Last year, Maryland wasn't exactly shy about burning redshirts - they worked up into double-digits, and only a few were truly warranted. Given that history, I wouldn't be surprised to see quite a few more true freshman trotted out on the field at Byrd Stadium this year.
As we continue to countdown until kickoff, here are a five true freshmen names to watch out for, plus three more I wouldn't be particularly surprised to see on the field.
David Mackall, LB/DE - When Mackall committed, he was a little-known, athletic defensive end from Baltimore. After failing to qualify out of the gate, he ended up going to prep school for a year and lit up his competition, drawing interest from Michigan and other powerhouses. Luckily, he stayed a Terp.
If there's any player that deserves to see playing time as a freshman and could make a serious impact, it's Mackall. He was Maryland's highest rated recruit by Rivals, the fifth-best prep school player in the nation, and an athletic freak. He's been drawing rave reviews from day one, was an early enrollee (so he knows the defense), and could play any of four positions.
Mackall is, if the coaches are to be believed, the next Merriman. I'm usually against throwing freshmen out there, but it may not only be warranted here; it might be necessary to maximize the time he plays. He'd provide Maryland something it lacked last year: a dynamic pass rusher.
Sal Conaboy, OL - The greatest strength for Conaboy comes in his versatility. He played center in HS, and is usually listed as a guard. With Maryland's offensive line being what it is, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a shot at center if Paul Pinegar - who has played at both tackle and guard in the past - is needed elsewhere due to injury. Conaboy isn't like Mackall in that he should be on the field, but Maryland might not have much of a choice.
(Note: the same could apply to fellow offensive lineman Max Garcia, but Conaboy's versatility and ability to play C gives him the upper hand).
Desmond Kearse, S/LB - I'm not in favor of Kearse's redshirt being burnt, but as an edge rusher he would have the potential to be unparalleled. He was a monster in Florida with his speed-rush, and if Mackall can't provide a disruptive force, Kearse, in theory, could.
Then again, I'd hope at least one or two injuries that would require a LB or S would pop up before wasting his redshirt entirely, ala Eric Franklin.
Rahsaan Moore, FB - With Taylor Watson out with an injury, Maryland's down to one fullback for the moment. And considering Haroon Brown's past - after playing as a true freshman and appearing to be Cory Jackson's heir apparent, he was redshirted, benched, and surpassed by Watson - I'm not particularly confident in his ability to lock down the job. I'm guessing Maryland's staff isn't either.
If that's the case, then Moore, who played at DE and FB at Wise in Upper Marlboro, could challenge for playing time at FB. Watson's injury would need to prove worse than expected (which is to say he'd miss more than the projected three games) and Brown would have to be worse than we thought, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Moore on the field.
Titus Till, S - If Mackall isn't the best incoming player, then it's Till, who played with Moore at Wise. His only other offer was Army when he committed to Maryland, but he impressed the Rivals guys at a few combines so much that he shot up into the top 250. If Antwine Perez or Kenny Tate go down at safety, there's precious little proven talent back there. Till, young as he is, could make a big difference in that set-up.
Just missed the cut
Lorne Goree, LB - Goree was an early enrollee after prepping with Mackall. Now with Avery Murray out of the picture at linebacker, there's one fewer spot for him to climb. I imagine that Darin Drakeford, Ryan Donohue, and Mackall would get first looks, though.
Mario Rowson, CB - Maryland doesn't exactly have depth at CB. And if Maryland were to sustain an injury to one of their top two CBs, the battle for #3 would be two walk-ons and a redshirt freshman. You can't tell me that Rowson, who has perfect size and speed, couldn't get in on that if he was consistent in practice.
Tyler Smith, QB - What? I know, I'm not saying I'm in favor of burning Smith's redshirt, but you asked for players that can make an impact. Well, he was one of Maryland's more highly-rated recruits and ESPN absolutely loved him. If Jamarr Robinson flames out by the sixth game, I don't doubt that Fridge and Frank will turn the keys over to someone else.
Conceivably, that could be Tyler Smith. Fridge hasn't always been sensible with his QB decision-making, and I don't really expect it to start now (bad: sticking with Joel Statham and Jordan Steffy, good: starting Sam Hollenbach). If Smith is impressive as the scouting services said and picks up the offense, there's a chance he could work his way up near C.J. Brown and Danny O'Brien.