If he could talk (Shane Cockerille is not available to the media this week), the former Gilman School (Baltimore, Md.) star zone-read/read option quarterback would be beaming about his most recent move.
Cockerille, the sophomore southpaw whose spring audition at quarterback fizzled at the end of camp and was moved to fullback in the fall, moved back full-time to his natural position over the weekend as Terrapin Times first reported.
It's a move that will boost his flagging-at-times confidence (Cockerille almost moved to linebacker in the off-season before fullback was the call from up-top, and then even thought of transferring). And all of a sudden Maryland's tweaked offense, with zone read/read-option the rest of the way, now has another weapon to keep defenses guessing.
Starter Perry Hills, after his 170-yard rushing, two-touchdown performance at No. 1 OSU two weeks ago running the option look, coupled with the fact former starter/hurler Caleb Rowe has gone in the tank and is No. 3, has Cockerille suddenly a valuable piece moving forward in the Mike Locksley option attack.
Cockerille, who Locksley recruited and coached as a quarterback his first two years at College Park, promises to scheme up all kinds of new looks and tweaks in the offense going forward, some of which Terps fans saw at OSU. There the Terps had receiver reverses and jet sweeps to corner Will Likely, who was seeing his first time on offense (and promises to see more), as well as a 'wildcat' look with Cockerille under center handing it off.
Cockerille, who is getting another lease on life after toiling as starter Kenny Goins' backup at fullback, and playing on a few special teams units as well, is bound to get a few series to both offer up a faster look to Hills, as well as give the yeoman junior, who got banged around pretty bad at OSU, a breather from time to time. Maybe a few scripted series here and there take it from there, starting Oct. 24 at Baltimore against Penn State in the critical 3:30 showdown at M&T Bank Stadium.
Cockerille, who rushed for over 1,000 yards each season at Gilman, has great feel, vision and feet in the read option attack, and it was his bread and butter for the run-heavy Greyhounds for years. Cockerille senses and hits the holes well, and rarely goes down at first contact with his linebackers' mentality forging ahead and moving the pile. Ball security in his first action will be key, while Cockerille has deceptive speed once his legs get churning through tight spaces and in the open field. When he lowers his head and starts getting downfield, well things tend to happen. Hopefully he hasn't lost too much of a step from his prep days.
Additionally, now the Terps have a No. 2 in the attack, as Rowe or Daxx Garman cannot do it full-time. After all the hits and misses of the offense through six games, Maryland is now dedicated, under Locksley, to the option look in the final six. Hills has to stay healthy, Cockerille sharp when he comes on in relief or a spot series here and there.
Meanwhile, both need to be able to give the Terps a bit more in the passing game to keep defenses honest. Hills was hot and cold at OSU in the vertical game, and has to get the ball out quicker and hit open targets when they present. And they need to hang on as well, as Terps wide-outs had a case of the 'drops' yet again at Columbus. Cockerille, with his rust, will be more limited throwing the ball, but he has the ability to hit the short and crossing routes at least as he ramps back up.
Hills proved again what a warrior he is in the run game at OSU, but he needs quicker, 2-3-step designed pass plays, and not get bogged down in the pocket too long missing his reads or staring down receivers as he has been prone to do. Hills promises to get beat up going forward, so now the Terps have an insurance policy at the very least.
Defenses are going to load the box, especially the Top 20 defense of PSU, and make Maryland be a threat vertically. Meanwhile, Maryland needs to establish its run game as well with its backs to make the option look more viable. Junior Wes Brown should be getting equal reps with Brandon Ross starting this weekend, and Brown is the Terps best power back with vision and ability to shed contact and get to the second level. Hopefully he can get off the schnide he had seemingly been laboring under Randy Edsall for years.
At left tackle there is newness as well, as after a two-week experiment at right tackle, redshirt freshman Derwin Gray is back at his natural spot backing up starter Michael Dunn. Despite some early mistakes, it is critical both Gray and Prince, on the right side at tackle, gain more valuable reps after slow starts to the season mostly due to injuries.
But starter Dunn's back remains a point of concern, while the freshmen former four and five-star All Americans Gray and Prince need to start ramping up sooner than later, as they represent the future on a still problematic line that needs to keep moving forward. Sophomore JaJuan Dulaney, a former three-star out of Georgia who has done little to convince Terps coaches he is ready to be a contributor, this week finds himself the No. 2 right tackle behind Prince. Its time he steps up as well, and maybe the coaching change at College Park will help spark his energy and focus onto bigger and better things for a talent Maryland once had very high hopes for.
But as Penn State week begins, what better way to start things than with a former four-star out of Gilman (who Maryland and Penn State butt heads year-in-and-year-out in recruiting), finding his way again as a Terrapin. And a way that could impact the game-plan keenly starting this weekend.
Locksley spoke last week of getting more players involved on both sides of the ball and "having more fun," and the shakeup continues. And who would have thought Maryland's top two quarterback options would be former all-state/all American wrestlers. Hills and Cockerille define "tough guy," and hopefully Maryland can ride their grit to a few more victories this season. It's maybe not the most ideal look, but clearly Maryland's most viable now as the Locksley tenure begins.
In the spring things got very heated between Locksley and Cockerille during the change and move to fullback. But late last week the two apparently had a long, productive meeting of the minds as they, and the Terrapins, forge ahead in this new future of Maryland football, which could get intriguing starting this weekend in Baltimore.