By Thomas Pullano
The Maryland Terrapins met for their fourth straight day of preseason practice Thursday afternoon in College Park. The Terps were in shoulder pads and helmets for the second straight day, and the team will suit up in full pads for the first time this preseason Friday.
Once again the Terps spent a good portion of the early part of practice working on drills with their individual position groups. Quarterback C.J. Brown and star wide receiver Stefon Diggs were connecting well together during this time. One troublesome group, however, that stuck out for its poor play during these individual drills, were the tailbacks. The running backs and full backs were matched up against the linebackers in a pass protection drill, and to put it plainly, the linebackers dominated. Very few backs were successful in their attempts to block the rushing linebackers. Running back Brandon Ross was the best out of the three running backs in contention for the starting job, but pass protection definitely remains an area in need of improvement going forward for all of the backs.
Ross, who is battling Albert Reid and Wes Brown for the starting running back position, got most of the first team reps during 11-on-11 drills Thursday. However, late during those 11-on-11 drills, Ross fumbled and the defense picked up the loose ball. Reid who was running with the second team for most of the afternoon was subbed in for Ross by the coaching staff immediately after the fumble. While Ross may be the best pass protector of the three and a good runner as well, the coaches’ reaction to today’s fumble indicates they highly value taking care of the ball. That aspect of the game could prove to be a significant factor in determining which running back wins the job.
Chalk Thursday’s practice up as another successful day for the defense. The first team offense failed to move the chains during its first series out against the first team defense. And later on, the defense would cause two turnovers—the Ross fumble, mentioned earlier, and a C.J. Brown interception. C.J. Brown just never saw junior defensive back Anthony Nixon who stepped right in front of his throw and caused the turnover.
The team did some goal line work to end practice. Again the defense came out on top. The first team defense shut down its first team counterparts and didn’t let them to get in the end zone. The second stringers finally put the offense on the board when Wes Brown ran it in on fourth down.
Starting senior linebacker Cole Farrand has been impressed with his unit’s play so far and has high expectations for the Terps’ experienced defense.
“I think with the core we have, with everybody returning, we got a lot of seniors coming back and a lot of starters, and I think it looks very good on defense,” Farrand said after practice.
One player who did look good on offense Thursday was quarterback Perry Hills. The redshirt sophomore QB, who has been splitting third string reps with redshirt freshman QB Shane Cockerille, had two great deep throws during practice. During 7-on-7 drills, he threw a perfect pass to freshman wide receiver Juwann Winfree, who had a step on his defender on a fly route to the end zone. The pass hit Winfree right in the hands, but was dropped. Later during 11-on-11 work, sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Lane reeled in a great throw from Hills and got two feet down just before going out of bounds. That throw and catch made for about a 20-25 yard gain on the play.
The Terps practice again Friday afternoon.