Maryland's freshman class last year was notable for two reasons: first, for being one of the best ones since Ralph Friedgen arrived on the scene; and second, for burning an astronomical amount of those said freshmen's redshirts. Seriously: ten true freshman redshirts were burnt, most of them needlessly.
That number dropped to eight once Caleb Porzel and Avery Murray left the program, which made everything seem a tad more reasonable. Besides, the past is the past, and except for analyzing whether or not Friedgen and James Franklin should remain aboard, there's no point whining about it.
However, when the redshirts were burnt, they accelerated the eligibility clocks of those eight players. With just three years to make an impact on the team instead of four, it becomes paramount that, in order to make the most of their time, this year's true sophomores do as much as possible in the (comparatively) little they have left.
Below is an overview of each of the eight true sophomores, what they did last year, and what the outlook is for this year and their careers beyond, however shortened they may be:
Justin Anderson, DT/DE
What he did last year: Anderson saw sparse playing time last year, getting in only a few plays in his six games. He saw his first action the same week Joe Vellano returned from injury, Vellano promptly jumped him on the depth chart and stole most of his playing time. Anderson ended up with three total tackles, and moved occasionally between defensive tackle and defensive end.
Where he stands now: He's "clearly" the starter at anchor, which is really just a fancy word for defensive end. I'm not sure that his minimal experience last year helped him that much last year, but it's obvious that he's impressed the coaches one way or the other and he'll be on the field for the first play against Navy. It's very possible he'll be a three-year starter and a key to the defense later in his career.
Ryan Donohue, LB
What he did last year: Donohue saw time in seven games last year tallied four tackles. He rarely got on the field outside of special teams and the occasional play in reserve for Alex Wujciak.
Where he stands now: The linebacker exodus has been kind to Donhue. With Javarie Johnson and Avery Murray transferred and Ben Pooler injured, an opportunity opened for Donohue, who is now the second-string weakside linebacker behind Demetrius Hartsfield. He may never start for Maryland - he's the same year as Hartsfield and won't likely jump Mackall or Drakeford at strongside or middle 'backer. Still, he'll be an excellent reserve linebacker with a lot of versatility, similar to what Pooler would've been this year.
Darin Drakeford, LB
What he did last year: A highly-touted linebacker from the DC area, Drakeford impressed coaches in practice and played in 11 games last year, missing only Middle Tennessee State. He played mostly on special teams and the occasional play in reserve, but he was impressive when he got the chance; for example, against Florida State, he made a crucial, bone-crunching tackle on a third and ten.
Where he stands now: Currently, Drakeford is Adrian Moten's top backup at strongside linebacker. Drakeford won't jump Moten in any case other than injury, and but he's seen playing time at middle linebacker and could be the primary backup for all three positions. Once Moten graduates, Drakeford should be a starter.
Nick Ferrara, K
What he did last year: All Ferrara did was end up as Maryland's starting kicker and be one of the best young kickers in the nation. He had his difficulties in the middle of the year, but he performed better than anyone could have expected and set out a great base to expand upon.
Where he stands now: He's not quite as good as he was last year. There are some injury concerns and his play's been up-and-down compared to last year, which has led to plenty of worries from the coaches. But I'd hold off on declaring him inefficient until we see it; otherwise, he still should be one of the top six or so kickers in the ACC.
What he did last year: Franklin was a coaches' favorite early in fall practice, but he with a decent amount of depth at the position failed to see playing time until Antwine Perez left the Duke game with what seemed to be a major injury. Franklin played that game, and then saw playing time in the next five as well as a reserve. He ended up with four tackles and a sack.
Where he stands now: Franklin may not ever see much more playing time than he did last year. He's currently Kenny Tate's #2, but true freshman Titus Till will provide tough competition, especially later in his career, and Desmond Kearse and Matt Robinson have drawn the coaches' praise. Till, not Franklin, may be the star of the future at safety.
What he did last year: The start of the year was much better to Fulper than the end. He was the first freshman under Friedgen to start the season opener on the offensive line, and despite his low standing in recruiting rankings more than held his own, considering his inexperience. He wasn't an automatic start as the year moved on and had his weaknesses exposed, and finally an injury ended his year.
Where he stands now: Fulper appears to have been jumped on the depth chart at LG by Justin Lewis. Perhaps the former center might move back there if any injury befalls Paul Pinegar (or an injury elsewhere forces Pinegar into emergency duty). He'll be a starter before long, even if it isn't at left guard.
Zach Kerr, DT
What he did last year: It's tough to remember that Kerr's only a sophomore; he signed two years ago, prepped one year, and came in as a serious contender for playing time on day one. He's a mass of a man and played in every game, but only had a couple of tackles all season.
Where he stands now: Like Anderson, it's very possible that Kerr will be a three year starter along the defensive line. He's currently listed behind both Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, but he's been catching up to Vellano lately and has more natural ability than arguably anyone else on the line. He's a potential impact player.
Isaiah Ross, DE
What he did last year: Ross was a curious case last year; Maryland was starved for a half-decent lineup, and Ross - a defensive tackle converted to middle linebacker converted to defensive end - provided an intriguing option. He ended up as perhaps the most impressive of all the defensive freshmen, as he played in eight consecutive games and had six tackles. A season-ending injury cut his freshman year short nine games in.
Where he stands now: Ross is just behind Anderson at anchor. Last year's injury kept him out of spring practices and certainly affected his play even in the fall, so he's now playing catch-up. But his pedigree, at least in games last year, seemed better than Anderson's. He'll be fighting for plays in reserve for now, but if he can make the most of them, he might be able to become a starter later in the season.