When Maryland released its first depth chart, a lot of questions were answered. The quarterback decision was announced on Monday afternoon, but Tuesday morning, the wide receiver and free safety positions, among others, were addressed.
Here are our three biggest takeaways from the lineup heading into Saturday’s game against Howard University.
Josh Jackson doesn’t have to worry about losing the starting job.
Lila: Josh Jackson was named the starting quarterback for Maryland football Monday after a summer-long competition with Tyrrell Pigrome.
“We had all the different matrix and evaluation information we needed based on the competition, and at the end the day, Josh did the best job of putting points [on the board] or giving us opportunities to put points on the board when we’re in live situations,” Locksley said Tuesday. “We also charted all of our third down situations because it’s really important for a quarterback to win on third down, and Josh played the best.”
Locksley said that Jackson doesn't have to “look over his shoulder” and is secure in the starting job. But Pigrome will also play a part on the field, just in a different capacity.
“I feel real comfortable with where the quarterback room is as a whole, probably better than any other time I’ve been here at Maryland,” Locksley said. “We feel like we can run with both Josh and Piggy (Pigrome). And so as I’ve always done, you utilize your playmakers. And Piggy is a guy that we feel can be a playmaker for us in our system, and we’ll find a role. But Josh is our starter.”
Locksley didn't give specifics of how exactly Pigrome will be used or how much, but said ultimately he’ll will look to put his five most-skilled guys on the offensive side of the ball.
“I expect Piggy to have a role in some capacity from game to game,” Locksley said. “What that role will be will be dictated week-to-week as we start to game plan.”
Positions are still up for grabs.
Sean: According to the depth chart, four starting spots are still up for grabs: left tackle, MIKE linebacker, punter and punt returner. According to Locksley, “If they have an ‘OR’ next to their name, they both will play meaningful snaps.”
At left tackle, redshirt freshman Jaelyn Duncan was widely expected to be the starter through the offseason and fall camp, as he was going to fill Derwin Gray’s shoes. Now, he’s listed as a co-starter with senior tackle Ellis McKennie, who Locksley announced as one of three game captains for Week 1 against Howard. At many positions, a rotation among players makes sense both from a strategic standpoint as well as a health-preservation one. But offensive lines thrive on cohesiveness and working as a unit, and shuffling between left tackles could be a detriment to the group as a whole. So while Locksley says both could have playing time, it’s a possibility that one steps up in practice this week and holds the job for good, at least for the season opener.
The starting MIKE linebacker position is still up for grabs between sophomore Chance Campbell and senior Isaiah Davis, the latter of which held the full-time job a year ago. Defensive coordinator Jon Hoke had alluded to the former earning the job at Maryland media day at the beginning of the month, but as of now, both are options. However, linebackers are often swapped in and out depending on the situation (running downs vs passing downs, goal line, etc.), so someone being named the “starter” on Saturday could be more symbolic than anything significant.
Cody will touch on the punters below — true freshmen Colton Spangler and Anthony Pecorella are still in a competition — so the final spot that needs to be addressed is punt returner. As it stands currently, slot wide receivers DJ Turner and Rayshad Lewis are listed as co-starters — neither have had any reps in college to this point. That’s another spot that could be a rotation, and it could depend on each pass-catcher’s role in the offense.
Special teams has a position battle and one surprise.
Cody: As Sean mentioned, a punter competition has developed in College Park between two true freshmen in Spangler, a lefty, and Pecorella, a right-footed punter. While Pecorella was viewed as the early favorite through fall camp, both him and Spangler will take meaningful snaps on Saturday against Howard.
“That competition is still kind of going on because they both have done a great job for true freshman. And the fact that one is a lefty and one is a righty —it creates some competitive advantages with how you set up your return game,” Locksley said. “So yeah, we’re expecting to probably use both of them early until we can make a decision on which one is the most consistent. But it’s a unique situation that I can’t say I’ve been a part of it, but I’m not afraid to do it.”
One name that was left off the depth chart was sophomore punter Bentley Faulkner, who was with the team during the spring while Spangler and Pecorella were not. Faulkner split punting duties in the spring game with kicker Mike Shinsky, who is listed as Maryland’s Week 1 holder, and had two punts for an average of 25.5 yards. For the time being, though, expect Pecorella and Spangler to split snaps until one of them demonstrates more consistency.
As for who will be snapping Pecorella and Spangler the ball, the long snapper position belongs to sophomore James Rosenberry. But behind Rosenberry is tight end Noah Barnes. As abnormal as that may sound, Locksley said that Barnes has a background in long snapping.
“Noah [has] been a long snapper since he came here,” Locksley said. “I know when I was leaving in 2015, we were part of bringing Noah in as a walk-on, and part of bringing him in was the fact that he could long snap.”
Although Barnes may need to be utilized as Maryland’s long snapper this season, Locksley feels confident in his redshirt junior tight end to rise to the occasion.
“We feel comfortable and confident in his long snapping abilities, but he also adds some things to the table of being a tight end.”