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More depth means more versatility for Terps’ offense, coordinator Mike Locksley says

Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Maryland quarterback Perry Hills made an unusual request before one scrimmage early in training camp last month, informing the coaching staff before the session that he wanted to be live for contact. He was one of the few quarterbacks to make the request, and it left a profound impression on a staff that was still trying to sort out a three-way competition under center.

Hills eventually won the job, but not just for his unconventional approach that day. He also proved throughout camp that he could handle the rapid pace of Maryland’s no-huddle offense. As Terrapins offensive coordinator Mike Locksley put it on Wednesday, Hills excelled in running the team’s “pre-snap operations,” which is a critical part of a system that Locksley believes will be more versatile by the time it takes the field for Saturday’s season opener against Richmond.

Behind Hills, Locksley won’t have to deviate entirely from the system he installed over three seasons ago, but he spoke Wednesday about using more personnel groupings in his offense this season.

Maryland, which will face the Spiders’ 4-3 defensive scheme on Saturday, largely operated out of a four-wide-receiver spread offense last year, which in part was a product of attrition at the tight end position. Maryland lost a key tight end when Andrew Isaacs went down with a season-ending knee injury in late September, and his replacement, freshman Derrick Hayward, was still developing and wasn’t a major part of the passing game (the position produced just six total catches in 2014).

Locksley said the experience of last season will help ease Hayward and junior P.J. Gallo into playing a more diverse role in the offense, and the group’s depth will receive a shot in the arm once Isaacs is cleared for contact.

Maryland also has experience and new athleticism in fullbacks in senior Kennth Goins Jr. and former quarterback Shane Cockerille, two players who Locksley said he wants to feature in the offense this season.

“The versatility I think will come with the ability to use different personnel groupings, and that’s something that I’ve been used to with this offense, is having the ability to play with a tight end and three [wide receivers], or play with on tight end and two backs in the backfield. … We’ve given ourselves a lot more personnel units to play with, which affords us the ability to be a lot more versatile,” Locksley said.

While Hills likely won’t rely on his legs as much as C.J. Brown did a year ago, Locksley also reminded everyone of the junior quarterback’s athleticism and elusiveness on Wednesday. While Brown excelled with his legs and was able to allow Locksley to use play-action often a year ago, Locksley said the system has been tweaked rather than overhauled. Hills has already separated himself in commanding offensive calls during camp, Locksley said, which is equally as important as the execution.

“Obviously, we’ll build our game-plan around what the skill-set is of the quarterback,” he said. “That quarterback right now is Perry, and he has the ability to do some things as a runner and a passer.”