Dienhart: 5 things I learned at Maryland fall practice

Dienhart: 5 things I learned at Maryland fall practice

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Second-year Maryland coach DJ Durkin took the Terps through a quick-paced practice on Monday. This is a program many feel is one of the fastest-rising in the league, as Durkin has recruited at a high rate. But questions still loom over Maryland as Durkin enters his second year in College Park.

[ MORE: Dienhart’s fun takes | Gray & Prince Facebook Live ]

BTN was on hand to watch, and here are five things I learned.

1. The quarterback derby is interesting. It doesn’t sound like a starter will be named anytime soon. There is no shortage of contenders, as Maryland had six QBs going through drills today. The guys I like are redshirt junior North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson, sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome and true freshman Kasim Hill. Henderson and Hill are both effective as runners and passers. Pigrome is more of a runner. Pigrome has made as much improvement as any contender, according to Durkin. Hill is a mega recruit who has big upside and time on his side. He is bigger than I thought and threw the ball well. But would Maryland turn the reins over to a true freshman? This aerial game must improve after Maryland was 10th in the Big Ten in passing with 178.2 yards a game in 2016.

2. The offensive line looks better. The tackle duo of Derwin Gray (left) and Damian Prince (right) has great potential, while Brendan Moore is one of the Big Ten’s best centers. Terrance Davis also has a nice future at guard. He could be really good, an All-Big Ten type. This group should open more big run lanes for the dynamic run duo of RBs Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison. No doubt, this unit has made a lot of progress since we visited in 2015. Bigger and more depth.

3. The defensive front has potential. After practice, DC Andy Buh told me he felt it was the most improved area of the defense. The Terps return three defensive linemen who started at least six games last season, and there’s plenty of prospects behind them. But the rush defense was bad in 2016, as the Terps were 11th in the Big Ten (214.8 ypg). DE Jesse Aniebonam is the leader up front. He has a quick burst off the edge. Kingsley Opara is an anchor inside, while Chavon Walker is a vet inside by Opara. These two are strong. Chandler Burkett and Melvin Keihn are battling at the other end. All four starters could be seniors; Keihn is a junior. This could be an underrated unit.

4. The secondary has potential, but the corners are inexperienced. JC Jackson is a bellwether at one corner slot after beginning his career at Florida. Buh says he is very good. Tino Ellis looks good opposite Jackson. RaVon Davis, Denzel Conyers, Darnell Savage and Josh Woods are good options at safety, one of the deepest spots on the team. The best safety? It is Savage. Keep an eye on CB Deon Jones and S Markquese Bell. They were two of the top recruits that the Terps inked in for the Class of 2017. Each enrolled early for spring drills. There is lots of size, length and athletic ability in the back end.

5. The running backs are as good as I thought. Ty Johnson is a nice blend of power and speed. Lorenzo Harrison is a sawed-off dynamo who is hard to find and tackle. He is having a good start to camp. These guys should open space for the passing game to prosper. At least that’s the hope.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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