Andrew Isaacs' injury puts Terps in tough spot at tight end this season

September 23, 2014|By Matt Zenitz | Baltimore Sun Media Group

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley looks for all of his tight ends to be “three-pronged."

He wants them to be capable of playing as a traditional tight end, out at wide receiver or detached from the line of scrimmage, whether in the slot, as an H-back or somewhere else in the formation.

Andrew Isaacs was the closest thing the Terps had to a "three-pronged" tight end.

Isaacs only had two catches this season. But the sophomore flashed skills as a pass-catcher during preseason practice, had been consistently praised by teammates and coaches for the improvements he had made as a blocker, and he was playing around 45 snaps per game on offense.

Without Isaacs for the rest of the season, Maryland is in a tough spot at tight end.

Sophomore P.J. Gallo and redshirt freshman Derrick Hayward were both given an opportunity to compete with Isaacs for the starting tight end job entering preseason practice. But neither is as complete, skilled or "three-pronged" of a player as Isaacs.

“It’s going to be tough trying to replace him,” running back Brandon Ross said. “But pretty much, it’s just like the 'next man step up' kind of thing. You’re just going to have to try to fit different guys in different places to try to make up for it.”

Gallo and Hayward are listed as co-starters on Maryland’s updated depth chart, but Gallo received most, if not all, of the snaps at tight end after Isaacs was injured against Syracuse. Gallo had an 11-yard catch after replacing Isaacs vs. Syracuse.

Gallo, 6 feet 2, 250 pounds, is not the same type of athlete as Isaacs or Hayward. But he is described by teammates as tough, scrappy and a solid blocker, and he is also likely among the smartest players on Maryland’s team.

A finance major, Gallo said during the summer that his GPA is 3.95.

“P.J. is a hard worker,” Ross said. “He doesn’t really make a lot of mistakes because of how he studies his craft and stuff he needs to know. So I feel like even with Andrew being injured that coach is still confident in P.J. just because they know he’s a guy who is not going to do a whole lot of joking around. He’s just going to come in and try to do his job to the best of his ability."

Hayward, 6 feet 5, 235 pounds, could be incorporated as well, though. He signed with Maryland as an outside linebacker and is a work in progress at tight end. But he has size, is a decent athlete and made some plays as a pass-catcher as preseason practice went on.

“As camp went along, you saw a little bit more smoothness in him and his route-running,” Locksley said in late August. “We just need to continue to develop him into a three-prong tight end.”

The Terps also have the option of using tight ends less often than what they did with Isaacs. But at least publicly, Edsall is voicing confidence in Gallo and Hayward.

“We’ve got Derrick and P.J., and we’ll continue to run the offense and do the things that we think are necessary to help us move the ball,” Edsall said. “But we’ve got a lot of confidence in P.J. and Derrick, and they’ll be getting more work now.”

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