Maryland fans their first look at redshirt junior Caleb Henderson (pictured above), who sat out last season after transferring from North Carolina. After each started a game in their true freshman seasons, sophomores Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager will attempt to head into the fall as the leader at the quarterback position. Fans won’t get their first look at 4-star freshman Kasim Hill until the fall, where he will certainly be given a chance to win the job before the team opens their season in Austin, TX against the Longhorns.
#2 – Defensive Tackle Competition
After their run defense finished last season ranked #99 in the country, the Terrapins desperately needed some new blood on the interior of their defensive line. Durkin accomplished that task during the off-season, adding three very talented defensive tackles in his 2017 recruiting class. He will have seven different players competing for two jobs during the spring, and that doesn’t even include those three freshmen who will arrive this summer. This is a competition that fans can expect to last well into August, and may very well be a revolving door during the season. It’s a position that will also feature a new member of the coaching staff, as Jimmy Brumbaugh takes over for Mike London as the defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator.
#3 – Young Defensive Backs
After losing three of their five starting defensive backs from last season, the Terrapins will be forced to turn to some young players to fill some key roles on their defense. Luckily for them, all of their top defensive back recruits from their 2017 recruiting class will be enrolling early and participating fully in spring practice. At cornerback, freshmen Deon Jones and Fofie Bazzie, and junior college transfer Alex Woods will be in the running for two starting jobs, attempting to replace William Likely III and Alvin Hill. At safety, 4-star freshman Markquese Bell will attempt to grab the starting safety job across from Darnell Savage, Jr. and continue his legacy after an extremely impressive high school career.
#4 – Offensive Line
Typically, the offensive line would be higher on a list like this. However, with the left guard position the only one on the line up for grabs, and known quantities at every other spot, this unit takes a back seat to a few of the other more pressing storylines this spring. With that being said, this is still a group to watch as they attempt to build on a few good seasons in a row. While they are not a perfect unit by any stretch of the imagination, they have been slowly progressing upwards over the course of the last few seasons. Their pass protection must get better this season, especially on the interior of the line, but their run blocking was superb last season. For reference, my projected starters are listed below.
LT - Derwin Gray
LG - Quarvez Boulware
C - Brendan Moore
RG - Terrance Davis
RT - Damian Prince
#5 – Wide Receivers
Junior D.J. Moore (pictured above) leads a group of wideouts who had a nice, but not overly-impressive season last year. He is the only returning starter at the position, who will attempt to replace Malcolm Culmer and Teldrick Morgan. Durkin and his staff added six wide receivers in their 2017 recruiting class, but none of them will arrive until this summer. During the spring, the spotlight will likely be grabbed by seniors Taivon Jacobs and Jacquille Veii. Jacobs is likely the favorite to win the job vacated by Culmer, but Veii may face some competition from sophomore DJ Turner for the starting slot receiver job. Regardless of who wins these open jobs, the entire wide receiving corps should benefit from what ought to be a more polished passer behind center this season.