COLLEGE PARK ——Occasionally during training camp, Maryland football players couldn't help but smile as they sprinted through plays at a pace that was tiring just to watch.
The Terps (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) were laughing at their own predicament — at being asked to speed up their offense until their chests heaved and they were drenched in sweat.
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"At practice, all Coach Crow [offensive coordinator Gary Crowton] is saying is, 'Go fast, go fast!'" wide receiver Kerry Boykins said. "You never can go too fast for him."
As it prepared to face No. 18 West Virginia (2-0, 0-0 Big East) on Saturday, Maryland's tempo was the most obvious difference between this season's team and last.
"We'll run about four plays in 50 seconds," cornerback Cameron Chism said.
The no-huddle offense is not as fast as the one Oregon used in advancing to last season's national championship game. Crowton is a former Oregon assistant who says his "inner nature" is to be "exciting and open and fast-paced."
But Maryland's offense has a similar intent — to wear defenses down. It can make it tough on opponents to bring defensive packages into the game. And by increasing its number of plays, Maryland maximizes its chances of springing a receiver or running back for a long gain.
Last season, Maryland ran an average of 63 plays a game. In five of their 13 games, the Terps ran 60 or fewer plays.
In its 32-24 opening-game victory over Miami on Sept. 5, Maryland had 78 plays and gained 499 yards. It was the program's highest offensive output since totaling 524 yards against North Carolina in 2005.
As quickly as Maryland hustled to the line against the Hurricanes, it moves faster in practice. It's particularly challenging when a player has raced far downfield and must sprint back to the line before the next snap.
"We're still getting used to it," said quarterback Danny O'Brien, who compared the style to a fast break in basketball. "People are still hurting out there in practice. The tempo during practice is ridiculous."
But O'Brien sees the value in it.
"It's making us better," the redshirt sophomore said. By the time Saturday arrives, he said, the game can seem "kind of slow" by comparison.
Conditioning will figure prominently in the offense's success or failure as the season progresses.
"I'm in a different kind of shape than I've ever been in — Little League, high school — and I'm sure I'm not the only one," said running back D.J. Adams, who returns Saturday from a one-game suspension for an unspecified rules violation.
O'Brien believes the offense — which he describes as "pro-style stuff but we get the ball out quickly" — will appeal to recruits because of its number of plays and relentless motion.
"It's an explosive offense," O'Brien said . "If you're a high school kid, it really offers you an opportunity to showcase your skills."
Maryland will be tested by a West Virginia team that took a 28-0 lead last season in winning, 31-17, in Morgantown, W.Va.