Observations of Maryland’s new-look offense from preseason scrimmage
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The first training camp with a new coaching staff always seems to produce some surprises, whether it is veteran players who felt overlooked by the previous regime earning a new opportunity or newcomers quickly moving up the depth chart.
A few players that fit into those categories stood out Saturday for Maryland, who held an open practice/scrimmage inside Byrd Stadium in front of a smattering of fans willing to brave the heat and catch a peak of the new-look Terps.
Senior wide receiver DeAndre Lane, who caught one pass before Randy Edsall was fired and eight more in the second half of last season, hauled in a touchdown during the scrimmage. He’s been one of the surprises of camp and could nudge his way into playing time despite a deep group of similar wideouts.
Several freshmen saw plenty of action during the scrimmage portion of the practice. When asked if he thought “10-12 freshmen” could play this season, new coach D.J. Durkin offered a quick response.
“Sure, we’re going to play whoever can help us.” Durkin said.
This camp has included a lot of moving parts at different positions while Durkin and his staff try to figure that out. Here are some other observations from the scrimmage:
* The entire scrimmage was basically two-hand touch, so lots of zone-read options plays were blown dead when a tailback likely wouldn’t have been tackled but was touched.
* Perry Hills threw multiple interceptions in the early portion, but came back after a break with much better throws and a couple of touchdowns, including a 25-yarder to Malcolm Culmer. Hills isn’t officially the starting quarterback at this point, but he might as well be. He’s not going to suddenly be a precision passer, but he clearly gives the Terps the best chance to win right now.
* Hills did look pretty comfortable operating the offense before the snap. New offensive coordinator Walt Bell wants to go fast, and this looks like warp speed compared to some games when Edsall was in charge.
“One of [the interceptions] was probably a bad decision,” Durkin said. “One was a tipped ball. That happens. Perry is fine. He’s a tough guy. He doesn’t get rattled by stuff like that.”
* If Maryland had to play a real game tomorrow, freshman Tyrrell Pigrome might be Hills’ backup. Hills’ presumed top competition, Caleb Rowe, was held out of the scrimmage and has been injured most of camp. Durkin praised Pigrome, who everyone calls “Piggy,” for his ability to make something happen when the play breaks down.
Pigrome made a couple of fantastic moves on one run that would have been a touchdown in a game, but someone did get a hand on him in the open field. He’s had some trouble with shotgun snaps, but that might be the centers adjusting to his size (he’s listed at 5-foot-11) more than his issue.
* Wes Brown is suspended for three games, and trying to figure out who will get the carries in his absence might be trickier now than before camp started. Freshman Lorenzo Harrison, one of four players in Maryland’s 2016 recruiting class from nearby powerhouse DeMatha Catholic, had a couple of electric runs during the scrimmage.
“He’s been really good all camp,” Durkin said. “He’s been really hard to tackle, hard to bring down. He’s been consistent. He’s a hard worker. I like him. He doesn’t act like a freshman most of the time. That’s a good thing.”
*Another newcomer to watch for carries is actually wide receiver Teldrick Morgan, a graduate transfer from New Mexico State. Morgan had several carries in the scrimmage, including a touchdown. He lined up in the backfield in two-back sets and as a wide receiver.
“He’s an experienced college football player. He’s seen a lot of things, and has that savvy about him,” Durkin said. “He can be pretty special with the ball in his hands, so he’s going to play a bunch. He’ll help us. He’s a really good returner, a good receiver. He’ll play on special team coverage units. He’s a really good player.”
Morgan is a local kid who had to go prove he could be a quality FBS-level player, and after two strong seasons playing in the Sun Belt conference is ready to give the Big Ten a try. He could be an interesting option in the return game, if the new staff decides return dynamo Will Likely needs a break from all of his responsibilities.
“Everything is new,” said Morgan, who played in a more traditional spread offense at New Mexico State. “We’re all rotating and I’m just trying to work my way in. Wherever I fit in is fine with me.”
* Beyond Morgan and Harrison, there is also tailback Ty Johnson, fullback Kenneth Goins Jr. and graduate transfer Trey Edmunds. Once Brown returns, that is at least six options in the running game, plus Hills figures to carry the ball at least a handful of times per game as well.
“It’s a good problem,” Durkin said. “I think we have several guys who could be good players. I think it will be, ‘OK, who does what best? What are the situations? And then we’ll figure it out. That’s a good problem. We’re not looking for guys. We have some good players there.”
* There weren’t any crazy trick plays or anything like that, but the Terps did show off a couple of interesting formations. The most interesting one was a variation of the Pistol, with Hills closer to the line than a traditional shotgun set. He also had three players in the backfield with, one to his left, one to his right and one behind him.
So basically, picture a condensed version of the Georgia Tech/Navy triple option, spliced with Nevada’s Pistol. Maryland used it for a couple plays near the goal line, but that could be a good place to use players like Morgan or Likely along with the bigger running backs.