Since his arrival at Maryland last week, the skills that made JC Jackson a coveted cornerback recruit and All-American out of high school have been on full display. He's intercepted passes, dished out big hits and been an overall ball hawk in the Terps secondary.
His new teammates have taken notice of the one-time Florida Gator's impact. And on a team with a new coaching staff, Jackson headlines a group of new players who could have a substantial impact in College Park this fall.
The holdover Terps have worked hard to make them feel welcome.
"Once you're here, you're family," safety Josh Woods (McDonogh) said Friday. "Older guys are going to take you under their wing. If you need help, if we notice a guy slacking, pull him up on it. [If] a guy, he needs help learning something, he can come to us. It's really easy. We're here to help everybody. It's a real family feel."
Jackson, defensive end Melvin Keihn (Gilman), running back Trey Edmunds and wide receiver Teldrick Morgan (Meade) headline the transfer group that coach DJ Durkin and his staff brought in this offseason. Edmunds and Morgan were graduate transfers from Virginia Tech and New Mexico State, respectively, while Jackson was a junior college transfer and Keihn sat out last season after coming back to his home state from Virginia Tech.
During the first days of practice, all four worked with the starters and earned positive reviews from their teammates.
"JC's a great addition," Woods said. "He's a playmaker. He's always around the ball. Always causing, creating turnovers."
"Teldrick, he's been improving every day," D.J. Moore said. "He's like a little speedy, shifty guy."
Durkin and multiple players complimented Keihn's "motor," while Edmunds showed he could be a bruising presence in the backfield during spring practice, and that's continued into August. The older transfers with experience can provide an immediate boost at some positions of need for Maryland, and the younger players in the Terps' freshman class can watch and learn while working their way into the rotation.
That's perhaps the most true in the secondary, where Maryland lost three starters from a season ago and has four freshmen at the position. Early in camp, the experience appears to be winning out, with senior Will Likely, senior Alvin Hill and sophomore Darnell Savage Jr. working with Woods, a junior, and Jackson, a sophomore.
But freshmen Elijah Daniels, Elisha Daniels, Qwuantrezz Knight and Antwaine Richardson are getting time in practice to make an impression.
"The young guys, they're eager to learn," Woods said. "Quick learners."
During the final competition period in Friday's practice, Maryland's freshmen had the chance to take center stage. The offense and defense, made up mostly of the program's younger players, faced off in a red-zone drill with freshman Max Bortenschlager quarterbacking the offense.
With the veteran players watching and cheering from the sideline, the two units went back and forth. Bortenschlager had a nice pass to freshman wide receiver DJ Turner broken up by defensive back Milan Barry-Pollock (Eastern Tech). But the offense responded, and freshman running back Lorenzo Harrison ended the session with a shifty, winding run through the defense for a touchdown.
It remains to be seen how many freshmen will get consistent playing time this season. Harrison and fellow freshmen running backs Jake Funk and LaDerrien Wilson have Edmunds, senior Wes Brown and sophomore Ty Johnson ahead of them. Turner and fellow DeMatha product Tino Ellis have a glut of experienced wide receivers ahead of them, including another junior college transfer in Chris Jones.
But Durkin has made it clear that whoever plays the best in camp competitions will contribute, no matter their age or experience or past at Maryland. So with some talented pieces in the freshman class and transfers with impressive track records on the roster, the revamped look of the Terps could extend well beyond the coaching staff and onto the field.
"The freshmen are great," tight end Avery Edwards said. "Obviously, they're getting limited reps, but every time they get in there, they're making an impact. They're winning us competitions at the end of [practice], so that's super exciting to see guys like [Harrison] and all those guys making plays at the end to win it for us. It takes kind of a weight off our shoulders."