COLLEGE PARK, Md - The Maryland football team donned full pads for the first time in preseason camp Friday at the on-campus practice facility.
A player happy to be back laying hits was senior Jeremiah Johnson. The standout defensive back missed a year of action because following a foot injury suffered early last season, but will be leaned on to provide stability on the outside with sophomore William Likely and Alvin Hill this season.
“It felt good to actually hit somebody and make a couple plays,” Johnson said, “That’s what I like to do. I like live situations. Hopefully I’ll be able to show that I can be physical. Any time I get that opportunity, I want to take advantage of it.”
The progress Johnson has made has supremely impressed head coach Randy Edsall.
“I thought he was a little bit rusty as we first got started,” Edsall said. “You could start to see him get a little more comfortable and more confident. When you come off the toe and you come off the hamstring, that’s probably natural. Then you come out here and you do all the things that you did before. I like the progress that he’s making and he’s just going to continue to get better.”
The competition for the starting tight end slot is one of the more intriguing battles of camp. Sophomore P.J. Gallo, athletic pass catcher Andrew Isaacs and converted linebacker Derrick Hayward all have a claim for the spot. For his sake, Gallo thinks that his group has improved throughout camp.
“It’s always going to be a work in progress,” Gallo said. “I think we’ve done some nice things so far, but obviously there’s a lot of room for improvement. We’re trying to get better every day.”
Edsall is enjoying the competition for the starting role and sees Gallo as a very viable option for the start week one against James Madison.
“P.J.’s a guy that can line up on the ball and can also flex out,” said Edsall. “He’s in a great competition with Andrew [Isaacs] and also with Derrick [Hayward]. It’s going to be interesting to see how that all plays out. P.J.’s just got to keep improving because he’s got great competition at that position.”
The Terps return to practice tomorrow, once again in full pads, before holding a closed scrimmage Sunday.