When camp opened for Randy Edsall's Maryland team last week, the depth chart had six different position battles - back-up right tackle, back-up quarterback, back-up defensive end, back-up nose tackle, starting safety and back-up kicker. While most of those are still fiercely competitive, a new, unexpected position battle has popped up - starting right tackle.
Fifth-year senior Nick Klemm was expected to be firmly entrenched in the position, with walk-on Michael Dunn and Jake Wheeler battling for time behind him. While starting left tackle Mike Madaras was suspended, Ryan Doyle filled in, and did well enough that he has been switched to the right side of the line, competing with Klemm for the starting job.
Klemm did not have a particularly good day of practice Tuesday, but both him and Doyle were beat repeatedly by Quinton Jefferson off the edge. Edsall said the battle has more to do with Doyle's improvement than Klemm's struggles.
"I think [Doyle]'s doing better than he did before," Edsall said. "And again the other thing too is sometimes people open the door for you as well. I think it's probably a combination, but I think it's more of what Ryan's doing than anything [Nick Klemm is doing]."
Edsall said Doyle's improvement has shown in both the physical and mental aspects of his game.
"I think he's got a little bit more confident," he said. "He's doing the things we're asking him to do from a technique standpoint and I thought that was the thing that was really holding him back before. He's a try-hard guy and he's got ability, but I think that he's gotten better at the techniques and fundamentals of that position and that's allowed him to be better."
The big news from practice came in the form of who didn't play - Maryland's top three receivers were all out (Stefon Diggs and Nigel King receiving dental work, while Deon Long still recovers from a back injury), and Edsall saw that as a good opportunity to rest starting quarterback C.J. Brown.
Edsall said he has "no idea" who the back-up to Brown will be, and decided to rest Brown so that he could see Ricardo Young, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe play with (and against) first teamers. The experiment had mixed results - Young looked as good as we've seen at an open practice, completing seven out of his 13 passes and proving he is a force to be reckoned with on the ground, scoring the only offensive touchdown of the day on his feet. Hills completed five of his 11 attempts, but Rowe continued to struggle, going 3/9 with an interception.
"I don't think anybody separated themselves today," Edsall said. "I wasn't real impressed with things today, I think there was a couple things that they did well but then there were things, mistakes that they make that you don't think they should make. And again, it's just not off of today, I mean we scrimmaged the other day and have that for an evaluation and have really every day that we're out here practicing. But it's not just what you see taking place on the field but it's also how are they managing the huddle? How are they getting the things translated from the sideline to the field and getting the plays off and those sort of things? So there's a lot that goes into it, but this gave us another pretty good evaluation to evaluate those three guys."
Edsall said he expects to make the decision on the backup quarterback over the next few days, to make sure he gets as many reps as possible. While the Terps have six quarterbacks, Edsall excluded walk-on Dustin Dailey from the conversation, noting that he won't be able to find reps for "five guys" - it's likely that one of the Young/Hills/Rowe group will be the odd man out.
On the defensive side of things, Tuesday was A.J. Hendy's day with the first teamers at safety, where he's been switching off with returning starter Sean Davis. Edsall said neither has taken the job yet, but expected both to play.
At cornerback, it was another good day for Will Likely, who had two interceptions. Edsall said Likely could be in the mix with Dexter McDougle, Jeremiah Johnson, Isaac Goins and Alvin Hill at the position this season.
"Will's very competitive," Edsall said. "Will plays with a ton of confidence and everyday he's out here working to get better. When you look at corner, we've got five guys who can play. We'll just have to see how it continues to play out and where we might be able to fit him in, but he's a very good football player."