The sparse crowd of 8,200 was allowed onto the Byrd Stadium turf following Friday night’s University of Maryland spring football game. Players were signing autographs at designated tables, and the line at Stefon Diggs’s table snaked from the far bleachers into the end zone.
Diggs will very likely make a fortune someday, when college football inevitably proves too monotonous for the freshman all-American and the NFL comes calling. But for at least two more seasons the Terrapins can bask in the dazzling runs and enchanted moves Diggs again flashed beneath the stadium lights, picking up right where he left off last fall in a 13-13 tie between the Red (first-team defense and second-team offense) and White Team (first-team offense and second-team defense).
“He’s better this spring,” Coach Randy Edsall said. “He’s more focused, not to say that he wasn’t before. He doesn’t want to stay the same, he doesn’t want to regress. He really understands the effort that has to go into being a good player.”
Diggs, one of 10 players selected to Maryland’s “leadership council,” caught eight passes for 159 yards and one touchdown for the White Team, recalling the smooth bobs and weaves that transformed him into Maryland’s lone consistent offensive force during a 2012 season marked by medical upheaval. Running backs Brandon Ross (White Team) and Albert Reid (Red Team) combined for 257 yards, debuting breakaway speed between the tackles and finally bringing some fireworks to a game that entered halftime with the White Team ahead 3-0.
Both offenses hit their stride following intermission. After kicker Brad Craddock hit a 24-yarder in the first half, Reid accounted for the evening’s first touchdown on a 23-yard halfback pass to Daniel Adams. Quarterback Ricardo Young completed three straight passes sandwiching a holding penalty, then Diggs turned an innocent screen into a 51-yard touchdown down the right sideline, juking past his initial defender and outsprinting the defense. The following drive, backup quarterback Dustin Dailey hit Amba Etta on a 23-yard fade that made it 13-13.
“Yeah, no doubt, he’s a playmaker,” Ross said of Diggs. “All I really want to do is just compliment him and make plays myself. If you can get the run and the pass going together, you can be a dangerous offense. It’s no doubt we’ve got playmakers. As a running back, I just want to run the ball, keep the clock moving, give them a chance to make plays.”
Edsall limited his defense to simple schemes and allowed each offense to break out some trick plays — linebacker-turned-quarterback-turned-linebacker Shawn Petty took several snaps under center again — but Friday still offered glimpses of widespread improvements made this spring.
Ross and Reid enter summer in heated competition at running back, and will soon be joined by Wes Brown, currently healing from ankle and shoulder surgery. Young, despite throwing an interception to cornerback Jeremiah Johnson, completed 12 of 21 passes for 185 yards, and will enter preseason camp as the backup behind C.J. Brown (anterior cruciate ligament injury). Craddock drilled a 40-yarder down the middle after battling inconsistency issues much of his freshman year, while punter Nathan Renfro averaged 41.8 yards on four punts, including a game-best 50-yarder.
Linebacker Marcus Whitfield notched three “sacks” — defenders were limited to downing quarterbacks with a two-hand touch — Petty finished with a game-high 13 tackles and Avery Thompson tipped a low-sailing 22-yard field goal from Brendan Magistro at the final buzzer that clinched the tie.