In preparation for the season-opener against William & Mary on Sept. 1, the Terps will end preseason practices today and begin a normal pre-game routine on Monday.
But as camp nears an end, storylines remain abundance. There are plenty of questions surrounding the state of team before they gear up eight days from today.
1. How will true freshman Perry Hills perform in his first game action?
When C.J. Brown went down, it felt like all of the hope that was associated with a new year vanished as well.
Soon after it was official that a torn ACL would end Brown’s season, Hills was named the team’s starting quarterback. His last game action was at Central Catholic High School in Pennsylvania.
But Hills impressed in the team’s ensuing scrimmage. On the Terps’ first offensive possession, he piloted the unit on an 18-play, 76-yard march down the field that culminated in a 16-yard scramble for a touchdown. Hills’ skills as a passer and his elusiveness were on display at full tilt.
Evident was Hills’ demeanor – the pressure of filling Brown’s shoes did not seem to bother him. In fact, he embraced the challenge. And his teammates rallied behind him.
There is a different, though, when it comes to facing his defense and lining up against William & Mary, Temple, Connecticut and West Virginia in the coming month.
2. How will these injuries impact the team?
Preseason didn’t just end Brown’s season. Starting defensive end Andre Monroe suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this week.
In addition, Kenny Tate, who is still rehabbing from a right knee injury from last season, injured his left leg. Starting strong safety Matt Robinson is sidelined for the opener. And defensive ends Keith Bowers will be sidelined with an undisclosed injury for a few weeks.
The day-to-day mash unit – including Josh Cary, Nick Ferrara, Isaiah Ross – are less serious, but it comes at the expense of practice time and the development of team chemistry.
The defensive line shakeup has led to senior A.J. Francis being moved to right defensive end. Justin Anderson will shift to nose tackle. And Joe Vellano will hold up the fort at left defensive end. Quinton Jefferson will also rotate in at the end position.
In filling in for Robinson, second-year defensive back A.J. Hendy suffered an ankle injury that will keep him on the sidelines for up to a month.
The plethora of injuries is a recurring problem for coach Randy Edsall is year No. 2. Last season, eight starters missed game action due to injuries.
Right now, it seems as if a lot of these injuries are temporary and should subside before the Terps reach the more difficult tests in their schedule. Key word being “should.”
3. Will Stefon Diggs live up to the hype?
In the first real glimpse of Stefon Diggs in action, he surely did not disappoint.
The first-year playmaker found the end zone on three occasions, including an 11-yard touchdown reception from Hills, a 68-yard punt return and a 98-yard kickoff return.
Diggs demonstrated the electricity on special teams that the team used to enjoy with Tony Logan back deep. Of course, Logan’s production declined as teams became more wary of his abilities. Teams will already be conscious of Diggs – they know what he can do when he touches the ball, especially in space – so it will be interesting to see how he fares.
As a receiver opposite of Kevin Dorsey, Diggs draws the necessary attention that gives the senior wideout a chance to make plays. Early last year, Dorsey was the team’s best receiving option before getting injured. The trio of Dorsey, Diggs and Kerry Boykins should help Hills transition to the college level.
4. On or off the hot seat?
Many assumed that after a disastrous 2-10 season and what was perceived as a tumultuous locker room, Edsall was on the hot seat.
But Edsall followed suit in exactly what we needed to be done. He landed some top local recruits. He replenished his coaching staff and found better recruiters. And thus far, he’s been a regular Joe with the local media.
Was that enough, however, to buy him another year as the team’s head coach?
Maybe or maybe not. But if Hills struggles at quarterback, perhaps Edsall won’t be scrutinized for the team’s lack of success. After all, he was relying on Brown to be his guy.
Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.
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