Carroll's Decision Is Paying Off for Maryland
Sunday, August 10, 2008; 5:30 PM
There was a time when Nolan Carroll would have been the one to wait just a second too long, when his nerves would have overcome him and the opportunity of the moment would have flown past him like a wide receiver on a go route. In fact, the transition from wideout to cornerback proved difficult for Carroll precisely because he no longer possessed the luxury of letting his instincts direct his actions.
After his redshirt freshman season in 2006, Carroll approached Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen and asked permission to switch to the defensive backfield, where the player believed he could be more valuable to the team. Though it may have taken longer than either Carroll or Friedgen anticipated, both are now beginning to realize the decision's payoff.
Carroll, now a junior cornerback, intercepted a Josh Portis pass during the second drive of Saturday night's scrimmage and returned it 30 yards. Portis, his coach said, vacillated on the throw. Had Portis made the toss a half-second earlier, Friedgen thought it would have been a completion. Instead, Carroll made the proper read and adjusted to cut off the wide receiver.
"I think he's really playing with a lot of confidence right now, where in the past, he was always hesitant on if he was going to make a mistake, and I don't see that right now," Friedgen said. "And it's every scrimmage, every team period, he's picking one off or doing something right."
Though he spent last season mostly on special teams and as a reserve defensive back, Carroll is expected to play a much larger role in the Terrapins secondary this fall. The unit lost three starters to graduation this spring and is in need of capable replacements. Carroll, who recorded 14 tackles in 2007, currently holds the top spot on the depth chart at the cornerback slot opposite senior Kevin Barnes.
Friedgen also noted that senior safeties Terrell Skinner and Jeff Allen have played well so far in camp and that he has been pleased with the development of the secondary as a whole.
Redshirt Freshman Drops the Ball
Last night's scrimmage served as an early training camp showcase, and some players, like Carroll, took advantage of the chance to impress the coaching staff in live action. Other players were not so opportunistic, namely redshirt freshman Ronnie Tyler.
Sent out to field punts on two occasions, Tyler dropped both and drew Friedgen's ire as a result. "I don't know how much longer I'll go there," Friedgen said of Tyler as a punt returner. "If there's one thing that drives me nuts, it's a guy that lets the ball drop and bounce 30 yards."
Senior Danny Oquendo has secured his standing as the team's top punt returner, according to Friedgen, though the coach noted junior Anthony Wiseman and redshirt freshman Quinton McCree might be given tryouts at the position. "I need someone who can go catch the football first, and we'll worry about the returns after," Friedgen said.
Friedgen said senior linebacker Trey Covington was kept out of Saturday night's scrimmage due to a minor hamstring injury. Senior defensive end Mack Frost also did not scrimmage due to swelling in his surgically-repaired knee. According to Friedgen, sophomore safety Antwine Perez left the scrimmage with a slight concussion, but other than that, the squad made it through the workout without significant injury.