COLLEGE PARK, Md. – He’s spent more than a year in College Park and one full season in Maryland’s offensive system, but redshirt freshman quarterback Shane Cockerille still has that “work in progress” label hanging around his neck, courtesy of head coach Randy Edsall. That’s to be expected though, considering high school quarterbacks typically have the largest learning curve coming from prep ball to the FBS level. And it’s especially so in Cockerille’s case, since he was reared in Gilman’s (Baltimore, Md.) run-first offense that sometimes seems allergic to flying pigskins.
“Coming in as a freshman, it’s a lot to handle both mentally and physically,” said the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Cockerille of playing quarterback in college. “In high school I really wasn’t required to read coverages a whole lot, and we ran the ball a lot, so it was a big adjustment for me. This year I’m learning how to read the coverages, knowing where to go with the football and identifying different things in the defense. I think I’ve gotten a lot more mature as a passer.”
It’s true, Cockerille has fired some darts during fall camp, hitting his receivers in stride on quick slants and a couple over-the-middle crossing patterns. He’s been going through his progressions, getting the ball out quicker and making headier decisions. Although he sports a linebacker’s frame, Cockerille is deceptively quick; he has been known to slice through openings and dodge would-be tacklers as he extends the play.
He updated his progress and where he stands in the program, in his mind, on Aug. 11 at media day:
“One thing I think I’ve done well with is I’m trying to make a play every time the ball is in my hands. I’m going to make mistakes, but when I do I'm learning from it and just always trying to make a play. Coming in maybe I was a little passive or unsure, but now I’m trying to make things happen on every rep.”
Terps offensive coordinator and Mike Locksley more or less agreed with his redshirt freshman quarterback. He pointed to several areas Cockerille needs to improve in, but said he’s made significant progress since entering the program.
“The thing Shane has is natural leadership. Regardless of whether he’s with the threes, the twos, he goes out and plays and somehow always finds a way to make a play,” Locksley said. “I think being down on the scout team last year, there’s some fundamental things we’ve got to get corrected. He developed some bad habits on the scout team, and we’re working to correct some of those things. But his progress as well as his knowledge of the system [has improved].
“I’ve never had a problem with [Cockerille] as a passer, but down on the scout team, guys start blitzing you and you start throwing off your back foot, you develop bad habits,” Locksley continued. “So we have to work on some of the fundamental things. But it looks like he’s put some work in this summer, and he’s working to be more accurate.”
Even Cockerille has admitted there are some mechanical issues he needs to iron out. In addition, he still tends to rely too much on his legs, taking off instead of waiting an extra second for his receivers to come open.
“One thing I need to really work on is I’m bringing my elbow down a little bit and that can cause me to be inaccurate,” Cockerille said. “When a guy is open I have to be able to hit that guy every time.”
In addition to physical touch-ups, Cockerille said he’s learned plenty about quarterbacking from both Locksley and sixth-year quarterback C.J. Brown. He said it was difficult mentally to wrap his head around the position, and Brown aided in the transition.
“When I first got here everything is going so fast , but when you learn how to study properly the game slows down for you and it’s a lot easier,” said Cockerille, who noticed that true freshman gunslinger Will Ulmer is having similar first-year troubles this season. “C.J., and the other guys, they helped me with a lot of the mental things like how to recognize defenses, how to study film, things like that.”
Brown himself has seen Cockerille take significant strides since last year during fall camp.
“[Cockerille has] come a long way. He came away with a deer-in-the-headlights kind of look, and from last camp to this camp it’s been a 180,” Brown said. “From making the right calls, to running the offense, he’s like all the other vets we have on the team. I think he’s done a great job, and he’s going to keep building on that. He has a lot of ability and he can move the ball down the field.”
Like most every high schooler, Cockerille entered college with ambitions of early playing time. Sure, he knew Brown was the clear starter, and both Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills had more than a year in the system, but the Gilman product believed in himself.
And he still does, though he’s also aware he’s sitting fourth on the depth chart.
“But I feel like I’m where I want to be, and I definitely want to play at least two years here,” said Cockerille, who is good friends with both Rowe and Hills, calling them ‘really funny, great guys’. “And for sure I think that’s possible. Coming out of high school as a run-heavy guy, didn’t really throw much … and now coming along as a quarterback, throwing the ball more, learning my plays, I think I’ve made a lot of progress. So for sure I think it’s possible if I keep moving in the right direction.
“But right now I just want to do whatever I can to make the team better. I’m going to go out, compete, and try to get better day by day.”
Cockerille Maturing, Making Progress
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