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Maryland football spring game preview, 3 things to watch & more

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The only thing better than spring football is actual, regular season football. We’re getting there.

Coach DJ Durkin Spring Maryland Football Lila Bromberg/Testudo Times

Maryland football’s 2018 spring game will kick off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Maryland Stadium. It’s the first live football any of us will have seen since late November.

Even with the team running around in full pads and making real tackles for everybody to see for the first time in months, there’s still plenty that will separate this from a regular season game. First and foremost, obviously, this is an intrasquad scrimmage; the Terps are playing against themselves. As such, there needs to be a way for the defense to keep pace in scoring with the offense. Over the last two years, the offense scored like it would in a regular game, while the defense earned two points for a stop, three points for a three-and-out and seven for a turnover or touchdown. As of Thursday, DJ Durkin was still unsure as to exactly what the format of this year’s game would be.

“We’re still talking through that. It won’t be anything drastic,” Durkin told reporters at practice. “We’re not going to divide the teams or do a draft or anything like that, we’ll do some form of offense-defense—whether it’s ones versus ones or ones versus twos—however we’ll do it. We’re still talking about that. A lot of it has to do with the scoring system, more for the fans and what not.

“I just want to go out and have a good, clean practice, good day. I’m looking forward to it being a nice day, being outside, and we should have a good turnout.”

The game can be streamed on BTN2Go, with Bryan Kerr and LaMont Jordan on the call and Gabriella DiGiovanni on the sideline. The game will air on BTN at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Maryland has more fan information here.

The weather kept people away last year, but the forecast for Saturday is 70s and sunny, so there should be plenty of fans in attendance. If the nice weather wasn’t enough to draw fans, there are plenty of intriguing storylines heading into the spring game. Here are three:

1. What the does the Maryland iteration of Matt Canada’s offense look like?

Canada is notorious for using lots of pre-snap shifting to create mismatches and get athletes in space. That much has remained constant. But for an offensive coordinator who’s at his fourth school in as many seasons, he’s dealt with his fair share of different personnel.

“I like how we can be multiple with our personnel, I think that’s the biggest thing,” Durkin said. “You know where the depth chart is based on your strengths. If you create a role for yourself and there are things you can do, then there’s a fit for you somewhere in the offense.”

At Maryland, Kasim Hill—and to a lesser extent, Tyrrell Pigrome—is most similar to Jacoby Brissett, Canada’s quarterback at NC State. Hill and Brissett are bigger quarterbacks who are mobile, but not necessarily runners. But neither Hill nor Pigrome will participate in the spring game as each is still rehabbing a season-ending knee injury.

The Terps have six running backs who can contribute heading into the season. Expect to see two of them on the field frequently. We’ll also surely see a ton of motions (some more exotic than others) on Saturday, but with Max Bortenschlager, true freshman Tyler DeSue and walk-on Legend Brumbaugh under center, the play calling will likely be a bit different than what we see come September.

2. Which receivers stand out?

Taivon Jacobs is expected to be the team’s No. 1 receiver this season. He’s earned that distinction as the longest-tenured pass catcher on the roster. Beyond Jacobs, though, there are plenty of snaps to go around. Jahrvis Davenport is a guy who’s stood out in some open practices. True freshman Jeshaun Jones has turned heads as well. Tahj Capehart was expected to take on a bigger role this season, but tore his ACL in spring practice.

Four receivers come off redshirts this season and will be featured on offense for the first time in the spring game. Sean Nelson, Carlos Carriere, Jayden Comma and MJ Jarrell each brings a bit of a different skill set to the receiving corps, and each should be on display Saturday.

Last year’s spring game hero, DJ Turner will look to take a big leap in Year 3. The junior hasn’t put up big numbers in either if his first two seasons, but has the opportunity to seize the starting slot receiver position this year. In Canada’s offense, Turner could be lethal. A fellow DeMatha Stag, Chris Jones is also worth keeping an eye on as a veteran presence, but hasn’t played since 2015.

3. What does the front seven look like?

Cavon Walker, Kingsley Opara, Chandler Burkett, Shane Cockerille, Jalen Brooks and Jermaine Carter Jr. are all gone. That means it’s time for new talent to fill the void, and there appears to be no shortage of potential suitors.

Jesse Aniebonam will return for his last year of eligibility after a season-ending injury in the first game of last season, though he hasn’t been practicing and won’t play in the spring game. Byron Cowart, the former No. 3 overall recruit who’s making the most of new opportunities at Maryland, is projected to start at strong-side defensive end. True freshman Durell Nchami is already making his presence felt at the Terps’ BUCK linebacker position.

Twin defensive tackles Brandon and Breyon Gaddy are coming off redshirts and will bring much-needed size to the interior. Adam McLean came on late last season and is looking like he could finally be the productive interior lineman he was expected to be coming out of high school.

Tre Watson and Isaiah Davis headline a linebacking corps that lost three of its most senior members after last season. They’re the starters heading into the game, but it’ll be the first chance for fans to see Ayinde Eley in action, and the Terps will want to see what Brett Shepherd can do as well.

When all is said and done, each takeaway from the spring game will have to be accompanied by a grain of salt, but this is still meant to be a fun time for fans nonetheless.