UMD Football: 5 Things to Watch this Spring
1. The Quarterback Race – The most obvious storyline of spring will be how the quarterback position shakes out and who emerges as the leader to win the starting job in the fall. Sophomore Jordan Steffy entered the spring as the #1 QB on the depth chart but the job is in reality up for grabs. The theme for the entire roster of quarterbacks is inexperience. Steffy is the only player who has played a down at Maryland though his playing time has been extremely limited. Of the other contenders for the job, only former Florida transfer Josh Portis has actually seen game action. He played sparingly as a true freshman for the Gators two seasons ago before deciding to head north to College Park. Portis had a year to absorb the playbook while sitting out last year under NCAA rules for transfers. He has the most natural ability of all the quarterbacks and is probably the fans' sexy pick as the player to win the starting job because of his athleticism. Sophomore Chris Turner has two years in the program and redshirt freshman Jeremy Ricker has one but neither has ever played at the college level. With none of the quarterbacks having much experience, any of them could realistically jump up and seize control of the position this spring.
2. Depth at Wide Receiver – Ralph Friedgen often bemoaned the lack of depth at this position in last year as the Terps had only three options in Darrius Heyward-Bey, Isaiah Williams and Danny Oquendo. All three players return this year but there isn't another WR on the roster who so much as caught a pass last season. At least one other WR will need to step up to give the team more options next season in the passing game. Nolan Carroll moved to defensive back this spring and the rest of the candidates are young and inexperienced, albeit athletic players. Whichever player can best pick up the complex offensive system should have the best shot of earning playing time.
3. Replacing Josh Wilson – With incumbent starter Isaiah Gardner sitting out spring practice after having shoulder surgery, there should be plenty of reps at both cornerback spots for a player to win the other starting job. Juniors Kevin Barnes and Richard Taylor will get first crack but neither is guaranteed to win the job. Another player to watch is sophomore Anthony Wiseman who, like Wilson, is a DeMatha product with blazing speed. Of course, Wilson will also be missed as the team's kick returner. The team has a bunch of speed merchants such as Da'Rel Scott and Wiseman who will be given the opportunity to be the new game-breaking kick returner.
4. Offensive Tackle – Left tackle Stephon Heyer graduated while last year's right tackle Jared Gaither is sitting out this spring due to academics. Gaither's status may be in limbo so the Terps could be looking to replace two players at this incredibly important position. Junior Dane Randolph has experience starting and should man the right tackle position with former defensive lineman Jack Griffin backing him up. On the left side, senior Scott Burley could finally get his chance to start after serving three seasons as a reserve and battling injuries. The Terps have little depth at this position however. If Gaither can get his academic situation straightened out, the team should be two deep at both positions. But if Gaither becomes and academic casualty, a player like Burley will have to step up as he may be the starter by default with such little depth at tackle. This spring he will get the reps and let everyone know just how reliable he can be.
5. Next In Line at MLB – From EJ Henderson to D'Qwell Jackson to Wesley Jefferson, Ralph Friedgen has always had good if not great players at this position. Jefferson decided to forego his final season of eligibility to pursue a career in law enforcement after receiving his degree in January. That means for the first time in the Ralph Friedgen era there will be a question mark at the ‘Mike' position. Junior Chase Bullock and redshirt freshman Alex Wujciak will battle it out for the starting job and the opportunity to follow the line of all-ACC caliber players at this position.
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