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Maryland football spring positional preview: Avery Edwards leads Terps' tight ends into 2016

Maryland should have a useful mix of receiving and blocking ability at tight end this spring.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland football program is eligible to start spring practices under DJ Durkin on March 8. Over the next few days, we'll be previewing where the Terps stack up at every position heading into the offseason's regular season.

The players

Returning starters: Avery Edwards (rising sophomore)

Other contributors: Derrick Hayward (rising redshirt junior), Andrew Isaacs (probable rising redshirt junior)

Coming off redshirts or haven't played yet: Andrew Gray (rising redshirt sophomore), Erica Roca (rising redshirt junior)

Incoming freshmen: Noah Barnes (two stars, not eligible for spring practice)

The overview

After years of being mostly uninvolved in Maryland's passing game, the arrival of Edwards last season spurred the Terps' tight ends (mostly Edwards himself) to more involvement than usual in the Terps' vertical offense. The Terps had P.J. Gallo, a strong blocking tight end who gave up his last year of eligibility to work on Wall Street, and another blocker in Derrick Hayward. Gray and Roca did not play.

Edwards wrapped his freshman season with 14 catches on 28 targets for 115 yards and two touchdowns, which both came in a Week 3 win against South Florida. Edwards has talent, but it wasn't easy to put up numbers in Maryland's historically atrocious passing game.

Isaacs, a former four-star recruit, missed all of last season after dislocating his knee in September of the year before. He'll almost certainly have a medical redshirt, although it'll have been at least two years between game action by the time Isaacs returns. His status is one to watch closely, because he could be a serious asset if he can get back to full strength.

Position battles

If Isaacs is healthy, where does everyone fit?

Edwards and Isaacs aren't exactly the same kind of tight end, so there could be room for Maryland to put both on the field at the same time. If that happens, Hayward could become basically a third-stringer, and Roca and Gray would figure to remain blocked on the depth chart.

If Isaacs isn't healthy, who steps up as a third option?

Neither Gray nor Roca has ever seen game action. If Isaacs isn't able to play, the top two options figure to be Edwards and Hayward, leaving Gray and Roca competing for the third-string role - which is mainly just a depth spot but could lead to some chances to actually play, especially in short yardage.

Key question

Can Maryland's quarterbacks get Edwards the ball consistently?

Edwards has highly advanced receiving ability for a college tight end. Exhibit:

avery edwards

He was only thrown at 28 times last season, and a lot of those throws were not good. (Not that Edwards didn't have drops, because he did.) But he's a playmaker, and Maryland's offense is more dangerous if footballs are tossed in his vicinity.

Breakout player

Avery Edwards

If offensive coordinator Walt Bell has his way, this is probably going to be Edwards. He's now two years removed from his time as a high-three-star recruit, and he's got the physical gifts to be a prolific receiver.

Spring depth chart projection

1st String Avery Edwards
2nd String Andrew Isaacs
3rd String Derrick Hayward
4th String Andrew Gray
5th String Eric Roca