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SportsTerpsTracking the Terps

Takeaways from Terps' preseason practice

FootballC.J. BrownRandy Edsall

Maryland players wrapped up preseason practice Thursday and moved their belongings out of Dorchester Hall, their home for preseason camp, later in the day.

The focus for players and coaches is now firmly on the Terps' season-opener against James Madison Saturday. However, here are some takeaways from Maryland's two-plus weeks of preseason camp:

OFFENSE

Quarterback

** C.J. Brown was inconsistent throughout camp. He had some good throws, like a long touchdown to Amba Etta-Tawo during the first week of camp and a 40-yard pass to Deon Long two or three practices later. However, Brown was also more erratic than you would expect a sixth-year senior to be and made some head-scratching decisions at times, like throwing the ball to Stefon Diggs down the field despite Diggs being surrounded by three defenders.

Brown is dangerous as a runner and has shown the capability to make plays with his arm as well, but the Terps are looking for him to be more consistent as a passer than he was during camp, especially with all of the weapons Maryland has at wide receiver.

Running back

** Maryland has a good situation at running back. Junior Brandon Ross will begin the season as the starter. Junior Albert Reid is a solid, dependable backup, and sophomore Wes Brown could see his role progressively increase during the year. Brown has had rust to shake off after being suspended last season, but coaches love his physical, violent running style.

Wide receiver

** Long looks poised for a big season. Diggs is the bigger name and was selected to every preseason watch list possible, but Long was more impressive during preseason practice. Long had eight catches for 136 yards and a touchdown during a scrimmage last week and is a fast, fluid athlete with good ball skills that looked like a potential middle-round draft pick at times during camp.

** Diggs, meanwhile, remains a work in progress. He is a playmaker with the ball in his hands and has made some great catches during his first two years at Maryland. However, coaches are still looking for more from him in terms of route running, blocking and preparation.

** The Terps also have other receivers that will factor into the offense besides just Long and Diggs. Junior Levern Jacobs is facing a second-degree assault charge, but he had 47 catches last year and was praised by coach Randy Edsall throughout camp. Jacobs' younger brother, Taivon, is the fastest player on Maryland's team and made some plays during camp. The Terps also have sophomore Etta-Tawo and junior Marcus Leak, who have both made plays during their Terps careers.

Freshman wide receiver Juwann Winfree was given an opportunity to carve out a role as a backup during camp. However, he now  appears likely to end up redshirting.

Tight end

** Sophomore Andrew Isaacs is in better shape than he was as a freshman last year - down to 245 pounds from 258 - and is Maryland's clear No. 1 tight end entering the season. Meanwhile, 6-foot-5, 235-pound redshirt freshman Derrick Hayward improved as camp went on and looks to be the No. 2 tight end behind Isaacs. Hayward made some contested catches and was noticeably more sure-handed as camp progressed.

Offensive line

** Edsall said he feels like Maryland's offensive line has a chance to surprise people. The offensive line was a concern for the Terps entering the spring, but Edsall has said the group has made a lot of progress under new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Left guard is probably the biggest question mark, but Edsall said he is encouraged by how Silvano Altamirano looked during camp.

“I thought he had a good camp,” Edsall said of Altamirano. “I did. If you want to sit there and say he’s our fifth-best offensive lineman, you can say that, but he’s our fifth-best offensive lineman, and you’ve got to play five. … I think he’s gotten better. He’s healthy. And I’ve liked what he’s done. He’s had an opportunity to kind of take that thing over, and he’s done that. So no, I’m not displeased with him at all. I think he’ll do a good job for us.”

DEFENSE

Front seven

** The front seven is a strength of Maryland’s defense.

Nose tackle Darius Kilgo is a potential middle-round draft pick. Defensive end Andre Monroe was disruptive throughout camp, and defensive end Quinton Jefferson looks like a potential future NFL player as well.

Edsall said he also feels much better about his depth along the defensive line than he did entering camp.

In particular, Edsall has consistently raved about Spencer Myers, an All-America wrestler whom Edsall has commended for his relentlessness and motor.

Then, at linebacker, the Terps have four senior starters, including three returning starters.

** Maryland's pass rush has a chance to be good.

Senior outside linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil had three sacks in six games last year and was one of three outside linebackers from the Big Ten selected to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award.

The Terps also have players like Monroe along the defensive line as well as sophomore outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue.

Ngakoue consistently generated pressure as a pass rusher during camp and will be used as a situational pass rusher.

Edsall also said he believes freshman Jesse Aniebonam could contribute as a pass rusher. Aniebonam, a four-star recruit, is likely the fastest and most athletic of Maryland's linebackers. According to Edsall, Aniebonam was impressive as a pass rusher during the Terps' scrimmage Wednesday.

Cornerback

** Cornerback is Maryland's biggest question mark defensively. Junior Alvin Hill had an impressive camp and rarely stood out for negative reasons, but sophomore Will Likely gave up some big plays. So did senior Jeremiah Johnson. The Terps also lack experience behind those three.

Safety

** Strong safety Sean Davis appears poised for a big season. However, fellow starting safety Anthony Nixon is a somewhat of a question mark. Nixon is described as steady and dependable, but he has just one interception through two seasons at Maryland and did not stand out much during preseason practice aside from a forced fumble that he also recovered during team drills about midway through camp.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Brad Craddock had just one missed kick from inside of 50 yards during preseason practice, but punter Nate Renfro was inconsistent — as he was during the spring — and remains a concern for Edsall heading into the season.

 

Mzenitz@tribune.com

Twitter.com/mzenitz

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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