Yes, that's right, Maryland's taken a bit of a different path with their spring game: instead of the traditional Saturday afternoon, the Terps will be playing under the lights, with their spring finale kicking off at 7pm on Friday night. It is, if absolutely nothing else, unique and interesting. (And ignore the fact that it got pushed up a day early because lacrosse needed the field for Hopkins.)
Spring games are mostly just pomp and circumstance, the football equivalent of Midnight Madness - fun for the fans, but of little practical importance. Get everyone out injury-free, and it's a good day. Coaches, after all, have dozens of spring practices to judge players with; one scrimmage in an odd setting isn't going to do much to sway their opinions of ongoing position battles or schematic decisions.
But for a fan, like you or I, it's an interesting glimpse into those dozens of practices. While not all-important, the spring game provides interesting clues on what's going on behind the scenes and what you might be able to expect from a few individuals come fall.
Whether you're planning on making it out to Byrd by 7:00 or will be doing as I do and simply trolling through box scores, here are a few tidbits to keep your eyes on.
Can Ricardo Young put together a consistent game? If there's been any knock on Young in spring ball - and Randy Edsall hasn't been afraid of making it known - it's his inconsistency. That was to be expected, given how far removed he is from actually competing, having not taken a competitive snap since his high school games. But the Terps can't afford to have him shaking off rust on the fly, which is part of the reason C.J. Brown was confirmed as the starter heading into the fall despite being limited throughout practice. Young can still make a run at Brown come fall. The question is whether his consistency is more of a real issue or is simply Edsall giving the media some bluster to keep him on his toes, as he's done before. The spring game may give us a hint as to how much of an actual battle there'll be under center come fall.
Just how good are Maryland's receivers? Okay, we know the answer to this already: really good. But if you're looking for some eye candy, you're not likely to get much better than Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, and Nigel King in the same receiving corps, with your imagination supplying Marcus Leak (injured). I'm expecting a big day out of them, and you should too - so long as somebody can throw them the ball, of course.
Can Joe Riddle push Albert Reid for the third running back spot? Brandon Ross has the starting running back spot pretty much on lockdown at the moment. If anyone will challenge him, it's Wes Brown, who sat out spring practice himself. Those two seem comfortably ahead of the others at the moment, including presumed sure-to-be-#3 Albert Reid. But Joe Riddle has had two great scrimmages and drawn plaudits from the coaching staff. Another strong outing at the spring game would probably be indicative of a larger-scale improvement the coaches would be seeing daily, and not just a few one-offs. Maryland will play three backs with regularity, which means Reid needs to defend his turf.
Is the defensive front a cohesive, competent unit? The breaking up of players makes this tougher to see, but if there's any area with question marks for Maryland next year (beside quarterback, naturally) it's in the front seven. Having lost so much experience and production from last season, a lot of new pieces are plugging a lot of holes. Can Quinton Jefferson and Keith Bowers replace A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano without a mammoth dropoff? Can anyone fill in for Demetrius Hartsfield as a tackle machine? And perhaps most importantly, is there a monstrous pass-rusher at WILL somewhere, or will Yannick Ngakoue get his number called early?
Are the position battles resolving? Again, one game isn't going to sway the coaches much, if at all, when it comes to picking a winner out of a position battle. But when all you have are a few scrimmages as a fan, you take what you can get. And if one player shows out while his competitor struggles, it may be a fluke - but it may be indicative of something larger, too. Don't fly off the handle either way, but keep an eye on the performances of Nigel King (fighting against the absent Leak) at receiver, Sean Davis and A.J. Hendy at safety, Daniel Adams and P.J. Gallo at tight end, and Sal Conaboy and Evan Mulrooney at center, among others.
How do the new guys look? Each of the three newcomers in spring practice have the ability to make immediate impacts, but the degree to which is still uncertain. Long, of course, has been said to have one-and-done potential, possibly giving Maryland another weapon of elite caliber across from Diggs. Altamirano is looking like a good bet to be a reserve utilityman across the line, but if he can prove useful immediately Maryland's line depth will take a large step to the good. And Likely, well, he may be the most talented, exciting freshman on the roster next season. He'll get a crack at serious playing time and the chance to return punts. I'm hoping the early returns are encouraging on both fronts.
What does the Mike Locksley offense look like with a running quarterback at the helm? We saw that for all of one half during last season, and what a glorious half it was, when Devin Burns ran roughshod over N.C. State's hapless, confused, and admittedly probably underprepared defense. But with Young, a convincing facsimile of a similar type in Brown, Locksley will have carte blanche for all the rollouts, moving pockets, and ZRs he wants. I imagine we'll see a lot of them, as opposed to the West Coast spread we saw take shape under Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills.
Unfortunately, there's no TV option for watching it live if you can't make it to College Park in time. However, if you miss out CSN will be airing a show with extended coverage (Terps Rising style, I presume) on Saturday at 5:00.