Reality set in for Matt Furstenburg quickly during the first week of spring practice.
The Maryland tight end was going to be a far greater part of the Terrapins’ offense, and he wasn’t about to complain.
The junior hauled in four receptions for 68 yards in Maryland’s opening victory over Miami, a performance that could signal a re-emergence for Terp tight ends under first-year offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.
“He’s a dynamic guy,” quarterback Danny O'Brien said. “He’s very consistent, and he’s a guy who knows the game plan inside and out and is going to be where you want him to be. If he can continue to put himself in those positions, he’ll continue to get the ball because he’s very reliable.”
It’s a significant change for Furstenburg, who acknowledged he was recruited primarily as a blocker and figured he might see a pass “here and there.” He collected 13 catches over the past two seasons, with a 98-yard outing against Clemson in 2010 accounting for nearly half of his 215 career receiving yards.
A deeper look at his usage pattern reveals even more about Furstenburg’s growing role. Last fall, he was targeted on 26 passes in 13 games while receiving only three looks in the red zone. In this year’s opener, O'Brien threw to Furstenburg six times, including twice inside the 20.
Furstenburg hauled in an 18-yard reception on the Terps’ first play from scrimmage, establishing a presence to complement wideouts Kevin Dorsey, Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler.
“I love it. I get the ball thrown [to me] a lot more than I did last year,” said Furstenburg, whose Terps (1-0) play host to No. 18 West Virginia (2-0) on Saturday. “Making plays is awesome, and I hope I continue to do that.”
There were hints Furstenburg could be poised for a larger place in the offense. Tight ends have thrived in Crowton’s offense at previous stops (notably Oregon), and the Terps were short-handed at the position after reserve Dave Stinebaugh missed much of camp and was eventually lost for the season.
Coaches also praised Furstenburg’s ability to understand the concepts of the scheme.
“He’s done really well,” tight ends coach John Dunn said last month. “He’s a solid player. He’s a guy who understands the offense and understands football. He’s done a nice job of being consistent, which is obviously one of the things we strive for.”
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Furstenburg also provides a rugged complement to Maryland’s wideouts. As Dorsey, McCree and Tyler - all of whom caught at least six passes each against Miami - establish themselves as consistent options in a game, they’re more likely to draw attention from safeties and open up seams underneath.
That would benefit Furstenburg, who exploited favorable coverage to convert first downs on all four of his receptions against the Hurricanes.
“He’s a guy we have to utilize maybe a little bit more than what we did the other night,” coach Randy Edsall said. “The good thing is if they want to try to single him, we think he can win against people.”
NOTES: Freshmen Keith Bowers and Clarence Murphy are listed as co-starters at defensive end after junior Isaiah Ross was sidelined with a left leg injury that required surgery. Edsall said he wasn’t sure if Ross would miss the rest of the season, though he noted “it could be close.”