Faced with a month-long window of preparation for the Military Bowl against Marshall, the Maryland football team all but returned to training camp. There were no grueling two-a-day practices, no holing up in the cramped dormitories, but workouts contained the unmistakable familiarity of summer. Even the once-biting winter temperatures elevated accordingly.
“It was kind of like going back to summer camp, with everybody getting a chance to get an opportunity to show their talents, going back to the basics and learnings of the games,” nose tackle Darius Kilgo said. “I felt like that helped a lot of guys out. Not just the younger guys, but the older guys, because we can get away from that during the season.”
Rushing into practices wouldn’t have made sense for the Terrapins – or any other postseason team, for that matter. The players had final examinations to take and risked burning themselves out with too much too soon.
So Maryland took five practices and treated them “like spring practice,” Coach Randy Edsall said. The first-team offense competed against the first-team defense. Then the second and third teams followed suit. Then the starters returned to the field and practiced against the freshmen, players who spent the entire fall on scout team mimicking the plays of upcoming opponents.
“Basically it’s almost like you prepare leading up to an opening game of the season,” Edsall said. “To be able to do that, that was something that we went through. Really nothing different than how you prepare almost for the first game of the season.”
In this manner, December has become not just about facing the Thundering Herd and their high-powered offense (seventh nationally in points per game), but about cramming as much knowledge as possible into inexperienced minds, to get a head start on the spring. The starters are set, barring injury, and that’s not changing. No redshirts will be burned in the 13th game. But before the season ends, the Terps can at least lay the foundation for next year too.
“You’re not looking for anybody to stand out,” Edsall said. “You’re looking to work with those guys to get them to get better fundamentally, get better at technique, get them an opportunity to run our offense, our defense as opposed to running off the cards all season. It was very productive. It helped us, so now when we get started with spring practice on March 1, they’ll have a little bit more insight to our schemes and have a little bit more recall because they’ll have these extra practices.”
The break also provided a necessary respite for the battered and bruised. Wide receiver Malcolm Culmer missed the regular-season finale against North Carolina State with an ankle injury. Linebacker Cole Farrand has seemingly been listed as “questionable” all season with various ailments, among them his shoulder, head and hand. Cornerback Jeremiah Johnson appears on track to return from a fractured toe as a backup, even after a small, unrelated setback suffered during practice this week.
“It definitely gives us some room to get some people, their bodies back together, just go back to the basics of the game,” Kilgo said. “Being able to have those two weeks, it was a good thing for us. I think we’ll come out this week prepared and ready to get a win on Friday.”