First-year Maryland football coach Michael Locksley was in a decidedly better mood after Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage than he had been after practice Tuesday.
The reason? Fewer mistakes were made, according to Locksley, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Still, obvious deficiencies remain as the Terps get ready for the 2019 season.
“I thought for our first time inside the stadium, I thought there were some good things that took place between both sides of the ball, and we also were able to get some work for our special teams units as well,” Locksley said. “Both sides of the ball, if you look at the way the scrimmage went, we had the ebb and flow you like to see as a head coach. Offensively we made some plays. Defensively we made plays. … It wasn’t a sloppy deal.”
While Locksley still hasn’t put together a “full” depth chart, there has been some separation.
“We’re starting to formulate opinions on what guys we feel can play winning football for us,” Lockley said.
Here are three takeaways from Maryland’s closed scrimmage, according to Locksley.
1. Quality depth remains a question.
While Locksley has been careful not to give away too much information about individual performances throughout spring practice, he made it clear Saturday that the starting units are coming into focus.
Though part of it has to do with the talent of proven players such as redshirt sophomore running back Anthony McFarland Jr. and senior linebacker-defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr., Locksley would like to see some of the second-teamers play better.
“I told the team we do need more guys to step up and take the next step, so that we can develop depth on all three phases,” Locksley said after the 100-play scrimmage, all but the first 10 minutes of which was closed to the media.
“I’ve got to get the other guys outside of our [No.] 1 unit playing at a higher level. There shouldn’t be a huge drop-off between 1s and 2s. We’ve got some talented players on our [No.] 2 unit; they just need to take the next step from a competition standpoint.”
2. Quarterbacks haven’t been the leaders Locksley wants.
Locksley has made it apparent that he hasn’t been all that pleased with the performance of a few of the expected offensive playmakers, including the three scholarship players at quarterback.
If it didn’t seem obvious before the start of practice, it does now: barring any unforeseen obstacles this summer, Virginia Tech graduate transfer Josh Jackson will likely line up behind center for the Aug. 31 opener against Howard.
While Locksley is not permitted to talk about Jackson until he enrolls at Maryland after graduating next month, he can talk about the quarterbacks in camp right now — Tyrrell Pigrome, Max Bortenschlager and Tyler DeSue.
Bortenschlager, who made one start as a true freshman in 2016 and eight more as a sophomore after Pigrome and Kasim Hill suffered season-ending injuries in 2017, started the last two practices with the No. 1 unit.
“Max is a guy who has some playing experience, he has some natural quarterback instincts, he has some skill set,” Locksley said. “He has shown in practice what I like to see [from] all three of the guys. It’s just the leadership and the moxie that the quarterback position presents itself.
“I’m coming from a place [Alabama] where those guys kind of control the tempo, the unit. I think right now all of those guys are just kind of feeling their way through. They’ve studied their tails off, they have a good understanding of what we want to do from a schematic standpoint. … But I would like to see all those guys step up and show the leadership part that comes with that position.”
3. Austin Fontaine’s move to offensive line appears to be a permanent one.
When the highly-regarded redshirt freshman was switched from the defensive line early in spring practice after junior tackle TJ Bradley sustained what Locksley said Tuesday was a torn patellar tendon, it looked as if it was still in the experimental stage.
It seemed Saturday that the 6-foot-4, 335-pound Fontaine, who was the team's second-highest-rated prospect behind offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan in the 2018 recruiting class, could be finding a new home on the offensive line.
“I think moving Austin Fontaine over there has really helped us,” Locksley said. “I think he has a chance to be a talented offensive lineman for us, a guy that plays with power, has a little nasty streak to him.”