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Terps

Three takeaways from Maryland's Red-White spring football game

Maryland coach Michael Locksley, shown at practice earlier this month, oversaw his first Red-White spring game as head coach Saturday.

College Park — First-year Maryland football coach Michael Locksley got one wish fulfilled in Saturday’s Red-White spring game.

“Going into the game, we had a couple of goals we wanted to reach, and one was to stay healthy, and for the most part, as far as I know, we were able to get out of there with [only] a couple of bumps and bruises,” Locksley said. “Nothing major, knock on wood.”

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As is usually the case in these annual intrasquad scrimmages, there were no major surprises in the Red team’s 28-17 victory at Maryland Stadium. Still, there were a couple of interesting revelations.

Here are three takeaways.

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Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo

1. Tight end might finally be used as an offensive weapon, especially with Chigoziem Okonkwo.

A year after catching just 10 passes for 82 yards in 12 games, Maryland’s tight ends accounted for 125 yards and four touchdowns on 17 receptions Saturday, including seven receptions for 63 yards and two of the touchdowns by Okonkwo, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound rising sophomore.

It was one more catch than Okonkwo had last season as a freshman, when he had six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. Okonkwo also had a 54-yard touchdown run last season against Illinois.

When a reporter joked that his overuse of the tight ends in the spring game might be a smoke screen for using them little come fall, Locksley said, “All I can. Maybe call Irv Smith from Alabama and ask him if we threw to the tight end. I think the Minnesota Vikings drafted him in the second round.”

Some have compared Okonkwo to Smith, who in Locksley’s one season as the team’s offensive coordinator caught 44 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns.

“The tight ends and running backs in most of the offenses I’ve coordinated, they always play a role in it because they’re the guys that create matchup issues,” Locksley said. “We feel like we’ve got a few good tight ends in our program. I know we’ve got some really good running backs.”

Okonkwo understands having running backs such as rising redshirt sophomore Anthony McFarland Jr. as well as rising juniors Javon Leake and Tayon Fleet-Davis, helps him and the other tight ends find seams.

“It helps tremendously. Y’all know they’re amazing players, so the defense will always be careful with the run, so that really opens up [run-pass-options], play-actions for us,” Okonkwo said. “We’re wide open, balls all over the field. They really help with just how spectacular they are.”

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Aside from Okonkwo, senior walk-on Michael Cornwell (McDonogh) caught five passes for 28 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tyler DeSue.

Rising junior Noah Barnes had four catches for 11 yards. Rising junior Robert Schwob (Broadneck) caught a 23-yard touchdown from Max Bortenschlager.

“It felt good getting the big guys the ball. They don’t get the love,” DeSue said. “They blocked well, they caught the ball well.”

The Terps will add Buffalo graduate transfer Tyler Mabry, who in his past two seasons caught 51 passes for 472 yards and three touchdowns.

Maryland quarterback Tyler DeSue

2. Tyler DeSue wins the quarterback battle, but the competition will really heat up with Josh Jackson’s arrival this summer.

With rising redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome sitting out after bruising his left knee in practice Tuesday, DeSue started for the Red team and wound up as the spring game's Most Valuable Player (voted by the media) by completing 23 of 35 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

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“It’s kind of what we saw most of the spring from him. He’s a guy that has the ability to operate the system,” Locksley said. “He makes pretty good decisions and choices. I also thought Max did some good things. Obviously he didn’t lead his team to the win.”

Said DeSue: “I thought I played really well. It was one of my better days in spring ball. Just developing and getting it done really felt good.”

DeSue doesn’t seem like he is ceding the starting job to Jackson, who starred as a freshman at Virginia Tech before breaking his leg early last season. The Terps will also add four-star high school prospect Lance LeGendre.

“The best guy’s going to play,” DeSue said.

Bortenschlager, who made eight of his nine career starts in 2017 when both Pigrome and Kasim Hill (in the NCAA transfer portal) suffered season-ending ACL tears, finished Saturday’s scrimmage 29-for-47 for 352 yards and two touchdowns. He was also “sacked” three times.

Locksley said Pigrome had an MRI taken Wednesday that showed no structural damage to the knee in which he tore his ACL when he was in high school in Alabama.

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“Just a little bit of swelling in there, so we just needed the swelling to calm down,” Locksley said.

3. The Terps are badly in need of a punter.

With the departure of Wade Lees, who put his name in the NCAA transfer portal while he awaits word on his final year of eligibility, Maryland used senior Mike Shinsky (McDonogh) and sophomore Bentley Faulkner. They combined on seven punts for a total of 181 yards.

Both appeared to have difficulty with the gusty winds.

“Obviously this wouldn’t be a great day to be a punter or a kicker, but I thought they all did a pretty good job minus the first couple of punts,” Locksley said. “They weren’t even rushing [to block the punt]. I told the punter, ‘I would just hold the ball until the wind stops blowing.’ ”

The Terps have a couple of walk-ons coming in this summer, including Colton Spangler of Essex (Chesapeake-BC).


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