Maryland football has returned to the gridiron.
The Terps stepped foot inside Jones-Hill House for their first spring practice Tuesday afternoon. Maryland will hold 15 spring practices — which will take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — leading up to its annual Red-White Spring Game on Saturday, April 30.
Wednesday’s practice came exactly three months after the Terps’ 54-10 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Virginia Tech on Dec. 29. The Maryland program looks to take the “next step” this season, and it starts with spring practices. Maryland will officially begin its 2022 campaign against Buffalo on Sept. 3 at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.
As part of Tuesday’s media day, head coach Michael Locksley delivered a press conference, and all 10 assistant coaches along with select players were available to the media. Let’s dive into what we learned from the day:
Brian Williams promoted to defensive coordinator
It was the first time Locksley and Williams have addressed the promotion of Williams to defensive coordinator for the 2022 season. Last season, Williams was co-defensive coordinator and the defensive line coach. But starting with the last regular season game of the year against Rutgers, Locksley gave Williams the responsibility of calling the defensive plays. Williams also called the plays in the Pinstripe Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Both of those games were strong defensive performances for Maryland, giving Locksley the confidence Williams is the guy moving forward.
Earlier this offseason, it was reported that Kevin Steele, a highly decorated defensive coach, was being hired as the defensive coordinator at Maryland. It was reported that he had already begun to move into an office at Maryland before eventually deciding to leave and take a position at the University of Miami. It was then that Locksley decided to go with Williams for the job.
“People that aren't here don't concern me. Why they aren't here doesn't concern me. I focus on the ones that are here,” Locksley said.
“He’s earned the respect of the coaching staff. He’s earned the respect of the players on that side of the ball. He’s a guy that really has continued to grow within our program,” Locksley continued to say about Williams.
Loaded wide receiver room, led by new wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer, enters spring with a ton of hype
Brewer, who is also the team’s passing game coordinator, comes to Maryland with over 30 years of coaching experience. With his most recent stop at Louisville, Brewer has also spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles, UNC, Ole Miss and numerous other schools. Brewer has coached players like Randy Moss and Dez Bryant, and he should have a great group of wideouts with the Terps this season.
Junior Rakim Jarrett and senior Dontay Demus — who is still recovering from a knee injury — highlight an ultra-talented room. Junior Jacob Copeland joins the corps from Florida, where he was the Gators’ leading receiver in 2021. Redshirt junior Jeshaun Jones, who is also working his way back from a season-ending leg injury, returns for his fifth year in a Terps uniform. Among other names, sophomore Tai Felton is someone that the coaching staff views as someone who can push the bigger names in the room.
“He’s an energetic guy,” Jarrett said about Brewer. “He has his motto like ‘freak show,’ like step on the field with freaks. So that’s kind of like a fun thing to hear. He comes into meetings he’s always ‘freak time!’ and we got to say ‘showtime!’ He’s a fun guy, and I look forward to working with him.”
“It’s a very talented group and everybody’s — there’s only one ball — but everybody’s hungry for that ball,” Brewer said. “So, sometimes the defense obviously dictates where the ball goes. So at any point in time, anybody’s on the field that’s playing that position can get it, so you got to run your route like you want the ball and present yourself that way. And they’re very professional in their approach.”
Cornerback depth provides boost to secondary that lost Nick Cross and Jordan Mosley
Defensive backs Nick Cross and Jordan Mosley, two of Maryland’s top defensive backs in 2021, move on from college football and will take the first steps toward their respective pro careers in Maryland’s Pro Day on Wednesday. While the two losses are significant, the Terps feel they have enough returning experience for their cornerback unit to have a big year.
Senior Jakorian Bennett and junior Tarheeb Still headline a cornerback room that is poised to be deep heading into the season. Bennett and Still ranked first and second in passes defended last season, while Bennett also led the Terps with three interceptions. Redshirt junior Deonte Banks, sophomore Corey Coley Jr., senior Kenny Bennett and senior Lavonte Gater look to put forward breakout years to round out cornerbacks coach Henry Baker’s well-built group.
“I’ve got a lot of guys who played a lot of games and who have a lot of experience,” Baker said. “So I’m really looking for those guys to be able to take a huge leadership role, especially on the back end, losing guys like Nick Cross and Jordan Mosley even though we got some really good guys stepping into those roles. I think from a leadership standpoint, from an experience standpoint, how to prepare for games, I think those guys are going to be pivotal in terms of cohesiveness.”
“Having that depth is — teams, it’s starting to become a passing league — so just being able to interchange the corners without a drop-off, that’s special, that’s good to have,” Jakorian Bennett said.
Locksley comments on Demeioun Robinson’s departure
On Monday, linebacker Demeioun Robinson announced he was transferring out of the Maryland program. Robinson was a highly regarded recruit entering his freshman season in 2021 and became a solid component to the Terps defense this past season.
Robinson played in all 13 of Maryland’s games last season, recording 19 tackles and two sacks. The decision to transfer came as a surprise to many on the outside given the timing with spring practice just one day away. But Locksley says it wasn't much of a surprise.
“No it didn't come as a surprise,” Locksley said on Robinson’s decision. “We have to recruit our current roster. We have to recruit sophomores, juniors and seniors, we’re recruiting all the time.”
Linebacker Branden Jennings also transferred out of the program after the 2021 season. With both linebackers gone, Maryland lost two of its top recruits from the 2021 class. While Maryland has highly touted freshman linebackers coming into the fray for the 2022 season, it will be without its best and most experienced from last season.
“We hate to see players go leave our program,” Locksley said. “As I’ve said before, this is the landscape of college football. The transfer portal giveth and taketh away.”