Time to check in with one of Maryland’s safeties coach Kevin Lempa, whose two-deep might be the most stable of the Terrapins’ entire roster.
Q: Do you feel pretty well set at safety?
KL: I can’t wait for a game to play so I can see how this defense plays. That’s my feeling right now. I like what we’re doing. I like the aggressiveness and the techniques and what [defensive coordinator Don] Brown has brought here. I want to see it live. Then I’ll talk to you. [Laughs] Because I think it’s going to be pretty good.
Q: What is it that Jamari McCollough’s done in the last year, basically?
KL: He was third-string last year at this time. Maybe was on the special teams. Maybe was traveling. Then we gave him an opportunity with the twos and he did well. Then we rotated and then he played in a game, made some plays. Next thing you know, guy gets hurt. He was smart last year because he played free safety, strong safety, he played nickel and he played corner in games. He started at corner in some games. Again, he’s a smart guy. I’ve got a couple smart guys [McCollough and Kenny Tate] there. I can move them around and do different things.
He has a knack to be around the ball, too. He dropped two interceptions and he had four.
Q: Is that his greatest asset, realistically?
KL: Kenny’s a bigger-bodied athlete, but Jamari’s real smart. He’s around the ball, too.
Q: With Terrell [Skinner], has he picked up where he was toward the end of last season?
KL: I hope he’s where he was beginning of last season, because at the beginning of last season he was really good until he got hurt. I can’t wait to see him back in a game because I think he could be a force back there, too. He’s a hitter. If I was going over the middle, I’d be taking a peek at him and see where he is.
Q: And [Antwine] Perez?
KL: Perez has had a really good camp. He’s been very productive. He excels more in the position where we move the safety around. We have these different packages where we name them, the Pup and the Dog, and so we put him in different places there. He’s done well at that, but he’s probably the fourth. But he’s good enough to play.
Q: What about Kenny [Tate] mentality-wise?
KL: He is becoming more physical and more aggressive. I see that. He’s gotten a lot stronger, but he’s never really lifted because he was a basketball player. He’s lifted and he’s gotten more confidence in his body. I think he’s gotten faster. I think with that and a mentality of blitzing, he’s become more aggressive. I think you’ll see some hits from Kenny, too.
Q: You look at him and think if that guy puts on a little more weight, he could be a d-end.
KL: That’s what I said to him. That’s why he stays at 220. [Laughs]. He doesn’t want to go to defensive end.
Q: [Eric] Franklin’s name has popped up quite a bit during camp.
KL: He’s shown up. He’s a big, tall athletic kid who’s really skilled. He’s smart. There’s not many freshmen that could pick this package up. He’s had his days, but for the most part he understands what’s going on. I have him in the two-deep.
Now, I don’t want to play him unless he’s going to play and be in the rotation and be on all the special teams. He’s on the edge. I’ve got to make a decision on him next week.
Q: Is that one where it might be one of your toughest camp decisions, just figuring that out? Or is the fact you probably want to redshirt him looking down the road [a factor]?
KL: I don’t think coach Friedgen looks at it that way. He looks at it as ‘If the kid is ready to play, let’s play him.’ But I don’t want him to play on special teams and not play [more]. I don’t want him to do that. I want him to play. I don’t want him to waste a year, either. But we have to get him ready in case something happens to somebody else, because he’s the next guy.
Q: Will you play three safeties at a time?
KL: Oh yeah. We’ll play three safeties, play four safeties. We’ll play one safety or two safeties. We can play multiple of any one of those. It’s pretty wild.