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Maryland football spring game preview: 3 things to look for in the Terps' Red vs. White game

Spring football!

Maryland v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Maryland’s 2017 spring game kicks off Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET in College Park. The annual culmination of spring football won’t entirely quench anyone’s thirst for the season to start in earnest, but it should hold the fans over until August.

This won’t be a “real” football game, as the Terps will pit their offense and defense against each other across four 12-minute quarters. The offensive scoring rules will be the same as always, while the defense will earn two points for any stop, three points for a three-and-out, and seven points for a turnover or touchdown. This is exactly how Maryland did it last year, when the defense won 51-35.

“We want to make sure we get the most out of it that day,” head coach DJ Durkin said of the format Thursday. “When you divide the roster and divide the teams, you get really thin at spots and all of a sudden you’re wearing certain guys out that you don’t necessarily want to, and some guys are playing more than you want them to.”

Unfortunately, fans won’t get a chance to see quarterback Caleb Henderson, who suffered a minor ankle injury in practice this week and will be held out as a precautionary measure.

“He’ll be just fine,” Durkin said. “No sense in pushing right now or trying to do something crazy. We want him to be healthy for the majority of summertime and obviously into fall camp, and he’ll be able to do that.”

As a result, the only quarterbacks on the field will be rising sophomores Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager and transfer walk-on Ryan Brand. The defensive backfield will be thin as well, with cornerbacks JC Jackson, Ravon Davis and Deon Jones all out for health reasons.

Still, the spring game should provide a glimpse of where the team stands, albeit with more than four months until the season starts. Admission to Maryland Stadium is free, and the game is available on BTN2Go. Here are a few things worth keeping an eye on.

1. How quick will Maryland’s offense run? Offensive coordinator Walt Bell loves to push the tempo, as he showcased frequently last year. But in his first season, the Terps finished 100th in the country in Adjusted Pace, which compares the number of plays an offense runs to an expected figure based on run-pass ratio. It would make sense for the tempo to pick up more consistently in the staff’s second year, so we’ll see how things look Saturday. Of course, Henderson won’t be on the field, but we should still get a sense of what’s to come by seeing how Pigrome, Bortenschlager and Brand run the offense.

2. How well do the new pieces seem to fit in? The Terps have a handful of early-enrollee freshmen and a couple of transfers in, so it will be interesting to see if those guys are up to speed. Markquese Bell and Fofie Bazzie will be worth watching in the secondary, which is far from full strength at the moment. Fans will also get a look at players like running back LaDerrien Wilson and offensive guard Richard Merritt, who joined the team last summer but redshirted their first seasons, and wide receiver Jacquille Veii, who played in last year’s spring game but sat out the season per transfer rules.

3. To what extent will the Terps mix and match personnel on offense? It would be reasonable for Maryland to roll out one group of players with Pigrome, another with Bortenschlager and another with Brand, but it’s also possible the Terps try a little bit of everything. The depth charts at running back and wide receiver are definitely not set, so there’s reason to expect a lot of different looks. This is hardly more than a glorified scrimmage, after all.

There probably won’t be much else to take away from Saturday, but this is still a fun time of year. It’s a time for excitement, hope, and DJ Durkin speeches that make you want to run through walls.

Happy spring.