COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Two weeks from its season opener, the University of Maryland football team provided fans an up-close glimpse of the highly touted freshman class that arrived in College Park earlier this month.
It didn’t disappoint. Stefon Diggs had three first-half touchdowns – a 68-yard punt return, a 98-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard reception – electrifying a crowd of several thousand in Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Terps, who were holding fan appreciation day, scrimmaged for two hours before holding an autograph session on the field.
Diggs and quarterback Perry Hills impressed, as did freshmen running backs Albert Reid and Wes Brown. Hills, running the first-team offense in a game-like situation for the first time, led the Terps on an 18-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to open the scrimmage. The freshman went 5 of 6 for 27 yards on the drive and also rushed for 36 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.
Hills, who led Maryland to scores on three of his five drives, showed the ability to make plays with his arm and his legs. On his third drive, he eluded the pass rush and hit Kevin Dorsey in the flat, and Dorsey turned it into a 41-yard play. Five plays later, he hit Diggs over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown.
“I thought Perry [Hills] had a good day,” said head coach Randy Edsall. “I thought he did some good things. Of course there’s going to be plenty of things that he could learn from, and get better, but I think that we didn’t have any issues with delay of game, really didn’t have any false starts. When you talk about the mechanics and the operation of the offense I thought he handled it really well.”
Diggs, meanwhile, didn’t waste any time making a good first impression. With his first touch, a punt return on the second drive of the game, he exploded up a seam and went 68 yards for a touchdown.
And after quarterback Caleb Rowe hit freshman receiver Levern Jacobs for a 69-yard touchdown, Diggs struck again with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“He’s a dynamic player, he’s got good instincts, got good football knowledge, he has talent and he’s very coachable and very competitive,” said Edsall. “We’ll just keep working with him and I know he’ll keep working, and I think he’ll end up being a real good one.”
Now just two weeks away from the season opener, Edsall was pleased with the team’s effort but said work remains to be done.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do before that opening game,” said Edsall. “Now we’ll go in and watch the film, evaluate it and narrow it down into a two-deep, and then who are the guys that can compete for us on special teams.”
Tidbits: With Matt Robinson injured, A.J. Hendy took the first-team reps at strong safety before leaving the practice with what Edsall said was an ankle injury. His status wasn’t immediately known … Edsall said he continues to be impressed with the running backs, specifically mentioning Brandon Ross, Albert Reid and Wes Brown … he also said the offensive line, and in particular right tackle Justin Gilbert, continue to get better … Edsall rested place-kicker/punter Nick Ferrara in order to get freshman Brad Craddock and redshirt freshman Nathan Renfro more reps. Craddock, an Australia native, performed well and showed good hang-time on his punts, while also handling kickoff and extra point duties … senior linebacker Darin Drakeford showed the ability to be a disruptive force. He had two sacks on one drive and on another, forced a fumble, picked it up and ran it in 18 yards for a touchdown.