Around 5 a.m. Thursday, Levern Jacobs pulled himself out of bed and headed to the Terrapins football team's morning practice, which began at 7 a.m. The temperature was in the low-20s, and the wide receiver made sure to get to practice on time and warm up his hands before the start of practice.
The combination of morning practices and unseasonable cold practices this spring has created a tough environment for the Terps' practices.
“You get used to it," Jacobs said. "It’s hard to get used to it at the beginning of spring ball because the young guys are not used to getting up so early and getting prepared and things like that. As practices went on, it’s been pretty easy.”
Jacobs has tried a number of approaches to ward off the cold with differing results. But he said by the time the Terps get to the end of practice, when the team often has 11-on-11 scrimmages, the adrenaline overshadows any of the cold.
“You try to psych yourself out," Jacobs said. "I tried to come out here with no sleeves on. At the beginning of practice I was pretty cold, but as time went on and I got loose running around I warmed up pretty good. My other teammates, I can’t speak for them, but I know it was pretty cold outside.”
The speedster has stood out during spring practice and appears to be building on a solid fall season. As a redshirt sophomore, Jacobs replaced starting wide receiver Stefon Diggs after the star suffered a broken leg in October. Jacobs responded by catching a team-high 47 passes for 640 yards and three touchdowns. In the Terps' 40-27 loss to Clemson in October, Jacobs caught eight passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, a 71-yarder to give the Terps an early lead.
With Diggs still sidelined in the spring, Jacobs has taken the majority of his reps with the first team. And when fall rolls around, there could be quite the bevy of weapons on the outside for Terps quarterbacks to throw to.
"He has all the talent in the world," quarterback C.J. Brown said. "You put the ball in his hands and he has it in space, he can make anything happen. He’s got great hands, great vision and great speed. Just given the right opportunity, he was able to take advantage of it, and he definitely did."
Other practice note from Thursday:
- The practice was the first time coach Randy Edsall was available to the media since The Baltimore Sun and Diamondback reported more details in the case surrounding running back Wes Brown's fall suspension.
"The university handled all that," Edsall said. "They did a thorough investigation, and we’re just moving forward, and Wes is doing great."
- On Wednesday, Northwestern football players were granted the right to unionize by a National Labor Relations Board director. It's an unprecedented decision, and many legal experts expected the NLRB to rule in favor of Northwestern. The school is expected to appeal the decision, and the final ruling in the case may not arrive for years.
It's a complicated case, with the players, led by former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter, asking for a number of things, including health benefits. Sports Illustrated did a Q&A with legal analyst Michael McCann that illuminates the situation a little more.
The decision doesn't affect this university, a public entity, directly, but the ripple effects could cause significant changes to college football and college athletics.
Edsall has spoken out on behalf of players before, particularly with regard to Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA, which deals with compensation for current student-athletes for use of likenesses.
"I think it’s great that kids can come to college and have the opportunity to express their views or to be able to advocate for what they think is right, and I think that’s what college is all about," Edsall said. "I would say that with that ruling, I would think there’s going to be some things that would change in terms of the structure, in terms of the NCAA. I think that’s one of things. I read a comment where I think someone said that they wished the NCAA was a little more proactive in dealing with some of these things. I think that probably was a good point. But again, I think there are issues that we do have that need to be addressed and I think with that decision, I think you’re going to see a lot of issues that will be addressed just because of what took place."
Edsall was also asked if he thought it was a positive for the NCAA to evaluate some of the pressing issues facing college athletics.
"I think there is," Edsall said. "I think there are issues that need to be looked at, need to be dealt with in totality. Not only from the student-athlete standpoint but also from the prospective student-athlete standpoint and I think that it’s something that’s going to change the landscape I’m sure as things move forward."
Said C.J. Brown: "I know everyone’s watching, so it’ll be interesting.
- Edsall said no Terps currently have injuries that require surgery. Outside linebacker Matt Robinson spent Thursday's practice rehabbing an arm injury. Edsall also complimented wide receiver Nigel King for coming back and playing after "tweaking" his ankle Monday. King made a nice diving catch along the sideline in double coverage during one drill.
- Edsall said that Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills are still battling for the No. 2 quarterback spot behind Brown.
"I think I would say that Caleb is probably a little bit ahead in that battle," Edsall said. "But again, we got to get more consistency out of him and make sure that he continues to progress. But he’s just got to be a little bit more consistent, but I would think that he’s probably, he’s ahead in that position battle right now."
- The Terps make their first public appearance since the Military Bowl in an open scrimmage at North Point High School in Waldorf on Friday night. Edsall has made a point of having open scrimmages at high schools in the area as a way to boost the program's visibility.
"It’ll definitely be exciting any time you get to go out there and play in front of the fans, you know, Friday night lights," Brown said. "It’ll definitely be fun. Different environment, high school field, so it’ll be a good time."