The big story tomorrow, given the timing of the year and natural preferences of sport in College Park, is of course Maryland's trip to Wake Forest, where they look to stave off more road disappointment and salvage some optimism at the end of a disappointing season.
Hope springs anew, though, and at no point is that sentiment truer than at the start of football spring practice. Every team's undefeated, every coach is optimistic, and every fanbase is furiously talking about how great their strengths are and downplaying their weaknesses. So to stave off some potential depression from tomorrow afternoon, let's talk pigskin: Maryland's football team went ahead and released their first spring practice depth chart this afternoon, and there are some seriously interesting wrinkles in it. Let's take it through its paces, shall we?
QB: Ricardo Young (Jr.) / Dustin Dailey (So.)
No surprises here. Young's one of only two healthy QBs for spring ball, with the other being little-known transfer Dustin Dailey. Young is going to be threatening C.J. Brown's starting spot, so the onus is on him to have an impressive spring.
RB: Brandon Ross (So.) / Albert Reid (So.) / Joe Riddle (rFr.)
Once again, no surprises. Ross started the final few games of last season and looked good in the process, while Reid still has loads of potential. Wes Brown is out with an injury, so he'll take the spring to rehab and get healthy. Joe Riddle is going to be a reserve option, but Maryland used four backs last year and he'll look to impress and maybe get a few snaps situationally.
FB: Tyler Cierski (Jr.) / Kenny Goins (rFr.)
Still no shocks. Cierski has the spot on lockdown.
WR: Deon Long (Jr.) / Amba Etta (neé Tawo) (rFr.) / James Bowman (Jr.)
WR: Stefon Diggs (So.) / Tyrek Cheeseboro (So.) / Regis Whittington (Jr.)
WR: Nigel King (So.) / Malcolm Culmer (So.) / T.J. Ehrie (Sr.)
Ah, our first little surprise: Deon Long is listed atop his receiver position. Now, that in and of itself isn't a shock - everyone and their mother expected Long, Diggs, King, and Marcus Leak - once he has his grades in order - to be the top four receivers in College Park this year. But remember that even Stefon Diggs, His Marylandness, started out on the bottom of the depth chart. This should serve as a reminder of two things: first, that Long is already familiar with Mike Locksley and his offense, and vice versa, which will help him out tremendously as he adjusts to the college game; and secondly, that Edsall is becoming increasingly pragmatic. Gone are the days of newcomers starting at the bottom, especially if they're huge names who'll help recruiting. Winning games is nice, too.
LT: Mike Madaras (So.) / Ryan Doyle (So.)
LG: De'Onte Arnett (Sr.) / Silvano Altamirano (Jr.)
C: Sal Conaboy (Jr.) OR Evan Mulrooney (So.) / Stephen Grommer (So.)
RG: Andrew Zeller (So.) / Gary Harraka (Jr.) / Maurice Shelton (rFr.)
RT: Nick Klemm (Sr.) / Jake Wheeler (Jr.) / Michael Dunn (rFr.)
Two interesting bits: Altamirano starts on the inside, behind De'Onte Arnett, instead of challenging at right tackle. It was expected, but he could play at any of the five spots along the line, so it's good to get one nailed down. He could challenge Arnett or Zeller for either spot, as neither have theirs on lockdown. The other note: Conaboy and Mulrooney are tied atop the depth chart at center. Conaboy had an up and down year and Mulrooney filled in admirably as a freshman, occasionally looking overmatched but more often than not equipping himself well. That's one of the more intriguing position battles of the spring, at least offensively.
DE: Quinton Jefferson (So.) OR Justin Anderson (Sr.) / Ty Tucker (rFr.)
NT: Darius Kilgo (Jr.) / Nate Clarke (So.) / Alex Walker (Jr.) / Azubuike Ukandu (rFr.)
DE: Keith Bowers (Jr.) / Roman Braglio (rFr.) / Joe Rosenblatt (rFr.)
Another moderate surprise: Quinton Jefferson tied atop the depth chart with Justin Anderson for the strongside end spot. Anderson seemed to be more likely to start, given his experience, but Jefferson's long been a favorite of the Terps' staff. Interesting position battle #2: engaged.
Elsewhere, Nate Clarke is back on the defensive side of the ball and will be called upon to be Darius Kilgo's primary understudy. He'll need to get up to speed quickly, should anything happen to Kilgo at perhaps the most important position in the front seven. Keith Bowers has a chance to put a hold on one of the starting spots, as Andre Monroe is still recovering from last year's season-ending injury.
SAM: Alex Twine (Jr.) OR Avery Thompson (So.)
MIKE: Bradley Johnson (Jr.) / Shawn Petty (So.)
MO: L.A. Goree (Jr.) / Abner Logan (rFr.) / Brock Dean (rFr.)
WILL: Marcus Whitfield (Sr.) / Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil (Jr.) / Clarence Murphy (Jr.)
Maryland's linebackers look nothing like they will come fall, when Yannick Ngakoue, Jalen Brooks, and Jermaine Carter will all come and have a chance at starting, plus Cole Farrand coming back to step into the MIKE spot without question. In that regard, it's no wonder that this bunch looks all jumbled up. Farrand has one starting spot on lockdown, and you'd think that Goree probably has another. But Whitfield has done little in his three years to make you think he's the hands-down starter at WILL, especially with Yannick Ngakoue breathing down his neck. That said, there are two big surprises: first, Avery Thompson is pushing Alex Twine at SAM, which is a full-on shock to me. Twine's an experienced junior who started games last year, filling in for Kenny Tate and doing spot duty elsewhere. Twine has a tendency to make things happen and has done nothing to make me think he'd be in over his head as a starter, so Thompson's presence that high is a bit of a surprise. The other: Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil, a transfer (and walk-on, to my knowledge) rght behind Whitfield and ahead of Clarence Murphy at WILL. Be interesting to see if that holds up.
CB: Dexter McDougle (Sr.) / Alvin Hill (So.) / Tony Perry (Sr.)
CB: Jeremiah Johnson (Jr.) / Isaac Goins (Sr.) / Will Likely (Fr.)
S: Sean Davis (So.) OR A.J. Hendy (Jr.)
S: Anthony Nixon (So.) / Zach Dancel (So.) / Undray Clark (So.) / Rashid Conteh (Jr.)
This group should be much improved from last year and, frankly, pretty good. McDougle and Johnson are locked into starting spots, and Nixon should be better in his sophomore year. Likely starts at the bottom of the depth chart, predictably not receiving the Deon Long treatment, but he'll have a chance to make an impact and leapfrog Goins or Hill with good spring showings. The other note of interest is that Hendy and Davis are in a battle for the second safety spot; Davis started much of last year but struggled more than Nixon, while Hendy was in and out of the team with injury. On his day, Hendy is an explosive playmaking safety, the type of player that Brian Stewart seems to favor. That'll be an interesting watch.
K: Brad Craddock (So.) / Michael Tart (Jr.) / Brendan Magistro (So.)
P: Nathan Renfro (So.) / Sam Retzky (Fr.)
LS: Greg Parcher (Sr.) / Christian Carpenter (rFr.)
Brad Craddock is still manning the kicker duties, for better or for worse. Adam Greene, a preferred walk-on, might challenge him come fall, but Michael Tart and particularly Brendan Magistro should push him right now. Renfro should walk into a starting spot, though, unless Craddock moves over to punter.