Terps’ strong start helping turn ‘freshmen into sophomores’
Sophomore running back Johnson honored by Big Ten
In the Maryland football team’s 10 months under first-year coach DJ Durkin, a contrast with his successor has developed. The differences between Durkin and Randy Edsall are so pronounced that comparing the two is akin to comparing a photo and its negative.
Where there was once mostly darkness, there is now some light. A coaching staff unable to lock down the state’s top prospects has given way to one leading a full-on movement. And, maybe most drastically, a reluctance to play freshmen has been vaporized.
The newideology: If the kids can play, they’ll play.
Edsall told reporters two years ago, “All the freshmen should be redshirted,” the better to help their academic and athletic transition from high school. Durkin told reporters Monday in his weekly teleconference that it has been the Terps’ plan to play freshmen, if even for just a few snaps.
In Maryland’s 50-7 win Saturday over Purdue, just one freshman, punter Wade Lees, started. But 10 other true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen saw action, according to the participation report. Running back Lorenzo Harrison became the first Terps freshman to rush for a touchdown in each of his first four career games. Quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome played more than a quarter under center. Linebacker Isaiah Davis made a pair of tackles.
In all, of the 37 players who participated but didn’t start on offense or defense, more than a third (13) were freshmen.
“It’s critical,” Durkin said Monday. “It’s great we’ve been able to do that.”
Routing opponents has made it easier for his coaching staff to get fresh faces onto the field. Maryland kept a relatively short bench in its double-overtime win Sept. 17 against Central Florida, but its numbers have swelled in blowouts of Howard (52-13), Florida International (41-14) and the Boilermakers.
Fifteen of the Terps’ 25 true freshmen have played this season, a greater share than even the team’s redshirt freshmen (five of11). While Maryland did start a combined 16 juniors and seniors on offense and defense against DJ Durkin Purdue, more nonstarting true freshmen (10) participated than did nonstarting sophomores (seven), juniors (seven) and seniors (nine).
“That was our plan because we know we’re playing a lot of young guys,” Durkin said. “What we didn’t want was, Week 7 or 8, to have an injury and all of a sudden you’ve got a guy going in the game that has not had any significant amount of game time. We’re trying to continue to build our depth. We’re trying to turn freshmen into sophomores as fast as we can, and one way you do that is get them game reps.” RB Johnson named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week: Sophomore running back Ty Johnson was named the Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Week after leading the Terps’ rushing attack against Purdue.
The Cumberland native and former Fort Hill star finished with a career-high 204 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries Saturday. His average of 29.1yards per attempt is the highest among 200-yard rushers in the Football Bowl Subdivision in the past 20 seasons.
“Ty’s No. 1 ability, he’s got some really good speed and … he can take it the distance,” Durkin said. “Obviously, that showed. He played really well and so did several of the other backs. That’s been a strength of ours that we’re going to continue to play to.” Terps getting noticed: The college football world has begun to notice Maryland’s 4-0 start this season. But Durkin hasn’t noticed the attention.
Told Monday that Maryland had received the third-most votes of any team not in Sunday’s updated Amway Coaches Poll — essentially, a No. 28 ranking nationally — Durkin was nonplussed.
“I was not aware of that until just the second when you said that,” he said. “So my thoughts are … um, I mean, whatever. We’ll look at those numbers at the end of the year, where we’re at. That’s really when it matters.”
Maryland’s 70 votes in the coaches poll are 16 shy of No. 25 Western Michigan’s total, and also trail LSU (77) and Michigan State (71).