The Maryland football team held its first spring practice March 5, which was open to the media. Here are some thoughts and observations from workout:
- Defensive end Byron Cowart, who was the No. 3 prospect in the 2015 recruiting class according to 247 Sports' composite rankings, ran with the first team defense. Cowart played in parts of three seasons for Auburn, but he left the program in September 2017. He didn't see the field much with the Tigers, finishing his with 15 tackles and no sacks in 14 career games.
Cowart finished the 2017 season with Hillsborough Community College in Florida, then signed with Maryland as part of the Terps' 2018 recruiting class in December. Cowart will be eligible to play in the fall. He worked with Mbi Tanyi, Oluwaseun Oluwatimi and Jesse Aniebonam on the defensive line with the ones March 5.
"High expectations for Byron, and he has high expectations for himself," said Durkin, who recruited Cowart when he coached at Florida. "I've known Byron for a long time, since he was a sophomore or junior in high school. Byron's an adult. He's a grown man, maturity-wise as well as build when you see him. He handles his business well. I think the experience he went through will only help him. He's got a great perspective on things, and I think a really good understanding of where he's at. He's very hungry; he's working really hard. I think he's going to be a tremendous player for us and have a great year."
Added Tanyi: "We're like co-leaders and stuff like that. We try to motivate each other, especially in our position. [Cowart] plays end, and I play tackle, and it's basically mirrored. We like to just be communicators and leaders for the D-line moving into the new year."
- Running back Ty Johnson, entering his senior season, was one of a host of running backs to play with the first unit, including Jake Funk, Lorenzo Harrison and Tayon Fleet-Davis. Johnson ran for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns from 2015-2017, averaging 7.5 yards per carry during that time. Johnson, who possesses big-play ability thanks to his electric speed, considered leaving for the NFL Draft after the 2017 season.
"I just wanted to talk to my family, speak to God about it," Johnson said. "My degree's very important to me. And I just thought one more season of developing and getting school out of the way wouldn't be such a bad idea, so here I am. I'm just working hard, getting my grades right and hopefully have a great season. … It was a lot of things pulling me to leave and everything, but I'm glad I decided to come here."
- Quarterbacks Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, both of whom tore ACLs last September, were working off to the side during practice as they continue to rehab their knees. Rising junior quarterback Max Bortenschlager worked with the first team, while rising freshman Tyler DeSue worked with the second team. Snaps were sprinkled in for walk-on Legend Brumbaugh, a left-handed thrower, as well.
Bortenschlager threw for 1,313 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 51.9 percent of his passes last year. DeSue, a three-star dual threat quarterback out of Virginia Beach, Va., enrolled early. He was the only quarterback in Maryland's 2018 recruiting class.
"We're certainly going to install our offense for what we believe we're going to be. We've got to be able to do that," Durkin said when asked if the team will gear its springtime offense toward Bortenschlager and DeSue. "Spring is about development. We're not trying to go win a game today; we're trying to get ready to go win them in September, October, November. It'll be a combination of that."
- In addition to Pigrome and Hill, Durkin indicated that two offensive linemen -- left tackle Derwin Gray and right guard Terrance Davis -- and three defensive linemen -- Brett Kulka, Keiron Howard and Cam Spence -- are all out for the spring.
"Other than that, we're pretty much full strength and ready to go and looking forward to it," Durkin said.
- Safety Darnell Savage Jr., entering his senior season with the Terps, will be one of the team's leaders on defense in 2018 after intercepting three passes and making 59 tackles as a junior. He was paired with Antwaine Richardson at safety on the first-team defense.
Durkin hired Chuck Heater in January to coach safeties; the Terps didn't have a coach specifically for safeties during Durkin's first two years. Maryland is Heater's 13th program since he began coaching in 1976. One of his previous 12 stops was Florida, where he worked with Durkin in 2010. Another was Marshall, where he was the defensive coordinator and secondary coach from 2013-2017.
"I think it helps," Savage said of having a safeties coach. "I also think it helps to have Coach Heater, too, because he's been a lot of places. He brings a lot of wisdom to the table. It's kind of nice just to sit back and pick his brain, just get all the knowledge you can."
- Receiver Rayshad Lewis, son of Ravens legend and newly minted Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, will be eligible for the Terps this fall. After catching 40 passes for 476 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman at Utah State in 2016, Lewis announced last spring he was transferring to Maryland. He sat out the 2017 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Lewis might not play just on the offensive side of the ball.
"He's been tremendous for us," Durkin said. "He can help on either side of the ball, I really feel that way. He's got a great competitiveness about him; he's got a way about him. The place he came from before, he went out there and played as a true freshman and contributed. That just tells you the type of person he is, the competitive nature about him. He's playing at receiver right now, but he may play some defense, as well. He'll be out there helping us some way."