Stefon Diggs was one of a number of freshmen to play for Maryland last season. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

In the Maryland football team’s first play from scrimmage in 2012, a true freshman quarterback named Perry Hills took the snap. Behind Hills was Albert Reid, the Terrapins’ starting running back and another true freshman. On the sideline, future starters Stefon Diggs and Mike Madaras awaited their turn.

Four true freshmen started against William & Mary last season: Hills, Reid, place kicker Brad Craddock and safety Sean Davis. Eight others appeared during Maryland’s 7-6 win: Diggs, Madaras, running back Wes Brown, wide receiver Levern Jacobs, safety Anthony Nixon, defensive back Alvin Hill, linebacker Avery Thompson and defensive end Quinton Jefferson. All told, 44 Terps saw the field that Saturday. Twenty-seven percent had pinned corsages and danced at high school prom just months earlier.

Over the past two days, Coach Randy Edsall has twice referenced his team’s depth chart, specifically the two senior starters on offense (De’Onte Arnett and Dave Stinebaugh) and two senior starters on defense (Marcus Whitfield and Dexter McDougle). It shows Maryland’s youth, Edsall said. Except the Terps are older than last season. And much more experienced.

“With that youthfulness we have, the one thing we have is a lot of guys who have played and have gained experience playing at a young age,” Edsall said. “It’s not like we’re going in totally inexperienced. At most positions, I feel pretty good at the depth; we’re still developing depth as we go.”

Unlike last season, just two true freshmen are listed on the two-deep depth chart entering Saturday’s opener against Florida International. Defensive back Will Likely, a spring enrollee, is most likely to appear as a nickel or dime cornerback. Unless the offensive line seriously breaks down, Moise Larose will be the backup right tackle in name only.

Edsall named several other true freshmen – wide receiver/kick returner DeAndre Lane, linebackers Yannick Ngakoue, Cavon Walker and Jermaine Carter, running back Jacquille Veii and defensive back Jarrett Ross – as players who might see time, but it’s unlikely more than two or three true freshmen will play. If they do, it should be on special teams.

“They’re doing a good job of learning exactly what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said of those freshmen linebackers. “The more they learn, the faster they learn, the closer they’ll get to more playing time. You’d hope you don’t need a whole bunch of them, but I believe they will play.”

Of course, this means all the freshmen who started against the Tribe are one year older, more experienced and stable presences in the starting lineup. The Terps never wanted to start all those freshmen last year. Hills and Reid, for instance, were in the lineup because of injuries to C.J. Brown and Brandon Ross, respectively. But Maryland did, and relied on youth the entire season.

The Terrapins may be starting just four seniors total on offense and defense, but only two redshirt freshmen will start on offense – and none on defense.

“First off it’s just great that we have a lot of returning starters, more experience I guess you could say,” Ross said. “That definitely says that we’ve evolved as a team.”


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