Head coach D.J. Durkin’s first UMD team will need a lot more production and consistency at the all-important QB spot, and the new up-tempo spread should benefit senior and oft-beleaguered signal-caller Perry Hills, who may be getting a breath of fresh air under new offensive coordinator Walt Bell.
Hills assumed the top spot in the spring, and worked diligently in the off-season (including at home with former NFL/now quarterback guru Gus Frerotte) to shorten his elongated throwing release that began down by his hip, and shore-up his run game, too (keeping his eyes up more).
Terps fans already know what Hills can do on the ground in the ‘zone-read’ (see OSU game last season), now it’s a matter of him taking advantage of the quicker developing, short-passing game under Bell, and cutting down on all the bad turnovers. He’s better in the 2-3 step drop game with quicker decisions.
He’s also emerged as a better leader on and off the field, but will be pushed by speedy freshman and former Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year Tyrell Pigrome, who ran a similar spread system in high school but needs to gain weight/strength, as well as senior returner Caleb Rowe, who will not pose as much of a threat in the important run look, but still has the best arm on campus. Also, the Terps have 6-7 redshirt freshman Gaga Shaffer, as well as incoming frosh Max Bortenschlager, out of Indianapolis, another prep 3-star signee.
But it’s Hills’ job to lose this month in camp, and if he can simply manage the offense without all the unforced errors, it should be his to keep. He’ll also have better protection up front with probably one of Maryland’s best offensive lines in a decade. But don’t sleep on Pigrome if there is any slippage.
Talk about a position that enjoyed a lease on life this off-season. The unit benefited hugely from the one-year suspension lifting of senior Wes Brown, who everyone is waiting on for a breakout year, as well as the addition of another power back in Virginia Tech fifth-year transfer Trey Edmunds, son of the former Terps AA Farrell Edmunds. Those two should be good between the tackles, while Brown appears in better shape physically and mentally, and can break the long ones sometimes, too.
Then for a different look, the Terps have sophomore burner Ty Johnson, who can hit the home run with his top-end speed and explosiveness in a smaller, quicker package. The Terps also welcome January enrollee Jake Funk, who Durkin said will get in a mix as a true freshman, and have senior fullback Kenny Goins back to clear some holes. The ground game will be big this fall, and has that improved line (the best unit on campus) to find more room to romp.
The Terps will use FB/HBs in the new scheme, to run, block and catch. The opening day lineup in the backfield may not be the same as the bulk of the season, but we’ll see how things progress in camp.
And speaking of that offensive line, years of strong, steady recruiting has finally paid off in the form of what is beginning to resemble a B1G Ten offensive line, what with former prep four and five-star luminaries Damian Prince, Derwin Gray, and now youngsters like redshirt freshman Quarvez Boulware, ascending the ranks as athletic upgrades to pull more this season in the new scheme.
There is also senior mainstay starter Michael Dunn at tackle, and rising-star sophomore Brendan Moore at center. The Terps also have senior and former walk-on turned starter guard Mike Minter coming off winter surgery. Junior JaJuan Dulaney filled in for him in the spring, while former walk-on guard Maurice Shelton also had a big spring in the first group. Dulaney has finally come into his own after three years developing.
Long a position of frustration, and patch-work units, the line is now a strength, and should clear more of the way for both backs and quarterbacks this fall. A key is Gray taking the next step in both his physical and mental maturation.
Another unit(s) on the rise, the Terps have an emerging star in true sophomore wide-out D.J. Moore, a physical threat with breakaway speed, while they welcome back graduate senior Levern Jacobs, who could be playing on Sundays next year. Meanwhile, tight end finally has a catch-and-run threat after years of slim production in sophomore Avery Edwards, another possible pro. The other good news is junior tight end Andrew Isaacs is fully back from knee surgery, and the Terps return junior Derrick Hayward.
But at wide-out, joining Jacobs and Moore will hopefully be Levern’s kid brother, junior speedster Taivon Jacobs, who’s still on the mend from knee trouble, and there is senior Malcolm Culmer, who broke out some last season and the spring, and senior slot DeAndre Lane, who did the same.
The best rookie on campus is former DeMatha four-star standout Tino Ellis, who could have an early impact, not to mention his teammate, freshman slot D.J. Turner, along with Floridian Jahrvis Davenport. And there were late additions this summer as well, former New Mexico State standout Teldrick Morgan, and former Wisconsin signee and DeMatha product Chris Jones, both of whom are eligible immediately.
Morgan, an Anne Arundel County native, led NMSU in receiving the last two years and is explosive at receiver and in the return game.
The unit could thrive with all the new quick slants and screens in Bell’s attack if the Terps get steadier play at quarterback.