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Shane Cockerille and Perry Hills will take snaps as Maryland kicks off spring football

Matt Owings
Contact ReporterBaltimore Sun Media Group
Maryland's spring football practices begin Wednesday. Here's a primer:

Maryland's spring football practices begin Wednesday, and one of the biggest concerns for the Terps will be replacing C.J. Brown at quarterback.

Caleb Rowe, the likeliest candidate to start, will be sidelined for the spring as he continues to rehabilitate from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in October.

That means junior Perry Hills and sophomore Shane Cockerille (Gilman) will take the majority of the snaps with the first-team unit throughout the spring.

During a Friday teleconference, coach Randy Edsall said he has been especially impressed with Cockerille’s growth off the field, as he has started to embrace the leadership responsibilities that come with the position.

“You can just see the maturity level rising with him,” Edsall said. “He sees the importance of what we’re doing, and now he knows there’s opportunity for him, and he knew he needed to step up and give himself the best opportunity to be a quarterback here at Maryland.”

Because of the timing of his injury, Rowe is seeking an extra year of eligibility.

Running back Wes Brown also will not participate in spring practice, as he is still recovering from labrum surgery following the season.

With a number of players either limited or completely out for the spring, Edsall said it gives the team an opportunity for “competition more than we’ve ever had.”

Coaching changes

With the promotion of inside linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski to defensive coordinator also comes a formation change on that side of the ball.

“I just feel that we’re better suited to be a 4-3 team,” said Edsall, whose defense previously ran a 3-4 under coordinator Brian Stewart. “When you take a look at who we have, I think it fits us better.”

Edsall is looking for a new defensive backs coach as well – a position he said should take another week to 10 days to fill.

Edsall said he doesn't plan to name a new special teams coordinator, a role previously held by running backs coach Andre Powell, who left in January. He said he will have multiple assistants work together to fill that role.

“It’s very difficult, in my opinion, to have one guy do the special teams and coach a position,” he said. “When you do that, something gets cheated.”

Edsall said he will lean on staff members who have worked with specialty positions in the past.

Tight ends coach John Dunn will handle the punt game, while receivers coach Keenan McCardell is handling punt returns. New running backs coach Terry Richardson will be involved with the kickoff return game, and the new defensive backs coach will work with kickoff coverage.

Edsall said he also sits in on all special teams meetings and planning, as will graduate assistants and other assistant coaches.

Academics

Aside from injuries and players limited in practice, the Terps should be at full strength when it comes to academic eligibility.

Fresh off winning the Lou Groza Award for being the country’s top kicker, Brad Craddock has been an important member of the team’s leadership council. His influence, Edsall said, has gone a long way for the program.

“That’s the one thing I’ve been very impressed with,” Edsall said, “the leadership that has taken place. … Those guys have been great.”

Emphasis in weight room

Edsall has made no secrets about wanting his team to get bigger and stronger in order to compete at a high level in the Big Ten.

Though he said he hasn’t made any major changes to the offseason weight-training program, small adjustments should go toward a group of “bigger, thicker guys than what you’ve seen before.”

“We didn’t reinvent anything," Edsall said. "We just tweaked things to have us better deal with who we’re playing each and every week, and to give our kids a better understanding of what we have to get done.”

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RED-WHITE SPRING GAME

As usual, Maryland's spring practices will conclude with the annual Red-White spring game.

The intrasquad scrimmage will be held April 11 at 1 p.m. at Byrd Stadium.

Maryland kicks off the 2015 season Sept. 5 at home against Richmond.

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