Watching film of Old Dominion’s offense means surveying a pinball machine in pads. The Monarchs operate with engine-like efficiency, all parts chugging in sync behind quarterback Taylor Heinicke. They average one play every 21 seconds, which is barely enough time for the defense to breathe, let alone send in reinforcements.
The speed at which the Monarchs operate concerns Maryland Coach Randy Edsall. He worried openly this week about substitution penalties — East Carolina had two of them in its season-opening win over Old Dominion last weekend — and exhaustion, which the spread offense is known to breed.
Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart is less worried.
“They make it consistent,” he said. “So that being the case, the offense, they stay in the same personnel. So as far as changing to match their personnel groups, we won’t be doing a lot of that. The team on the field, the defense on the field can stay on the field on first, second, third down and special situations.”
Limiting Heinicke, who set a Division I passing record with a 730-yard game against New Hampshire last season, means disrupting his timing and forcing the junior into quick decisions. It means penetrating the backfield on edge blitzes faster than Heinicke can read the situation. The most troubling aspect of Old Dominion’s offense, Stewart said, stems not from Heinicke’s arm but on the ground. The Monarchs frequently check down to running plays at the line of scrimmage – they did so 17 times against the Pirates – and trust Heinicke to be their maestro.
“The major concern is he can create things when you cover the receiver,” Stewart said. “That may be the worst thing you do, because he has a chance to outrun the rush. He seems to be extremely fast. He gets on the edges, he ducks in, gets out, he can throw both left and right. Just him improvising, that’s my biggest concern.”
>> With cornerback Jeremiah Johnson’s health still uncertain – even teammate Dexter McDougle said the Terps don’t know his status for Saturday – freshman Will Likely may see more time, especially against the spread offense. Isaac Goins (more on him soon) would assume the second cornerback role, moving Likely into the No. 3 spot. Likely appeared with the first team against Florida International and, save a muffed punt for which Edsall assumed the blame, looked perfectly assimilated into the college game.
“That’s one good thing about him, what you see at practice is predominantly what you get on the football field,” Stewart said of Likely. “That’s when we knew we had something special. I think he’s doing a great job, he learns quickly, he applies a lot of the things you tell him throughout the game immediately. I’m excited and I think we’re all excited to watch him play and grow. He’s young, so we’re going to see him for quite a while.”
Without Johnson, the dime cornerback situation becomes murkier. Alvin Hill was expected to return to practice this week, and would be the obvious choice as a fourth option. Freshman Jarrett Ross, who did not play against the Panthers but traveled to the team hotel, could also make his first appearance.
>> Quinton Jefferson rather quietly recorded seven tackles on Saturday, 1.5 tackles for a loss and a half-sack. The coaching staff had high expectations for the sophomore, both on and off the field.
“I think he just really matured as far as a person,” Stewart said. “Then once you mature as a person, you know how to study, you know how to settle down and ask the right question. Plus having the same position coach and being in the same defense, it’s just real comfortable for those guys, especially for him. That’s allowed him to mature as a football player in this defense.
“I thought he did well. Everybody would like to have a whole bunch of stats. The main stat we all want is the win. He played well enough for us to win.”
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