Ex-Gilman stars find new ways to excel
Goins back at RB; ex-QB Cockerille stands out at LB
COLLEGE PARK — Former high school football teammates Kenneth Goins Jr. and Shane Cockerille share more than a history dating to their years playing — and starring — at Gilman.
Going into the 2016 season at Maryland, Goins and Cockerille each faced uncertainty. While both had endured a change in the coaching staff after last season, they have also switched positions.
Goins, who established himself at fullback as a junior last season and finished the year with a 42-yard touchdown run against Rutgers, is part of a deep rotation at running back.
Recalling his conversation with new offensive coordinator Walt Bell about the system being brought in not using a fullback, Goins said he looked forward to moving back to a position he played in high school.
“I was excited. I always wanted to play running back” at Maryland, Goins said. “But I was willing to be wherever the team needed me. Once he told me that, it kind of got me a little more excited about playing.”
Bell said that after watching tape from last season, he told Goins when he first met him, “‘You’re too good a player not to have you on the field. We’re going to start you at tailback to make you understand pass protection and see how you spin.’ He’s one of our 14, 15 best players on offense and we would have found a role for him, no matter what.”
Cockerille, a high school quarterback who had been used sparingly on both offense and defense while finding himself toward the bottom of the depth chart at several positions, has started every game at Saturday, 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPNU Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: Indiana by 5
linebacker this season.
“When the new coaching staff got here, for me it was just a fresh start, an opportunity to start everything over,” Cockerille said Wednesday. “It was my chance to get over to the defensive side. Through the winter, I did whatever I was told. Went in, worked my butt off, ran, lifted. I was a guy who was willing to do anything to get on the field.”
Going into Saturday’s game at Indiana (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten), Goins and Cockerille share another bond: They are starting to find the kind of success for Maryland (5-2, 2-2) that they had back in high school.
Though he is averaging a little under three carries per game, Goins has made the most of his chances, gaining 6.8 yards a run including a key 15-yard gain to set up the clinching touchdown in Saturday’s 28-17 victory over Michigan State.
Not only has he scored three rushing touchdowns after getting just the one against Rutgers in his first three seasons, Goins also has added two 2-point conversions, including one against the Spartans.
“I feel like it’s an honor to play running back,” Goins said. “When I’m in there, I want to make the most of it.”
Bell said Goins, 5 feet 9, 233 pounds, has a style that contrasts with those of the team’s two emerging star running backs, freshman Lorenzo Harrison and sophomore Ty Johnson.
“He has really developed a nice little role for himself,” Bell said. “Ty and LoLo [Harrison], neither of those guys are super patient right now. … That’s where Kenny shines a little bit. A whole life of playing fullback, that’s what you do. You’ve got to see holes develop. You’ve got to find lanes. He’s done all that. … The combination of quick feet and really good vision from playing fullback, that’s allowed him to give us something that the other guys don’t.”
Cockerille has been one of the biggest surprises on the team, if not in the Big Ten. The 6-2, 235-pound junior leads the Terps with 64 tackles — 12 more than fellow linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr., who’s second — and ranks fourth in the Big Ten in tackles after making a career-high 15 against Michigan State.
“To be honest, I don’t even really look at the number [of tackles]. I had no idea I had that many tackles,” Cockerille said. “Most of it comes from my effort running to the ball, just going wherever the ball is on the field, just giving my best effort for the guys around me.”
Defensive coordinator Andy Buh said Wednesday that Cockerille has improved his technique throughout the season, particularly with what coaches call “eye control growth” in recognizing formations and what to expect.
“He makes plays because of his effort. I know I’ve said that a lot,” Buh said. “But in terms of his growth, every game he gets increasingly better. His stats stayed pretty consistent. He’s making the plays he needs to make to be successful.”
Goins is not surprised that his former high school teammate has made the conversion to linebacker so seamlessly.
“When he played quarterback … he was Linebacker Shane Cockerille, a quarterback at Gilman, leads Maryland with 64 tackles, 12 more than runner-up Jermaine Carter Jr. one of those guys that liked to throw his body around,” Goins said. “I always knew he could hit people and tackle people. He just never got the chance to do [it] when I was there.”
First-year Terps coach DJ Durkin said Goins and Cockerille are emblematic for a team that is trying to build depth to compete with the Big Ten power programs — three of which Maryland will play in successive weeks: Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska.
“We try to find as many roles for guys; to me, the better it is for your team, for everything,” Durkin said Tuesday. “We’re able to travel 70 guys on the road in the Big Ten. To me, you want as many of those guys as humanly possible to be doing something in the game, or else don’t travel them all.
“It’s a mentality. If you know you have a role in the game, you have a little more investment in what’s going on. ... You give a guy a role, you give a guy a sense of hope as opposed to, ‘I’m going to back up this and that and [I’m] not playing,’ you have something going on in the game.”
The game against Indiana brings back interesting memories for Cockerille.
As a freshman who found his way onto the field only on special teams, he made his Big Ten debut in a game against the Hoosiers in Bloomington two years ago.
“I ran into the punter and got called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty,” Cockerille recalled Wednesday. Then there was last year’s home game. With starting quarterback Perry Hills sidelined right before game time because of mononucleosis and backup Caleb Rowe unable to play the second half because of a concussion, Cockerille played quarterback, completing 11 of 22 passes for 82 yards.
The Terps, who had built an early 21-3 lead and then fallen behind 30-21 by the time Rowe was injured late in the first half, wound up losing, 47-28. It was the last time Cockerille played the position he was recruited to play.
“All week I didn’t play too much quarterback [in practice]. I was just kind of thrown in there,” Cockerille said Wednesday. “Just going out there and having fun was the biggest part for me, trying to make plays. Just doing the best I could do for the guys around me. I knew they were counting on me.”
In a different way, in a different position, in a different season, things won’t be any different Saturday.