With less than two weeks remaining until a season-opening bout with James Madison on Aug. 30 at Byrd Stadium, the tone around the Terrapins football team is changing.
Tuesday was the last Terps practice open to the media, and soon the team will halt their preseason practice routine and begin honing in on beating the Dukes rather than preparing for the season as a whole.
“A couple big days here left for guys to be able to show what they can do,” Edsall said before Tuesday morning’s practice.
After practice, nose guard Keith Bowers noted a shift in the Terps’ attitude. Coming off a 7-6 season that ended with a Military Bowl loss to Marshall, the Terps are hoping to return to postseason play. And the beginning of the quest toward that accomplishment is approaching.
“It’s more of an urgency as the season’s getting ready to start,” Bowers said. “People understand that this year, we want to win.”
Here’s a breakdown of Tuesday morning’s practice:
- The Terps were in full pads and on the practice field stretching around 8:30 a.m. Practice began at 8:45 and ran until 10:10.
- Running back Brandon Ross did not participate in 11-on-11 drills, and performing weight training. Ross, who has dealt with back injuries in the recent past, was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage and was a part-time participant in practice on Monday. Albert Reid filled in for Ross as the first-team tailback, and Wes Brown took snaps with the second team.
“It’s pretty much the same as what we’ve felt all along,” Edsall said of the Terps’ running back battle. “We felt that Brandon was No. 1, then Albert and then Wes. We’ll continue to look at it and continue to evaluate it.”
- Edsall is still unsure when offensive lineman Evan Mulrooney will return to action. Mulrooney was hospitalized earlier this month with a viral infection.
- All-conference wide receiver Stefon Diggs took many of his snaps with the second team Tuesday as he did in Monday’s practice and Saturday’s open scrimmage. Taivon and Levern Jacobs and Deon Long were the three wideouts who spent most of the 11-on-11 drills with the starters.
- Bowers and Darius Kilgo continue to swap first-team reps at nose guard.
“It’s about 50-50,” Bowers said.
- The Terps began practice with special teams drills. Diggs, Taivon Jacobs, wide receiver DeAndre Lane and cornerback Will Likely each spent time serving as the punt returner.
- The Terps also practiced onside kicks, with kickers Brad Craddock and Adam Greene each attempting the play several times.
- A majority of the practice was spent in 11-on-11 drills. Edsall mentioned that he would take extra time to evaluate his player’s performance this week. Decided on player’s roles, the fourth-year coach said, has become more difficult over the past few years as he’s built more depth within the program.
“That’s what you want,” Edsall said. “You want to have those tough decisions to make as you narrow it down and as you’re getting there. That’s the thing: the more competition we have, the better we’re going to be.”
- The Terps spent a lot of time working in the red zone. The first-team offense often used option plays when near goal line, and backup quarterback Caleb Rowe tossed several passes to 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end Derrick Hayward when the second stringers were in the red zone.
- One of the highlight of practice came when Rowe hit Diggs for a 10-yard touchdown pass in the front corner of the end zone. Diggs extended to make the catch and controlled the ball after a slight blobble.
- Rowe also hit slot receiver Jacquille Veii for several big gains. Veii transitioned from running back to wideout last week.
- Starting quarterback C.J. Brown seemed to favor Levern Jacobs. Jacobs, though, dropped one long pass down the sideline and twisted his ankle after another drop later in practice. He walked gingerly off the field but returned to action shortly thereafter.
- The practice ended with Craddock and Greene each attempting several field goals. Craddock hit all five of his, each at a further distance than the last. His final kick was slightly more than 50 yards. Greene, the backup, missed each of his three attempts.