But what of their classmates, the other 12 true freshmen listed on Maryland’s two-deep depth chart, the teenagers who have never tasted college action? Which of them will be vaulted into the fire during Saturday’s season opener against William & Mary?
“It might be a little shorter list to say which ones won’t play,” Coach Randy Edsall deadpanned on Tuesday.
Indeed, injuries have the Terps’ ranks running young these days. Hills will become the first Maryland true freshman to start the opener at quarterback since 1999. As for his backup, Edsall is undecided between Caleb Rowe and Devin Burns. Rowe is a true freshman. Burns, a sophomore, is a converted wide receiver.
Diggs has been electric throughout camp to the point that, when Edsall was asked Tuesday about Maryland’s punt and kickoff return, he responded, “I feel really good about Stefon and Stefon.”
But as the freshmen go, plenty more than Hills and Diggs will appear between the lines at Byrd Stadium. Edsall took quite some time reeling off the true freshmen he expected to see the field against the Tribe. Freshman Brad Craddock will handle the kicking duties with incumbent senior Nick Ferrera day-to-day with a hip injury. Sean Davis takes over at safety after Matt Robinson and A.J. Hendy both went down. With a six-man defensive line rotation likely given that Andre Monroe and Isaiah Ross have been ruled out and Keith Bowers is doubtful, Quinton Jefferson will be counted on to spell Joe Vellano.
“It is what it is,” Edsall said. “That’s who we have and those guys are all eager and excited and hungry. They’ve done a good job. They’ve worked hard during preseason. It gets back to the same thing I’ve been saying. The best guys are going to play, and if the freshmen are the best guys, we’re going to play them.”
The biggest adjustment these true freshmen need to make, Edsall said, is learning how to move past mistakes and avoid tentative play.
“Joe Vellano will make a mistake, but Joe Vellano goes 100 miles per hour,” Edsall said. “That’s probably the toughest thing as a freshmen, getting them to go full speed, not because they don’t want to, but sometimes they’re thinking rather than just playing.
“You tell them, hey it’s okay, you’re going to make mistakes, but make the mistakes going full speed and giving it everything you’ve got.”