COLLEGE PARK, Md. – At 6-foot-5, 240-pounds, long and rangy and with a sub-4.7 40-yard dash time, Terps sophomore tight end Derrick Hayward certainly looks the part.
But for the former high school defensive end/wide receiver from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, it’s still an everyday process converting to his new home of tight end at College Park.
Two falls ago during camp, it took but a few days before the big athlete was moved from rush defensive end to tight end in the Terps system. He arrived at UMD at barely 200 pounds (he recalls 198 as the number) so the greenhorn’s transformation continues both on and off the field.
And last season, thrown in the fire when starter Andrew Isaacs went down early in the season at Syracuse to a massive knee injury and surgery (he is out this spring camp still rehabbing), Hayward stepped in, along with more stay-at-home blocking end P.J. Gallo, to fortify the spot.
There were mixed results, as Hayward, who played in 11 games in 2014 but had but two receptions, probably dropped twice that many as he worked out the kinks of becoming a pass-catcher at the collegiate level.
There was also the blocking element for the former skinny guy, who has worked hard to build a better base to take on college defensive ends rushing the Terps quarterbacks.
Said Randy Edsall this week of the long athlete still coming into his own, and yet another player getting a ton of reps this spring and trying to make the most of it:
“Derrick’s got a lot of ability, and he’s getting better. But he is not getting better fast enough for me right now,” Edsall said with a bit of a chuckle. “But again, as we get him as many reps as we can get him, and he keeps doing things, he’ll be fine. And then he will need to have a good summer, keep getting stronger in everything....but again, he is coming along. He’s working, he’s working hard, and he is trying and all that. But again we want to put the pressure on him to keep putting pressure on himself to get better quicker.”
Hayward said his development continues each day, and that all the reps this spring are key. At times he has had trouble looking balls in, or starting to turn and run before the ball is first tightly secured. Hand strength in general is an area of needed growth as well.
“I think since I got to play in the season I know more of the plays now, and now it’s not more of learning plays, it's more getting my technique down and more footwork and more getting crisper on my routes,” Hayward said.
Hayward added that his hands have improved, and that back in high school he played receiver but did not catch a ton of balls. He has gone heavy on the JUGS machine this off-season to strengthen his hands and make them quicker.
The weight change was also marked, to be able to sustain blocks, which he has begun to do. And can now spend more time honing in on technique up front.
With the former four-star Isaacs the “ideal” at the spot, with his combination package of hands, runner after the catch, and blocker returning in the fall, as well as redshirt freshman Andrew Gray coming on, Hayward is going to have to continue to fight for reps. The Terps hope to use more two-tight end sets, and deploy the position more as pass-catchers in 2015 after a slow one last season. Maryland did not sign a tight end in the 2015 recruit class, while they also have former walk-on Eric Roca, but he is sitting out this spring also due to injury. Randy Edsall said this week that Isaacs is ahead of schedule for his summer/fall return.
“Yeah, I have looked at this as a time for me to get better because I know once he comes back in the summer we’re just going to be battling for the starting spot and we both know that,” Hayward said of Isaacs. “So right now I am just trying to get better myself, and right now my main focus is getting my blocking better.”
He said the two help each other out, on the field or in the film room, even taking in spring break together last month in Miami.
“The main thing for me is my footwork and my first two steps,” Hayward said. “My steps getting to the block, that’s my most important thing.”
Hayward said sophomore quarterback Shane Cockerille has improved learning the offense, in areas like pre-snap recognition and controlling the offense.
“And I think he has always been a good passer, too,” Hayward added.
Hayward finished by indicating the Terps will use more tight ends in 2015 now that the group is growing up more.
Tight End Hayward Building A Better Base
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