March 28, 2014

Terps Scrimmage Notes: March 28

WALDORF, Md. -- The 50-plus degree weather on Friday night in southern Maryland felt downright balmy compared to the frigid practice conditions of Thursday morning. Here are some news and notes from Friday night's scrimmage, which comes exactly two weeks before Maryland's Spring Game on April 11 at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium.

THE DETAILS:

Friday night's scrimmage, technically considered practice 9 of 15 for the Terps, was held at North Point High School in Waldorf, Maryland. With the practice open to the public, the several hundred in attendance got to see nearly all of Maryland's roster in action, with the first, second and third string units on both sides of the ball going at it for approximately 21 series that featured live hitting and officials. C.J. Brown was the only player with a yellow jersey on, including the backup quarterbacks, and there were bone-jarring hits from start to finish. In the end, the defense definitely outperformed the offense, holding them to handful of touchdowns while forcing some turnovers and repeatedly getting to the quarterback.

THE GOOD:

- Will Likely was everywhere on Friday night. On one of the first series, he crushed Albert Reid who was looking to turn a screen pass upfield. Likely smacked him and took him the ground with a perfect form tackle. A few series later, Likely broke in front of a receiver to break up a Brown throw. He almost caught it and if he had, there wasn't anyone between him and the endzone. Likely jumped up and down in frustration afterwards, looking at his hands while shouting at the opposing sideline.

He would soon get his change to brag, as he picked off a Brown throw intended for Nigel King down the sideline. Likely leaped to snag the overthrow before popping up and playfully getting in the face of Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, who were in full pads on the sideline.

"With Will, it doesn't surprise me," head coach Randy Edsall said. "That is what he does all the time. He practices that way. He prepares well. He does the things that you expect somebody to do. So it doesn't surprise you that he comes out and plays the way he plays. That is what we have to get everyone doing."

- Yannick Ngakoue stood out just as much as Likely, relentlessly coming around the right edge of the offensive line after Brown. He got to the senior signal caller three times, though with Brown in yellow he didn't get to enjoy bringing him to the ground. With hundreds of eyes on him, fans and coaches alike, Ngakoue said he felt the urgency to elevate his game on Friday night.

"I was just motivated," Ngakoue said. "Not to show anybody what I can do, I just wanted to show myself what I can do. I was just going hard every play and just sucking it up when I was tired, not showing them that I was tired."

With Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil out for the spring with an upper body injury, Ngakoue is currently atop the depth chart at outside linebacker. Edsall conceded he's had an uneven spring, but he flashed the type of playmaking ability at a critical position that, especially as a sophomore, was a promising development.

"I'd probably say that this was his best practice of the nine so far," Edsall said.
"That was good to see. He's been very business like. He's been very attentive to doing the things he's been coached to do. So it was good to see him come out and play the way he did tonight."

- Sean Davis had the big play early on, snatching a Brown downfield laser out of the air and returning it upwards of 40 yards back into opposing territory. Davis followed up that impressive pick with a pass breakup a few series later, and would later pop Jacquille Veii after the back caught a pass out of the backfield.

"I thought Sean Davis played well," Edsall said. "He had that nice pick there early on in the scrimmage. Again, it's coming together. And there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that aren't in there on defense."

-Speaking of Veii, the rising sophomore had an exciting showing for the second straight day. He got as many reps with the first team as any of the backs. While he understands that his versatility and youth lends him to a third down role, he said afterwards that he is eyeing much more.

"From the jump, I'm trying to compete for a starting spot," Veii said. "We've got a crowded backfield, so I've got to do some things to try to separate from them."

The Terps continue to utilize Veii in the screen game. However, he made the big play on the ground late in the scrimmage, darting through the line and juking Likely and Anthony Nixon before bouncing it outside for a 60-yard touchdown. It was undoubtedly the play of the day for an offensive unit that struggled.

"I broke the linebacker defense and got into the secondary," he said. "I tried to make a move, stemmed him one way, he fell for it, and I went the other way. After that, it was just a race from there."

-Nigel King was the lone receiver to have a good night, though it was encouraging to see Diggs and Long both in pads together again. While neither took the field, the duo was inseparable on the sidelines, cheering on the big plays and jawing with their defensive rivals from the safe comforts of the sideline. After tweaking his ankle on Monday, King said he felt good on Friday after struggling through Thursday's practice.

"With the depth at receiver we have, I don't have time to sit out," he said. "I have to fight and keep my position. That was another reason I practiced [Thursday]. That is all coach preaches, all the depth we have. So I know I have to keep my spot."

- Prized recruit and freshman to be Damian Prince roamed the sidelines at North Point High School on Friday night, taking in the festivities and getting a look at the competition he'll face this summer. Like Diggs and Long, offensive lineman Derwin Gray was in uniform but didn't take the field. Gray is still recovering from a shoulder injury.

THE BAD:

-The drops were a problem for the second straight day. But on Friday, there wasn't 20-degree weather to blame. Fullback Kenneth Goings successfully snuck downfield but dropped a perfect toss from Brown that could have resulted in a touchdown. Dustin Dailey dropped a fastball from Shane Cockerille. Amba Etta-Tawo and Taivon Jacobs both had drops, and Etta-Tawo also couldn't haul in a catchable but contested ball in the end zone towards the end of the night.

"No excuse for that, at all," said King. "It's probably lack of focus. We definitely have to do better and not have any drops."

His coach agreed.

"I thought we were very sloppy offensively," Edsall said. "It's hard to get any consistency when you have all the drops. We had way too many drops. Guys were open; we just weren't as sharp from that standpoint."

"There has to be more consistency. The timing has to get better. Guys have to run guys off and come back to the ball. When they make their cuts they have to accelerate out of that. Some of it is on the receivers, and some of it is on the quarterbacks. I think when we go back and look at the tape, we'll see that the receivers weren't doing some of the things they need to be doing and we'll see that the quarterbacks didn't put the ball where it needed to be some of the time."

-As Edsall indicated, the offense as a whole looked out of sync. The quarterbacks weren't effective, but they were under pressure throughout the scrimmage. Edsall credited the effort of his defense, but insisted things must improve. Albert Reid shared the first team reps with Veii and was unspectacular. Brandon Ross was dressed but didn't get on the field much.

THE INJURIES:

Out for the spring: WR Stefon Diggs (leg), DB Milan Collins (ankle), OLB Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (upper body), DB Elvis Dennah (toe), DL Kinsley Opara (shoulder), DB Jarrett Ross (shoulder), LB Ty Tucker (knee), LB Alex Twine (shoulder)

Nursing injuries: OLB Matt Robinson (arm, didn't practice), WR Nigel King (ankle, did practice), WR Deon Long (leg, dressed but didn't play), CB Jeremiah Johnson (toe), OL Derwin Gray (shoulder, dressed but didn't play)

Hurt during practice: Linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. injured his knee. His prognosis is to be determined. Linebacker Jalen Brooks and wideout Dustin Dailey both suffered concussions and will likely be out for at least a week, according to Edsall. Cornerback Undray Clark delivered a huge hit on Dailey that drew a penalty flag and kicked off a shoving match between the offense and defense. Dailey was able to get up on his own, but was visibly shaken up.

THE OTHER:

-It's no surprise that Edsall was all smiles when asked about the experience of bringing spring practice to local high schools. He lauded the talent and football culture in southern Maryland, but expressed an interest in exploring all areas of the state.

"It's great being here," he said. "We just wanted to try to get to different parts of the state. It's just something from a recruiting standpoint, from a fan development standpoint, that we wanted to get down here to southern Maryland. There's good football down here and some Maryland supporters, so we wanted to come down here and spent time down here."

North Point is the home of Brandon Battle, a three-star quarterback from the class of 2015 that Maryland has expressed interest in.

"There's a lot of talent down here. That is what we want to do: to take the guys that have the ability to play and bring them to Maryland. We've done that this past year and we want to continue to do that. The more we can keep the guys home, the better off we are."

UP NEXT?

The Terps get back to practice on Monday morning, but Wednesday morning is their next practice session that is open to media.

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