COLLEGE PARK -- Last season, Maryland seemed to be perpetually waiting for Quinton Jefferson.
The promising, 6-foot-4 defensive end out of Woodland Hills High in Pennsylvania — once considered a major recruiting "get" for Maryland and coach Randy Edsall — seemed to bounce around the depth chart, never quite securing a spot. He found himself at times demoted to the scout team, testing coaches' patience.
Each season, there are players who seem to show up renewed. This spring, Maryland believes Jefferson is among the players moving closer to fulfilling expectations.
With spring practice ending Friday night with the Red-White game at Byrd Stadium, here are five returning players who, coaches believe, might be poised for breakout seasons:
Jefferson has the potential to aid Maryland's pass rush — the Terps lost sack leaders Joe Vellano and Darin Drakeford — and to keep Greg Gattuso, the animated defensive line coach, from being constantly hoarse.
"He's been good this spring," Gattuso said Wednesday. "He's consistently graded out the highest on the defensive line. He's improved his pass-rushing ability. He's improved his effort level to the point where I don't have to yell at him on every play."
Jefferson, who worked in the stockroom at a Best Buy before enrolling at Maryland, seems to have better embraced college life.
"It's off the field as well as on the field," Gattuso said. "Not that he's a bad kid, but it's being on time, going to class, doing things the right way. If you don't have that under control, it's really hard to be a great football player."
The darting running back didn't find enough holes to run through last season. He seemed to never quite have enough space to show his talents and was often swallowed up near the line. He finished with 92 yards.
This spring, running backs coach Andre Powell says Reid is seeing the defense better and reacting to it more quickly.
"Albert has done some things to make him much more efficient," Powell said. "He's worked on his leverage and his reactions to the defense. Some of it is mental and some of it is physical."
Brandon Ross, Wes Brown, Reid and Joe Riddle are expected to compete for time at running back. Last season, the Terps, who finished 4-8, averaged 103 rushing yards per game, 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference
Ideally, Maryland would like to have one running back emerge and win the bulk of the carries in 2013.
Brattan's other freshman starters over his 11 Maryland seasons were exceptional — Stephon Heyer, Jared Gaither, Bruce Campbell. It's uncertain how Madaras will fare, but he is getting better.
Madaras "has made progress," Brattan said. "Five months before [stepping in last season] he was riding to school in a yellow school bus. All of a sudden, it's, 'Let's go block Florida State and let's go block Clemson.'"
Nigel King, sophomore receiver
King's development was slowed when an NCAA clearinghouse declared him ineligible for 2011. Last season, he caught nine passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Coaches believe King's 6-foot-3 frame makes him a threat, particularly near the goal line. He's expected to benefit from having talented receivers such as Stefon Diggs and Deon Long around him.
"With each practice, Nigel has gotten more and more confident," offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said.
All of the receivers have benefited this spring because Maryland is running essentially the same offense — with the same coordinator — as last season. That hadn't happened during all of the changes of the preceding three years.
"It means a lot, especially for the confidence of the players," receivers coach Lee Hull said. "Last year our offense was thinking a lot, trying to get lined up, so I think having this be our second year we have a lot more consistency."
This could be a big season for Stinebaugh. He's had injury problems and has played behind Matt Furstenburg and Devonte Campbell, among others.
But those players are gone now, and Stinebaugh (Perry Hall) is the presumed starter.
"The injuries are well-documented but I think he is a very talented player," tight ends coach John Dunn said.
Stinebaugh has a sore ankle and might not play in the spring game, which begins at 7 p.m. It is open to the public.
Note: Some observers wondered why Maryland opted to name C.J. Brown as the presumptive starter at quarterback in the spring rather than nearer to the season. Brown is coming back this season from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. "A guy doesn't lose his position here because of injury," Locksley said Tuesday. "And prior to being injured, C.J. was our starter, so I don't think it was a surprise to anybody in the quarterback room."