COLLEGE PARK — Spring football practice is typically a tease, an opportunity for college football coaches, players and fans to think about how good their team is going to be in the fall, before reality hits in a few months.
In their first 14 workouts this spring, following the first winning season under coach Randy Edsall, the Terps have shown progress on the offensive line, seen depth at running back and welcomed the return of several injured players — most notably wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.
In Friday night's Red-White game at Byrd Stadium, Edsall will try to showcase Maryland's strengths and, much as possible, mask its weaknesses for fans in attendance. That has led Edsall, like several other coaches, to get away from a traditional spring game and plan what will look more like a regular practice.
"We might do a little bit different format," Edsall said. "We might have a 20-minute 7-on-7 [drill], maybe a 20-minute individual [drill] because Stefon and Deon, they can do those things [without contact].
"I got to treat it almost like another practice. We'll scrimmage, but there's going to be some other things we're going to do to take advantage of some of the guys I can do some things with to give them a little bit more work."
Many eyes will be fixed on how the offense plays. Since a scrimmage at North Point High two weeks ago, where quarterback C.J. Brown missed targets and saw a number of his passes dropped, the passing game has improved. The running game — with the continued growth of rising junior Albert Reid and the return of rising sophomore Wes Brown — has looked good most of the spring.
"I think the biggest thing is just the tempo of the offense," said C.J. Brown, who was granted a medical hardship by the NCAA last year and is eligible to play a sixth season. "Now that I'm very comfortable in the offense and know where all my reads are, we've been able to go faster and make more checks and make sure everyone is on the same page. We've been able to do that. Getting the group of guys back and having so many different guys who can play, it's definitely better for us."
One of the most positive aspects of the spring practice period for Maryland has been the performance of the offensive line, which will add five-star recruit Damian Prince and Derwin Gray to the mix (and likely the starting lineup) in the summer.
"The offensive line has done a fabulous job this spring," C.J. Brown said. "They've really bought in to what [new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa] has been teaching. It's paying dividends. I've had plenty of time in the pocket. That pays off for me, because I'm not worried about scrambling and things like that. I can keep my eyes downfield."
Edsall echoed the praise of the line, but added "we still got a long way to go."
One of the biggest disappointments this spring has been in Maryland's kicking game. After showing great improvement as a sophomore while working with former Ravens kicker Matt Stover, rising junior Brad Craddock has been "inconsistent" in the spring, Edsall said.
"We probably haven't kicked as much this spring as we have in other springs. ... I think we've just got to get him consistent," Edsall said of Craddock, who made 21 of 25 field goals last year after going 10 of 16 as a freshman. "He wasn't as accurate as I was expecting him to be."
Edsall was blunt about the performance this spring of rising junior punter Nate Renfro, who finished sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season with an average of 40.8 yards per punt.
"I don't think Nate's had a good spring," Edsall said. "I think Nate's been struggling this spring. I think Nate's biggest issue is that he thinks too much rather than just going out there and being smooth and fluid. That's something we'll have to continue to work on. I think he's got some work to do over the summer."
Red-White Spring Game
Where: Byrd Stadium
When: Friday at 7 p.m. Gate F (west side) and Gate I (south side) will be open at 5:30 p.m. Concession stands will be open on the south side of the stadium (Tyser Tower side).
Parking: Free parking will be available in Lot Z/1 after 4 p.m. Guests with disabilities who have an accessible placard may park in Union Lane Garage (ULG) free of charge.
More details: The first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a Big Ten Network T-shirt and a spring game poster. A pregame fan fest will be held in the west end zone and will include giveaways, inflatables games, face painting and more. Fans are also encouraged to stay after the game autographs and a fireworks show. Fans who purchase or renew their season tickets at the spring game will be entered into a raffle for prizes.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun