Here's something I bet you didn't know: spring football starts in six days. It officially kicks off Tuesday, the 23rd, meaning Ralph Friedgen's Last Stand (part deux) starts in under a week.
Basketball is in a holding pattern, and I hope that we'll have more to write about when football actually kicks off in a little under a week. So there's really no better time than now for a brief preview.
Actually, there's a surprising amount of intrigue surrounding spring ball this year. Despite only graduating a few seniors, many of Maryland's positions are wide open. A 2-10 year will do that for starters. Ralph Friedgen needs a successful season to keep his job. James Franklin and Don Brown will be looking for the first successful incarnations of their game plans. The most important position on the field is open, and others are also in flux. There's plenty to watch.
With that in mind, here's five things we'll probably be keeping an extra-close eye on for the next month in football practice reports:
- The QB Battle: Jamarr Robinson, who saw playing time in Chris Turner's absence last year, has a pretty sizable lead in the race to replace Napoleon Dynamite. But was his performance last year really what you want out of a starting QB? It was good, but failed to put away doubts of Robinson's ability, despite showing flashes. Remember, too, that Danny O'Brien's redshirt was nearly burned late in the season. He's a smart QB, Ralph's type of field general, and might remind you of Sam Hollenbach. The very talented C.J. Brown will also be in contention for the spot. And while I'm not sure Devin Burns will even end up at QB in the long run, he is enrolling early, so he has a possible head start. J-Rob will be given every opportunity to win the job, but O'Brien and Brown will be given plenty of opportunities to steal it.
- Can the Offensive Line Come Together?: If you picked one culprit for last year's disaster, the offensive line would be the biggest. With Bruce Campbell and Phil Costa heading out, I don't foresee it getting too much better. At least there should be a little more experience and chemistry, but the talent level won't see a huge upgrade. For Maryland to reach another bowl, they'll need to improve fast. With no freshmen enrolling early, the focus will be on improvement for what's already there. Hopefully plenty can be made.
- A Better Defense: Maryland's defense was inconsistent last year, sometimes allowing plenty of points and yards, but getting to the QB with regularity. That's part of Don "Attacking Defense" Brown's plan - get to the QB as much as possible. His players, unfortunately, were handcrafted for Chris Cosh's more passive scheme. But now he has two recruiting classes in College Park, including potential studs like Darin Drakeford and incoming freshman Javarie Johnson. Johnson will get on campus early, and could play this season. This defense is being loaded with speed, and is starting to resemble Miami of old. While it'll be awhile before they're dominant, faster players will run this defense better than last year, especially as they come to grasp his plentiful, confusing blitz schemes.
- Finding a Cornerback: Cameron Chism is a monster and has the #1 spot locked down. He has the potential to match Kevin Barnes. But Maryland doesn't have a #2 right now, and they have a nasty habit of #1s getting injured. Trenton Hughes is the current frontrunner, but Travis Hawkins and Dexter McDougle could make significant strides. All will need to improve for depth purposes; hopefully one will step up.
- Incoming Impact Freshmen: Fridge wasn't shy about burning redshirts last season. If he does the same this year, expect a fair amount to come from this season's early enrollees - Javarie Johnson, L.A. Goree, Devin Burns, and David Mackall. Johnson and Mackall are the most exciting; both are edge speed-rushers somewhere in-between OLB and DE, and both were highly ranked out of HS. If they can grasp the defense well enough, they're potential game-changers. Their progress will be important for a defensive line that struggled.