COLLEGE PARK — After 15 practices, Maryland football came together Saturday afternoon for its annual Red-White spring game, which provided the public a first glimpse of the team.
The Terps are still a work-in-progress, but standout performances from transfer receiver Jacob Copeland and running backs Roman Hemby and Colby McDonald provided optimism for the fall.
Here are three takeaways from Maryland’s spring football game, in which the Red team (first-team offense) defeated the White Team (first-team defense), 14-3.
Maryland has a ton of weapons in the passing game
Junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has to love the number of weapons he has at his disposal. With receivers Rakim Jarrett, Jeshaun Jones and Dontay Demus Jr. sidelined, Copeland, redshirt sophomore tight end Corey Dyches and sophomore receiver Tai Felton stood out.
During the Red’s team first drive, Tagovailoa threw a 22-yard pass to Copeland, which led to a 43-yard touchdown run by Hemby. Copeland finished with five catches for 70 yards and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.
“What you see is his natural ability and why he was a heavily recruited guy out of high school,” coach Mike Locksley said. “You see the continued development of chemistry between him and Taulia.”
Copeland, who played four seasons at Florida, stood out with his ability to generate yards after the catch. In the second quarter, the Red team was facing a third-and-7 when Tagovailoa threw a 19-yard pass to Copeland, who was able to maneuver his body to evade the approaching defender. Copeland did the same thing a few plays later when he caught a 19-yard pass on second-and-14.
“I think what [Copeland] brings to the table will benefit us,” said Tagovailoa, who finished 9-for-14 with 144 yards and a touchdown. “We’ve been working since he got here. Obviously, we have a lot to work on, but I feel like we are in a good spot.”
While Copeland was perhaps the best player on the field, Dyches had the play of the game. With under 10 minutes to go in the first quarter, Tagovailoa zipped the ball between a pair of defenders to Dyches for a 46-yard reception.
Dyches’ catch put Maryland in the red zone, where Tagovailoa threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Felton, giving the red team a 14-0 lead with 7:48 to go in the first quarter.
Inexperience at safety
After starting defensive backs Nick Cross and Jordan Mosely declared for the NFL draft, the safety position became one of the most concerning spots on the roster.
During the spring game, sophomore Dante Trader Jr. (McDonogh) and junior Beau Brade lined up together at safety for the White team, while senior Isaiah Hazel and redshirt sophomores Glendon Miller and Shane Mosley played on the Red team.
Even though Trader and Brade played at times during the 2021 season, the lack of experience at safety remains a concern for Locksley, as there were moments Saturday when they missed tackles and allowed big passing plays in the middle of the field.
Maryland’s secondary struggled mightily in 2021, allowing the second-most passing yards in the Big Ten Conference (249.5 yards per game), which is why players like Trader and Brade will have to continue to develop during the summer.
“It’s a young group back there in the state at the safety position, but they’ve got to grow up fast,” Locksley said. “We played Beau with quite a bit, [and] Dante Trader played in some meaningful games for us as well. We just got to continue to develop that position.”
Optimism at running back
McDonald showed flashes of his potential in 2021, rushing for 325 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 60 carries.
The sophomore continued to make a case to be the Terps’ lead running back on Saturday, as he ran the ball 18 times for 101 yards, including a 31-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Hemby, a former John Carroll standout, totaled 10 carries for 56 rushing yards.
“That’s one of the few positions of strength that we feel we have the type of depth we’re going to need to get through the season, but also the talent in that room,” Locksley said.
When people think of Maryland’s offense, they immediately look at Tagovailoa and the receivers room. However, McDonald and Hemby, a redshirt freshman, want to prove they can provide a spark.
“If everybody thinks we are going to pass, we can break long runs, and they are going to have to figure out what they want to guard,” McDonald said.