Terps Football: Spring Game Preview
The weather in College Park is warming up just in time for the Maryland Terrapins’ annual Red-White Spring Game tomorrow afternoon. The scrimmage will conclude the team’s third spring under head coach DJ Durkin, and give fans their first glimpse at the 2018 squad. The game will begin at 12:30 PM inside Maryland Stadium, and will be streamed live on BTN2Go. Here’s a few things to watch during the game, and heading into the summer.
After Walt Bell dazzled Maryland fans with his up-tempo spread offenses during the last two seasons, the Terrapins are set to debut a new scheme under offensive coordinator Matt Canada. One thing to watch for is how many of Bell’s spread concepts he’s kept in his playbook. During his career he’s been a sort of coaching chameleon, matching schemes to the players he has rather than the other way around. This’ll be especially interesting to watch once the team’s two best quarterbacks get back on the field, both of whom are dangerous with their legs.
Something else to watch is the offense’s tempo. Bell’s goal was to move down the field as quickly as possible, never huddling and rarely allowing the defense to substitute. We’ll likely see a bit more huddling under Canada, but how much tempo the team plays with is yet to be seen.
Finally, watch for all of Canada’s pre- and post-snap motions. He’s the master of these motions, and will put each and every offensive player on the move at some point during games. Naturally they take time to learn, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team is progressing with them. Additionally, be sure to watch for who’s getting the ball on Canada’s fly and jet sweep motions. Smaller, shifty players who can make defenders miss on the edge are crucial to this new offense and could be a perfect fit for guys like Anthony McFarland, DJ Turner, or Rayshad Lewis.
New Faces on Defense
Defensively, the front six will look very different from last season’s unit. Jesse Aniebonam is the lone returning starter among this group, but won’t see action in tomorrow’s scrimmage as he continues to rehabilitate from the ankle injury he suffered last year. If you’re going to watch one member of the front six it should probably be Byron Cowart, the team’s new former 5-star transfer from Auburn.
As has been the case for the last few years, both defensive tackle jobs are up for grabs. It’s most likely that we see a rotation of 4-5 players there this season, so watch for who’s stepping up in those roles tomorrow. Reports out of camp have said that Adam McLean and Mbi Tanyi are locking up the starting jobs, while a few others rotate in behind them. Run defense has been an issue during Durkin’s time at the helm, so locking down the interior of the defensive line is crucial to success this season.
With Jermaine Carter, Jr., Jalen Brooks, and Shane Cockerille graduating after last season, there are a few holes at the linebacker positions that need to be filled. Isaiah Davis and Illinois transfer Tre Watson are said to have locked up the starting jobs already, so keep an eye on that while you watch the game.
Another spring, another crop of injured quarterbacks for the Terrapins. As has been the case far too often in College Park, the team’s top signal-callers will not begin fully practicing with the team until summer. Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome will have mere weeks to get acclimated to a new offensive scheme and compete for the starting job in August before facing off against Texas on September 1st.
In the meantime Max Bortenschlager, Legend Brumbaugh, and freshman early-enrollee Tyler DeSue are likely competing for the #3 spot on the depth chart. Reports out of camp say that Bortenschlager has looked good, and that he seems a bit better suited for Canada’s offense than he was for Bell’s. DeSue is gaining valuable experience as a freshman, but it’ll be interesting to see how he looks directing a collegiate offense after competing on Friday nights mere months ago.
Once again, the strength of this year’s defensive unit looks to be the secondary. Nickle cornerback Antoine Brooks showcased his incredible athleticism on the field last season and could potentially be even better as a junior. Despite losing JC Jackson to the NFL, the cornerbacks are stacked with plenty of young talent. Tino Ellis has been manning a starting spot across from former 4-star recruit Marcus Lewis, who sat out last season after transferring from Florida State.
Darnell Savage, Jr. had a breakout year at safety in 2017, starting every game and finishing with the third-most tackles on the team. He’ll have a new partner in crime alongside him after Josh Woods graduated, and the competition for that open job is one to watch. Antwaine Richardson and Qwuantrezz Knight are said to be the primary options there, but could be joined by one of the many young and versatile defensive backs on the roster.
If you’re going to watch one thing tomorrow, watch the wide receivers. This is the position with the most competition and the most uncertainty. Replacing a likely first-round NFL draft pick in DJ Moore is never easy, but Canada will be faced with the task of finding a group of players who can reliably produce for his quarterbacks.
Taivon Jacobs stepped up towards the end of last season to provide a quality second option to Bortenschlager, and he’ll enter 2018 as the new #1 option. The most interesting thing to watch for with Jacobs will be whether or not he remains in the slot or moves back outside. Jahrvis Davenport and DJ Turner are the early starting favorites alongside Jacobs, but there are a plethora of young receivers who could make an impact this year.