Coach Randy Edsall revealed the extent of Maryland starting cornerback Jeremiah Johnson’s injury on Sunday afternoon, announcing during his weekly teleconference that the junior will miss seven to eight weeks with a fractured toe.
Johnson limped off the field during the season opener against Florida International on Aug. 31 and missed Saturday’s rout of Old Dominion. He stood on the sidelines with his teammates, elbows tucked into crutches and a walking boot hugging his foot. He watched as the Terrapins secondary battered Monarchs quarterback Taylor Heinicke and forced the reigning Walter Payton Trophy winner into tying a career high with three interceptions.
Johnson, who visited a specialist on Thursday, will not undergo surgery. His estimated return date coincides with Maryland’s second bye week on Nov. 2, meaning Johnson could return for the season’s final four games, beginning with Syracuse on Nov. 9. He developed into a shutdown cornerback last season and, alongside Dexter McDougle, brought a level of experience to the secondary unseen throughout the rest of the defense.
“JJ’s a vocal leader on the team,” cornerback Isaac Goins said Saturday. “I felt that this was something he was looking forward to. I feel that it’s definitely different without him. We worked hard together, we grind together this summer. It hasn’t been the same. But JJ’s been positive about the whole thing. He’s been a vocal leader off the field, in the film room, we definitely miss his presence though.”
With Johnson sidelined for two months, Goins steps into the starting role opposite McDougle. He snared his first career interception on Old Dominion’s opening possession, and finished third on the Terps with five tackles, all solo. A senior who transferred to Maryland from the junior college ranks two years ago, Goins was a late addition to the team’s leadership council as requested by his teammates, a testament to his standing in the locker room.
“We have a tremendous amount of confidence in Isaac,” Edsall said Sunday. “He’s been in the system, this is his second year, coming from junior college. He knows what his role was, and his role got expanded based on what happened. He played the first game probably about a half or so, when JJ went down. I think he did a good job. He’s an older guy, more mature guy. We expect him to continue to play well.
“I think anytime you play in the secondary, you have to have tremendous confidence because of the nature of the positions and the situations you’re put into. You have to believe in yourself, that hey I’m out there one on one, I can cover guys, do the things the coaches ask me to do within the scheme of what’s being called. He has confidence in himself, he has confidence in the system, and he’s proven that he can execute a game plan and do the things that we’re asking him to do.”
Johnson’s injury also means more snaps for freshman Will Likely, who earned Maryland’s game ball on defense. He led the Terps with 11 tackles (nine solo) and had returns of 27 (punt) and 43 (kickoff) yards.
Running back Brandon Ross (offense) and linebacker Alex Twine (special teams) also received game balls.
>> Edsall burned one more redshirt on Saturday. Freshman wide receiver DeAndre Lane started in Johnson’s stead on kickoff coverage, and should assume that role moving forward.
Likely, Jacquille Veii, Cavon Walker, Andrew Isaacs, Yannick Ngakoue and Moise Larose have all appeared in both games thus far, giving Maryland a solid nucleus of true freshmen who, while mostly serving in backup roles, can gain early-season experience without being asked to do too much. Ngakoue snagged Heinicke’s third interception off a Marcus Whitfield tip and Veii carried 10 times for 43 yards.
“Watching these young guys play, Jacquille and Will, we’re not afraid to get those guys out there if we fee like they can help us,” Edsall said.
>> Nathan Renfro had punts of 53, 34 and 36 yards. The 36-yarder was a perfect backspinning punt that A.J. Hendy downed at the Old Dominion 1-yard line and led to Darius Kilgo’s safety. Renfro’s longest was probably his worst punt — he struck it too hard from near midfield and it sailed deep into the end zone.
“One punt we were looking for a little more distance, then another looking for too much distance,” Edsall said. “Again, it’s a consistency factor with him. He’s working very, very hard.”