One of my favorite things about spring practice: position battles. Maryland fans don't really get the same constant optimism from spring practice that some other fanbases do, but there's no hating on the intrigue of position battles. Seeing players take charge of a position is always exciting, especially when it's not entirely expected.
There are always a few of interest. Let's run down the best, in a rough order of interestingness. Offense today and defense tomorrow.
Perhaps labeling this as a position battle isn't technically correct, if you want to be semantic about it. Maryland hasn't had a dominant running back since the early days of the Friedgen Era. First was the Lance Ball / Keon Lattimore combo, then the Da'Rel Scott / Davin Meggett one. Scott is gone now, but Meggett is still around and Adams figures to join him before long. But neither will become dominant and hog the carries; it's more likely that they'll share carries, with the nominal starter getting a slightly larger share.
Then again, this is a new era. Edsall is more known for his workhorse powerhouses like Donald Brown and Jordan Todman. So one of them may emerge as a stronger, more relied-upon starter, though there's too much talent between the two to sit one entirely.
Meggett is listed as the starter, and I have to admit I expect it to stay that way. Meggs is a four-year player, someone who burst on the scene his freshman year with dynamic, exciting performances as Da'Rel Scott's primary fill-in. His sophomore year was the 2-10 disaster and was rather disappointing; last year he improved and was the team's leading rusher with a pretty ridiculous 5.7 ypc average. With that type of productivity and experience, he's all but a shoo-in to start.
But don't expect D.J. Adams to go away quietly. He made a name for himself as a goal-line back last year, scoring a team-leading 11 TDs on only 67 carries. His skill was apparent - he has good vision, great change-of-pace, and was difficult to bring down. And even better, he's swagerrific, and seeing him high-stepping into the end zone was loads of fun. He'll get his carries as a touchdown vulture for sure, but if he can prove himself in the spring and fall, he should be able to garner carries farther and farther away from the goal line.
Combatants: Quintin McCree (Sr., 21 career catches); Adrian Coxson (RFr.)
The traditional names like X, Y, and Z, or even flanker, slot, etc., are gone from the depth-chart. Whether that's Edsallian, Crowtonean, or just a typo, that means we're winging it with the names. We're not winging it so much with the combatants - this is looking to be one of the more exciting position battles of the spring.
In one corner, we have Quintin McCree, a fifth-year senior from Brandywine, Md. He saw his first serious playing time of his career last year, nabbing 16 catches for a pretty impressive 188 yards. He has really good size and impressive athleticism, and started to come on strong toward the end of last year, with a 4-catch, 44-yard performance against N.C. State to close out the regular season. He followed that up with...being declared academically ineligible for the Military Bowl.
Coxson is everyone's favorite prospect at this point. A former star at City in Baltimore, he originally committed to Florida before transferring (rather quickly) back to the hometown team. Coxson has virtually every physical tool you can have: he has a great frame, he's tall, he's strong, and he's pretty fast considering his size. He has large hands that are very strong - think the Jordan Williams of the gridiron. While he's still raw, most people seem to think he'll be a star before long.
I'd guess that Quintin McCree is the starter come fall, and I don't think Coxson will give him too much of a challenge. Along with Ronnie Tyler, he's one of only two receivers on the team with any sizable measure of game experience. Giving that up for Coxson isn't something I expect a guy like Edsall to do. But I do expect Coxson to get plenty of snaps - he's too talented to keep off the field entirely, especially with Crowton's supposedly Oregon-esque spread-style look.
Combatants: Justin Gilbert (Jr.); Max Garcia (So.)
Gilbert was the starter at the all-important LT spot last year, but he ended up only starting for 3 games before a leg injury ended his season. Garcia's name was brought up as a potential replacement, but he didn't burn his redshirt until the Florida State game.
As Gilbert is the older, wiser of the two, he's the no-brainer starter for the moment. But he's only older in the sense that he's been in the program longer; he doesn't have significantly more game experience. Garcia was one of the more highly-regarded recruits for Maryland over the past few years. He's quicker and more athletic than most linemen, and that may help Maryland if they decide to go with no-huddle and less smashmouth. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to see this one go either way.
Watson figures to have the upper-hand here. He was the starter by a comfortable margin heading into last season before he became injured and missed much of the early part of the season. That revived Haroon Brown's career - Brown had previously fallen to the bottom of the depth chart, but ended up starting 3 games - and playing in all 12 - in Watson's absence. Watson reclaimed his starting job once he became healthy, and I'm guessing that'll give him the advantage.
The wild card is Moore, who is listed as being tied with the other two atop the depth chart. A sleeper from Wise HS, Moore ended up drawing positive reviews as soon as he got on campus. He's been a coach's favorite and has great size and strength. He's not a big threat with the ball in his hands, but then again neither are the other two.
With all three listed as being tied atop the depth chart, I'm assuming this one will be decided in spring and fall practice. That said, the way they're listed - Watson, Brown, Moore - is probably their standing for the moment.
The Right to Be Danny O'Brien's Backup
Combatants: C.J. Brown (So.); Tyler Smith (RFr.)
Let's be honest: ain't nobody challengin' DOB. Danny's the future of this team, but he isn't immortal. Maryland traditionally is forced to used a backup at least occasionally thanks to either injury or poor play, and that position isn't known for sure. Brown is the clubhouse leader for the moment, but he doesn't have the position on lockdown.
CJB is known for his pure athleticism and ability on the run. He doesn't have a lot of exposure to complex offenses, but athletically speaking he's Maryland's most versatile QB since the Scott McBrien days. Smith, though, is the Terrapins' most highly-touted QB commitment since...Jeremy Ricker, I guess. He's tall and lanky, with a rocket arm, a speedy delivery, and a game suited to the spread and shotgun.
In all honesty, Smith has basically every physical tool, and a lot of the mental ones, too. He's O'Brien's heir apparent and will take that position eventually. Will it be now? Probably not. But if he has a strong showing in spring practice, he could certainly make a run at the spot.