With quarterback Perry Hills readying himself for Saturday’s season opener and the dizzying blitz packages sure to come from William & Mary, protecting the true freshman in his first college game will be paramount.
The good news? The offensive line is coming together. With Justin Gilbert finally healthy, Bennett Fulper settling into his new left guard position and new starters Nick Klemm, De’Onte Arnett and center Sal Conaboy, things are taking shape for the Terps.
“I feel they are getting better,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said Wednesday. “Cohesion and working together up front is critical. With some of the injuries we have had, finally settling on a line the more they play together you will see them improve.
“That’s the one place where everyone has to rely on the guy next to them. Finally settling into a rotation is a big reason why those guys have taken the next step.”
Locksley also spoke about two reserves on the line: Mike Madaras and Nick Brigham. Both true freshmen, Madaras is listed as Klemm’s backup at left tackle, while Brigham is slotted at left guard behind Fulper on Maryland’s two-deep depth chart.
“They both have a high skill set,” Locksley said. “Madaras is a tall rangy kid who also came in physically ready to play. The closer to the ball you are the harder it is to play early. He came in ready to play with his body and strength coming out of a good program like Good Counsel.
“With Nick, he came in with high strength numbers. The thing that has impressed me the both with those guys is their learning capacity. We haven’t curtailed our installation one bit for the young guys. They have seemed to pick it up pretty well.”
Other notes from Locksley
■ Try to keep up with this one: Since Hills took over for injured starter C.J. Brown, he’s displayed a level of confidence not often seen in true freshman. So his confidence has received, in turn, a vote of confidence from Locksley.
“His personality is that he is confident and doesn’t get rattled very much,” Locksley said. “He hasn’t played yet as a true freshman though so we will have to be prepared to go out. We need to have the other 10 guys prepared to do their part and that will make his life easier.”
■ Thanks to a phenomenal camp, Stefon Diggs enters Saturday’s opener as the starting kick and punt returner. But Locksley wants to see what Diggs can do in a game before anointing the true freshman just yet.
“There is no doubt that he is a talented player and he has done some things in camp that have made us all go ‘wow,’ ” Locksley said. “I like his approach to the game. Whenever he is on the field he has a smile on his face and pep in his step. He loves the preparation that goes along with playing. I am interested to see how he plays in a game situation. For me the jury is still out until we see him do it on Saturday.”
■ Of the Terps who have stepped up to fill the void left by the bevy of offseason injuries, none has impressed Locksley more than Devin Burns. The sophomore converted from wide receiver to quarterback once Brown went down.
“It shows that he is a student of the game that he can transfer the receiver stuff over to quarterback with reads, progressions and coverages,” Locksley said. “The thing I think he does the most natural is with his run footwork. You can tell he was raised as a quarterback because he has the fundamental skill set. It’s not like taking a guy that hasn’t played it or is new to it. It’s like riding a bike he has picked it up pretty naturally and I have been impressed.”