COLLEGE PARK--Last week it was wide receiver Deon Long debuting at spring practice, his first football action since suffering a broken leg in a loss to Wake Forest in mid-October.
On Monday it was his counterpart in the receiving corps, Stefon Diggs, back again after suffering nearly the same injury in exactly the same game on Oct. 19.
Diggs wore a yellow “non-contact” jersey and participated in 7-on-7 and individual drills during the cold, wet, and windy practice at Byrd Stadium.
“I missed my team a lot. I missed being on the field,” Diggs told the media. “I missed being around them and it’s good just to bring that energy and enthusiasm to the game and be as supportive as I can.”
The soon-to-be junior says he feels about 90 percent healthy, but still has to “iron out the wrinkles,” including getting back into “football shape” through cardio and strength workouts.
The surgery and ensuing recovery has trimmed him down slightly, from 192 pounds to around 188, he says, and he has benefited as a result.
“I feel like I’m faster. I feel like I’m more explosive than I was previously,” he said. “I feel a big difference and I’m just happy to be back.”
Head coach Randy Edsall is happy to have him back, along with Long, as the duo will likely be among the best one-two wideout punches in the Big Ten this coming season. But that is still far off, beyond more workouts and more conditioning and more acclimation to new wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell.
“He’s been kind of chomping at the bit to get out there,” Edsall said of Diggs. “Keenan has been trying to teach those guys and now he can actually get out here and do some of that work.”
Edsall commended Diggs on his progress so far, but maintains that the hire should naturally put the entire wide receiving corps in a position to develop rapidly under a former all-pro.
“If you’re not going to listen and be a sponge around a guy who has the experience that he has and has the knowledge that he has and the understanding of how to play the position, to me you’re just cheating yourself and cheating your team.”
Diggs and Long now mesh with that rest of a unit that also adds Marcus Leak and returns contributors Levern Jacobs, Deon Long, and Amba Etta-Tawo.
“I’m just happy to have my legs back because at one point in time I wasn’t even walking,” Diggs said. “I think about [the injury] every day. It’s my motivation so I’m just ready to return, ready to get back.”
Maryland’s spring game is scheduled for Friday.