As spring practice heats up across the Big Ten, depth charts are starting to take shape and jobs are being claimed for the fall. Spots can still be earned during training camp in August, but March and April provide a prime opportunity to make a move and potentially solidify areas of uncertainty on the roster. Across the league, we’re looking at which position battles could be the most critical during the 15 spring practices.
Up next: Maryland
1. Quarterback: The Terrapins have a pair of fifth-year seniors with starting experience in Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. That's the good news. For the bad news, look at last year's stats. Hills had only a 50 percent completion rate and threw 13 interceptions compared to just eight touchdowns. Rowe, meanwhile, tossed 15 picks in just 164 pass attempts. The position would likely be up for grabs even if there wasn't a whole new coaching staff. Shane Cockerille also has game experience, and redshirt freshman Gage Shaffer could make a move this spring. Hills may have the early edge with his leadership and mobility in Walt Bell's system, but little is set in stone.
2. Defensive back: Will Likely is back to play cornerback and anchor the secondary. He'll be an important leader, because the three other starters from last year's defensive backfield are all gone. There is very little experience around, and D.J. Durkin's first recruiting class in College Park was understandably heavy on defensive backs. Darnell Savage is a good bet to take the other corner spot, but the safety position beyond Alvin Hill is highly unsettled. This is also a position that could undergo more change in the summer when new freshmen arrive.
3: Defensive line: Maryland wasn't very good in a lot of areas during its 3-9 season in 2015, but its defensive front was one of its few strengths. That position took a hit in the offseason, when both end Yannick Ngakoue (who had 13.5 sacks last fall) and tackle Quinton Jefferson left early for the NFL draft. Azubuike Ukandu should lock down one of the inside spots after a 6.5-sack season a year ago, and Terps insiders have been waiting for Jesse Aniebonam to emerge as a stellar pass-rusher. The other jobs will be determined, and former blue-chip recruit Adam McLean could take a step forward coming off a redshirt year.