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Terps football trying to stay healthy, hydrated through fall camp

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland football coach DJ Durkin wants his team to be tough, so the thud of pads, crashing of bodies and screams of coaches are clearly audible from the start of Terps practice this summer. Durkin already has said he's making practice as hard as possible in his first year on the job.

But football is an inherently dangerous and violent sport, so aggressiveness and intensity sometimes can come with unintended consequences. Injuries are part of the game, and a training camp malady can have a lasting impact on a season. So Durkin is working on balancing his team's health with the intensity and mindset he thinks the Terps need to succeed this fall.

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"We're smart in how we do things," Durkin said Friday. "A lot of this stuff is a controlled environment, so there's not guys flopping into each other and stuff, but we're going to practice hard and be physical with everyone. This is what camp's for."

Maryland's offensive line is still "fluid" after five practices, but Michael Dunn feels the unit is progressing.

On Friday, only three players — quarterback Caleb Rowe, wide receiver Taivon Jacobs and linebacker Matt Gillespie (Loyola Blakefield) — didn't participate in Maryland's fifth day of practice, which was the first of the season in full pads, and the team appeared to come out of the afternoon healthy.

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For a team short on depth in certain spots and low on experience in others, coming out of August healthy is important. The Terps' Sept. 3 season opener against Howard is three weeks away, so part of Durkin and his staff's job is to make sure the Terps stay under control and give the desired effort.

"Yes, we want to be physical. Yes, we want to practice hard and compete and all that," Durkin said during an appearance on the Big Ten Network's "BTN Live" on Thursday. "But you got to take care of your teammates. We want everyone to get to the game. We spend a little time in the team meeting every night going over good and bad examples from practice."

The midday practices also present another challenge for the Terps: staying hydrated. Friday's high temperature in College Park was 95 degrees, with a heat index over 100 degrees. And so the strength and conditioning staff, which did wonders for some players in the weight room, now has to keep them on the field.

Offensive lineman Michael Dunn said the players' hydration is checked "almost every morning" in a urine test, and the Terps are monitored during the day. Dunn said the staff is making sure the team constantly is drinking during its meetings and ready, both physically and mentally, for the day's practice.

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"This is actually the first time we've done it," said Dunn, a senior. "It's actually pretty cool to get this little thing in each morning. It's nice to know where you stand, hydration-wise."

It's another new wrinkle for the program under Durkin. The strength and conditioning staff, led by Rick Court, has earned rave reviews from the Terps. Durkin expects Maryland to play at a quick tempo on both sides of the ball, so he's doing everything he can to get the Terps ready for the season.

Maryland tight end Avery Edwards is reuniting with offensive coordinator Walt Bell, who originally recruited him to North Carolina.

"I've never really thought about so much of how your body will feel by what you put into it," Dunn said. "I've kind of just did my thing, did my normal routine, went out to practice. But with such a heavy focus on keeping our bodies right, making sure we're in the best possible conditioning and shape that we can be in before these practices. These practices are intense, three hours or however long it is."

After practice, the Terps lounged in cold tubs set up outside the Gossett Football Team House in Maryland Stadium. The players were relaxed and energetic despite working out in the sun for more than three hours. All were doing what they could to make it through practice and to the season opener against Howard.

"Iron sharpens iron," Durkin said on "BTN Live." "But you got to be smart about it."

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