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Terps to showcase improved versatility vs. Richmond

Terps' football players L-R #30 Kenneth Goins Jr. and #83 Malcolm Culmer. University of Maryland football media day at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. Goins, the team's fullback, should have an expanded role this season as the Terps use more two-back sets.
Terps' football players L-R #30 Kenneth Goins Jr. and #83 Malcolm Culmer. University of Maryland football media day at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. Goins, the team's fullback, should have an expanded role this season as the Terps use more two-back sets.(Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

As injuries mounted for Maryland last season, though not quite the tidal wave that had befallen the program in recent years, the Terps were forced to alter their offensive scheme.

When tight end Andrew Isaacs went down with a knee injury in September, Maryland started playing more four wide receiver sets. In turn, there was less of a need for two-back sets featuring a fullback. And eventually, it limited Maryland's offensive options.

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The Terps expect things to be different this fall. Now in the fourth year with Mike Locksley as offensive coordinator, Maryland's focus with a healthy offense has been on versatility. And when the Terps face off with Richmond today, it will provide the first look at just how dangerous they can be.

Coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday that Maryland essentially had two offenses last season: one for the speedy C.J. Brown and another for backups Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills. With Brown graduated, the Terps were left with three similar quarterbacks in Hills, who won the starting job, Rowe, and Daxx Garman, so Locksley was able to implement one offense for all three quarterbacks.

"We've run this same system, whether it was with Perry, whether it was with Caleb," Locksley said Wednesday. "Did we tweak it? No doubt. Last year, C.J.'s strength was his legs and then his ability to have play action off of it. These guys are all really good throwers. They're all accurate guys, so obviously we'll build our game plans around what the skill set is of the quarterbacks."

The Terps consider Hills to be a dual threat— Hills said he worked extensively on his athleticism in the offseason — but Brown brought a different dimension to the field during his career in College Park, with plays such as his 75-yard touchdown scamper against West Virginia last season.

Hills sees himself as more of a game manager. In his appearance against Iowa last season, Hills was 5 for 10 for 86 yards and a touchdown, and the score came when he got the ball to Stefon Diggs in the flat and let the wide receiver take the ball 53 yards to the end zone.

"Pretty much I'm going to be the one trying to get us in the best plays, things of that sort," Hills said. "But my ultimate goal is to get the ball into the playmaker's hands, to manage the game, to make the right reads even if it's taking a checkdown 100 times a game. If that's what the defense is going to give me, I'm going to do it."

Hills and the Maryland offense will be aided by the younger players who have had another year of seasoning. When Isaacs got hurt, Derrick Hayward and P.J. Gallo were forced to fill in. Hayward was a redshirt freshman who had been converted from linebacker to tight end when he got to College Park. Gallo had primarily played on special teams. And while Isaacs is still working back from his injury, Locksley has a more experienced group of tight ends.

The same holds true at fullback. When the Terps were forced to rely on more spread out sets, it reduced the need for Kenneth Goins Jr. But this season, Locksley is expecting to be able to use more two-back sets, thanks to the overall health of the offense and the growth of Goins and converted quarterback Shane Cockerille.

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"In [Locksley's] offense, he likes having a balanced offense where we can attack through multiple personnel groups," running back Brandon Ross said. "So really, the more talent we have at each position on the offensive side, the better."

In Richmond, Maryland is facing a Spiders defense that has only three fourth-year players in its front seven with an experienced secondary behind it. So it will be a ripe opportunity for the Terps to mix things up early and throw out some new looks they might not necessarily have had the opportunity to use a season ago.

"I like the pieces that we have," Edsall said. "Now what guys have to do is go out there and do their job well. If they do, we'll be able to make plays and be the kind of offense that we want to be with the personnel that we have."

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