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Notes from Maryland football’s latest open spring practice

We were there. Here’s what we saw.

Maryland v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Maryland football had its third open-to-the-media practice Tuesday as the team took the field inside Cole Field House. Though the afternoon started with some bad news, it turned out to be a fun few hours in an even cooler building.

Here are some observations and notes from our vantage point on the concourse:

With Damian Prince, Derwin Gray and Terrance Davis rehabbing injuries, the offensive line looks different.

From left tackle to right tackle, Marcus Minor, Sean Christie, Johnny Jordan, Brendan Moore and Jordan McNair made up the Terps’ offensive line that ran with the ones. With the twos, it was TJ Bradley, Brian Plummer, Ellis McKennie, Tyler Hamilton and Tyran Hunt. On the whole, each group looked much more solid run blocking than pass blocking.

In the later half of practice, the first and second offenses and defenses were pitted against each other, running four plays before the other took over. There was no tackling in this portion of practice, even though the team was in full pads.

The second-team offensive line cleared big holes for Tayon Fleet-Davis and Jake Funk, while the left side opened one up for Anthony McFarland; each back had big runs down the sideline. McFarland’s speed and quickness is on another level, while Funk looks faster than he did last year. Fleet-Davis, on the other hand, carried his 5’11, 231-pound frame lightly, beating linebackers to the numbers and turning multiple runs up the sideline. Having multiple running backs on the field at once seems like it’ll be fairly normal.

On pass plays, second-string quarterback Tyler DeSue was pressured quickly and often. There were two high snaps, one to Max Bortenschlager and one to DeSue, that were bobbled and turned into sacks for Durell Nchami and Brett Shepherd, respectively.

The passing game has changed dramatically.

There was not one quick screen in this portion of practice. Not one. Instead, our eyes were blessed with tight ends and receivers running short and intermediate crossing routes; the deep passing game needs some work. The focus seemed to be on routes within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, with a lot of play action and roll outs, which should maximize the strength of the offense—its run game.

Maryland had better hope that one or both of Tyrrell Pigrome or Kasim Hill are ready for the start of the season. Bortenshlager looks much like he did last year; perhaps he’d perform better in this offense. DeSue, frankly, doesn’t look ready yet. To be fair, he should technically be a second-semester senior in high school and wouldn’t play this year anyway in an ideal world—but this is Maryland football, so anything goes at the quarterback position.

Taivon Jacobs is the unquestioned leader of this receiving corps, but that was expected. Behind him, Jahrvis Davenport looks to have taken up second fiddle. He ran sharp routes all afternoon and frequently made his defender miss after catching the ball. A staff member told a recruit watching practice that Jeshaun Jones is the next D.J. Moore of the program.

The defense won the day.

Matt Canada’s offense is confusing for defenses. There are a lot of motions. Like, a lot of motions. As a casual observer, it’s fun to watch and try to follow, but as a defender, it must be hellish. That said, the defense outperformed the offense on this day.

On a patented Canada zipper motion into a jet sweep to Jacobs, Antoine Brooks met the speedy receiver behind the line of scrimmage for what would have been a tackle for a loss in live action; Brooks was all over the place Tuesday. Brandon Gaddy came up with a run stuff behind the line of scrimmage a few plays later.

The starting defensive line looked to be Byron Cowart at strong-side defensive end, Adam McLean at nose tackle, a rotation of Mbi Tanyi and Oseh Saine at defensive tackle and a rotation of Bryce Brand and Nchami at BUCK (with Jesse Aniebonam still not 100 percent). Nchami picked up a botched play between DeSue and Javon Leake and took it to the north end zone for the defense’s biggest play of practice.

Marcus Lewis and Tino Ellis played with the ones at cornerback, while Darnell Savage and Antwaine Richardson held down the safety positions. Like last year, the defensive backs seemed content with allowing short catches in front of them, but got stingier as routes stretched down the field. Kenny Bennett almost came up with an interception off a tipped ball, but found it too late as it slipped through his outstretched arms.

Maryland has one more open practice—April 12—before the spring game on April 14. We’ll be back with more observations after that.