Terps One Week Into Training Camp

Coaches talk about evaluating players in position battles and injuries to players in practice.

The Maryland Terrapins opened training camp last Sunday with the mindset of preparing for a better season than last year's 2-10 disaster. Eight days into training camp, players have shown improvement and coaches are getting a good look at their personnel.

The biggest news out of Tuesday morning's practice was the injuries to some Terps, most notably starting free safety Matt Robinson. Robinson suffered a shoulder injury during practice and it is still unknown whether he will miss an extended period of time.

“As I told the team, injuries are going to happen,” said Maryland head coach Randy Edsall. “It's unfortunate. I hate injuries to happen and again, we don't know the severity or what the problem is right now. But what I told the team that they have to understand is, and I told them, as I stand here and look in front of them, all of them, there's going to be at least one guy, hopefully no more than that, but there might even be more than one guy. There's a guy standing here right now saying to himself, 'You know, I'm probably not going to get an opportunity to play this year because of where I might be on the depth chart or whatever.' But I said what's going to happen is there's going to be somebody that wasn't expected to play that's all of a sudden going to have to play. And so now they've got to understand they've got to be ready to go in and play better, as good or better than the guy their replacing.”

Replacing Robinson in practice were freshmen Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon. Edsall said that while Davis and Nixon were getting the reps right now, other safeties such as Clarence Claiborne and Undray Clark could fight for the starting spot too if Robinson will have to miss part of the regular season. Edsall did say that moving linebacker Kenny Tate back to safety would not be considered as an option.

Other Terps nursing injuries included fullback Tyler Cierski, offensive guard Josh Cary and offensive tackle Mike Madaras. Cierski is dealing with hamstring issues and should be back in a day or two, according to Edsall. Edsall said that Cary has a knee injury and may have to sit out a week or two and that Madaras has a shoulder problem and has been visiting with team trainers.

Quarterback C.J. Brown has been improving in practice, according to the coaches and his teammates. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley noted Brown's daily improvement and said they have been working on having him take better care of the ball. Brown said he is feeling more comfortable in the offense and that he looks forward to continue working hard before the season starts.

“I feel like I'm much further than I thought I would be, but I put in the hours and all the film room and all that stuff,” Brown said. “I feel like I'm very comfortable. I'm where I need to be. I need to keep growing and keep continuing to learn the offense and keep picking Lock's [Locksley's] mind and stuff like that and just continue to grow.”

There has been some news in the backup quarterback position between freshmen Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe after the first week, according to Edsall. Edsall and the other coaches said Hills has pulled ahead of Rowe in the battle to be Brown's backup, really impressing during a scrimmage this past week.

“Right now Perry is the number two guy,” Edsall said. “He's ahead of Caleb right now. You probably saw today there were some different combinations out there with the first, second and third teams based on the first eight practices, so now we as coaches want to take a look at some of the things through the first eight days we saw. Some guys elevated themselves and some guys didn't do as much. There's still a lot of good competition here, but right now Perry is ahead.”

“I think the biggest thing is just the overall command, being able to handle all the different things that we put on him at the line of scrimmage and he kind of came across that first week with a little better command,” Locksley said.

Brown said that he can sympathize with both the freshmen quarterbacks, having been in the same situation himself. He said that both quarterbacks have impressed him and that they both have to keep fighting.

“It's a fair competition,” Brown said. “I was in their position once, fighting for a spot, so I know what they're going through. They just got to keep their mind up and keep their spirits up and keep going through it because it's tough, coming in and learning a college playbook and coming out here and going against these guys. It's definitely tough and you've got to fight through it, but, tip my hat off to Perry.”

The tailback position has also seen movement in the past week, with Edsall and Locksley both praising the depth at the position. Edsall said one of the tailbacks could take the starting role from Justus Pickett based on their performance during training camp.

“If we had to start today, Brandon [Ross] would be the starter.” Edsall said. “And again, it's just some things he's done. He's been very consistent and there's some things we've still got to work with him on, but he did some really good things. I thought that Wes [Brown] and Albert [Reid] did some good things there in the scrimmage.”

“That's one of the biggest surprises so far for me, the depth we've created at the running back spot,” Locksley said. “In my mind, it's a position that could go four deep if need be. We're happy with the guys that are returning but we're also really pleased with the ways those young guys have picked things up and the physicality with them.”

Edsall said earlier last week that the tight end position is one of the strongest positions on the team this season. Tight end Matt Furstenburg appeared to look like his dominant self after starting off training camp slower than usual and drew the praise of his coaches and his quarterback.

“He started a little slow the first days and wasn't catching the ball as crisply as we'd like him to, but in the last two or three practices, we start to see him settling him, getting back to the things that he can do and we need him to do that,” said Edsall.

“I didn't get to see Matt a lot last year, but I've been really pleased from spring and summer, just his understanding of what we're trying to do,” Locksley said. “He's been a guy that's made some plays for us, especially down in that red zone area.”

“He's a great target,” added Brown. “He's got great, soft hands. You can spread him out and he's very athletic. You can spread him out all over the field. He's definitely a comfort zone and someone I've relied on in the past.”

Edsall and the coaching staff said that there may be more tight end sets this season given the strength at the position. Edsall is confident in the abilities of not only Furstenburg, but also of Devonte Campbell, Ryan Schlothauer and David Stinebaugh. Freshman tight end P.J. Gallo also looked good in practice, making catches and blocking well during drills.

Coming into training camp, many wondered about the role of freshman receiver Stefon Diggs on the team this season. It was obvious that he would be used as a receiver, but Diggs was also seen returning kickoffs and punts during practice Tuesday. Edsall confirmed Diggs is in contention for the returner position on special teams.

“We got him listed right now at number one as a kickoff returner and punt returner,” Edsall said. “He's showing he can do things. We just got to continue to coach him up and teach him all the little intricacies of being a return guy, but also how to read blocks, how to set some of those things up. He's a quick learner and I've been very pleased with his poise in terms of catching the ball and understanding everything I'm looking for in a return guy.”

Practice was held on the new turf field at Byrd Stadium Tuesday morning due to the wet conditions on the practice field. Edsall said the players and coaches appreciate the new artificial turf, which allows for the Terps to practice right after rain storms.

“I like it,” Edsall said about the field. “It's easier on my feet. It doesn't kill your feet. Our kids like it. I think I haven't seen a lot of slipping or anything along those lines out here. It's great because now when it rains, we can come in here.”

The next open practice will be held Thursday morning in College Park.

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