Maryland football’s open practice on Saturday took the form of a scrimmage. Offense faced off against defense for about 90 minutes at Maryland Stadium in some blistering heat in front of some brave fans.
As always, there has to be a balance here between evaluating what is on the field and not taking too much away from what is ultimately just one practice. Head coach DJ Durkin will go in and review the tape, but all we have is what we saw with our own eyes. Here are some observations. (If you were in attendance, feel free to point out some observations in the comments as well.)
- Maryland’s defense played nickel for almost all of the scrimmage. Jermaine Carter Jr. and Shane Cockerille played the most at linebacker duting the beginning of practice, and it looks like when Maryland plays nickel, those two’ll usually be out there.
- Will Likely played mostly slot corner on Saturday, with Alvin Hill and J.C. Jackson playing on the outside. Likely was active in the middle, coming on blitzes to the quarterback and getting into the backfield on a couple run plays. This is what DJ Durkin was talking about when he said Jackson gives the team more options on defense.
- Hill had an interception off Perry Hills. Jackson also nearly picked one off, but saw it slip through his hands. Jarrett Ross secured an interception off a ball that got tipped at the line.
- Hills got the lion’s share of the reps at quarterback, as has been the case all spring. He struggled at certain points, but threw a nice 10-yard touchdown to Levern Jacobs at the end of practice. He reaaalllly looks like he’ll be Maryland’s starter come Week 1, but Durkin isn’t declaring anything yet, at least publicly.
- Tyrrell Pigrome: fast. He received the second-most snaps at quarterback and showed off his wheels often. He had a few nice runs on read-option plays, though it’s a bit tough to judge quarterback runs, since the defense isn’t tackling them. He did leave himself open to some big hits, which is something the coaches will undoubtedly work on with him. As expected, his passing game is still a work in progress, and he usually stares down his primary receiver for quite a while before throwing. He did have a few nice passes, including a quick 10-yard rocket to Jacquille Veii. He seems like the No. 2 option in the quarterback race, but who really knows. Max Bortenschalger also saw time at quarterback on Saturday, but not as much as Pigrome did.
- The only glimpse of Caleb Rowe we saw was as a kick holder. Durkin says he’ll be back at the next practice, but they held him out of the scrimmage as a precaution. Gage Shaffer didn’t participate.
- Jesse Aniebonam moved around on defense, and Durkin said after practice that this is something that will definitely continue. Sometimes he played as a down lineman on the outside, sometimes he stood up to rush from the outside and sometimes he rushed the passer from the inside. He’s been one of the most talked-about players in camp, and Durkin is going to take advantage of his athleticism.
- The running game was a focus, as the team kept it on the ground much more often than it passed. Ty Johnson, Lorenzo Harrison and Jake Funk all saw extended playing time at running back, with Kenneth Goins, Wes Brown and Trey Edmunds also getting snaps. Looks like the team won’t be afraid to use Goins as a power back, either.
- The team gave a couple triple-option looks in the pistol, with Goins and DeAndre Lane flanking Hills and Brown behind him. Lane would jet out to the side as the speedy third option, though he didn’t end up getting the ball in this scrimmage.
- Adam Greene hit a few 40-ish-yard field goals, as did Towson transfer Mike Shinsky.
- Tight ends split out wide, often. Avery Edwards and Andrew Isaacs played several reps split out as receivers. This gives the team better blockers when they run stretch plays out there, and gives Edwards more opportunities to catch some passes.
- Occasional bombs. Bortenschlager threw a perfect deep pass to an open Tino Ellis, but it slipped through Ellis’s hands. Hills threw a deep ball juuuust a little to far for Leven Jacobs to handle. Still, these were fairly good signs. If the team can complete one of those passes per game after the defense loads up to stop the run, that’ll be very useful.
- Toward the end of practice, special teams was a focus. Wade Lees was the only guy who even attempted any punts, which Will Likely, D.J. Moore and J.C. Jackson got chances to return. With Likely going for a high usage rate this season, it’ll make sense to mix in some other players in the return game.
- Ty Johnson saw time returning kickoffs, as did Lorenzo Harrison. Levern Jacobs played on both the punting and kick-return units, something Durkin praised him for on media day this week.
- There sure was a lot of DeMatha blue on the sidelines after practice was over.