Maryland football held its first scrimmage of preseason camp this past Saturday. The Terps’ season opener against West Virginia on Sept. 4 is quickly approaching and some of the team’s early-season storylines are evolving by the practice, especially after Maryland’s opening scrimmage.
“I can tell you I come away pretty pleased with it,” Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley said.
We had a chance to hear from the head coach after the weekend’s scrimmage and these are some of the key takeaways from the preseason event, in which four different units of Maryland football’s roster saw the field.
There’s a new level of competitiveness and chemistry on the roster
One thing that Locksley made clear to the media was that the competitiveness between the players during the scrimmage was certainly there. He mentioned how the combination of young and veteran players meshed well on the field and how they brought out the best in one another.
“The second thing that really stood out to me with the scrimmage was just how competitive it was as we’ve continued to build the depth around here, you start to see the competition and the competitiveness between both sides of the ball,” Locksley said.
Maryland is bringing in a significant amount of impactful freshmen onto the team for the 2021 season, especially on the defense. The Terps’ 2021 recruiting class ranking is the fourth-highest in the conference and the 18th best in the nation, per 247Sports. As a result, a distinct difference between this year and last year, Locksley mentioned, was that the team’s depth is extremely noticeable.
“The competition, as opposed to the last couple of years I’ve been here, it’s just a lot more evenly matched. There’s a lot more depth, when you look at it, where it’s not just this big drop off when your ones and twos go against each other as we did today and to me that’s encouraging,” Locksley said.
So far, there has only been one scrimmage but the budding chemistry between the players on the roster is without a doubt a promising storyline.
“I’m starting to see that player driven culture kind of stand out and I see some of the older guys taking on mentor roles with these younger players and coaching these guys through situations... I heard a bunch of the veteran guys coaching and encouraging, you know, their respective sides of the ball, which you love to see,” Locksley said.
Some younger players stood out in the head coach’s eyes
A strong recruiting class inevitably comes with a fair share of preseason buzz.
Locksley specifically listed a few players that made some positive impressions during the scrimmage, including one of Maryland’s top recruits in Demeioun Robinson, who is coming to the Terps as a four-star edge rusher out of Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Locksley kept his opinions about Robinson short, noting that he had a good day and that he was pleased with his efforts during the scrimmage. The early praise shouldn’t be too surprising as Robinson enters the program as the top-ranked player in Maryland, according to ESPN. He’ll be one of the most important players on the roster to keep an eye on as the preseason continues, but the notion that Robinson is doing well thus far is a solid sign.
Another freshman linebacker that made his presence known was Branden Jennings. Jennings comes to the program as a four-star linebacker and was the seventh-ranked outside linebacker in the nation.
“I’ve been really pleased with Branden Jennings,” Locksley said. “I mean he’s one of those heavy-handed, young players man that exudes leadership and confidence at a young age, plays very physical.”
The most interesting standouts that the head coach mentioned were freshmen running backs Roman Hemby and Colby McDonald. Both will likely sit behind redshirt senior Tayon Fleet-Davis on the depth chart to kick off the season, but Fleet-Davis’ starting role is by no means set in stone. If Hemby and McDonald continue to have a strong preseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these two freshmen find the field early in the year.
Penalties were an issue at the first scrimmage
Maryland finished the shortened 2020 season with just five games under its belt, which was the least amount of games played out of any Big Ten team, but it finished in the top half of the conference in penalties.
Out of 14 teams in the Big Ten, the Terps finished with the sixth-most penalties at the end of the season. They committed a whopping 44 penalties (8.8 per game), which totaled nearly 80 yards of penalties per contest. The penalties issue seemed to continue at the team’s first scrimmage.
“If there was anything that I was disappointed in, you know, more than anything, the penalties,” Locksley noted.
The head coach also made a point that most of the penalties came towards the end of the scrimmage.
“I thought, as we got into the the meat of the scrimmage, you know, we got a little sloppy from a penalty standpoint and as we continue to preach, if we want to have any chance this year it’s going to be important that we play with the type of discipline that allows you to give yourself a chance,” Locksley said.
Locksley highlighted his team’s sloppiness regarding holding penalties, false starts and even lining up carelessly in the neutral zone at times. Maryland consistently was flagged last season, and if things keep trending in this direction, we could see more of the same in 2021 unless it is improved upon.