COLLEGE PARK – When all six-feet, two inches of Shane Cockerille’s 235-pound frame barrels down the field at breakneck speed, the No. 2 on his back nothing but a blur, the motion looks fluid. For such a large man, there is truly an element of grace as one watches him zone in on the opposing […]
COLLEGE PARK – When all six-feet, two inches of Shane Cockerille’s 235-pound frame barrels down the field at breakneck speed, the No. 2 on his back nothing but a blur, the motion looks fluid.
For such a large man, there is truly an element of grace as one watches him zone in on the opposing ball carrier – or one of his blockers, whichever he sees first – and squares his shoulders directly into the chest of his target.
A few of his teammates on the Maryland Terrapins football team likened him to a heat-seeking arrow, flying down the field with only one thing in mind: to hit someone. Hard.
People see guys like this every Saturday. Freak athletes scorching their path down the field and hitting something as hard as they can. It truly is poetry in motion and Cockerille fits right in.
Except Cockerille is a quarterback.
“I still feel good. I can hit people,” Cockerille said.
Cockerille delivered those words coolly and calmly – you could tell he meant them – just nine weeks into a college football season in which he entered camp as a fullback and switched to quarterback by week seven.
In total, that makes two-and-a-half years in College Park with two position changes to boot.
Cockerille committed to Maryland in 2012 as a dual-threat quarterback out of Baltimore’s prestigious Gilman School. He was a nationally ranked recruit.
He played his first two years in College Park at quarterback. Then, this past summer, then-Head Coach Randy Edsall moved Cockerille to fullback for the start of his redshirt-sophomore year.
At first, it seemed a confounding move.
But Gilman’s offense – designed mostly around Cockerille when he was there – involved a lot of running and a lot of physicality.
That has translated to the college game for Cockerille.
“There were a few glimpses of that, you know running the ball, against Wisconsin, and it made me think back to my high school days a little bit,” Cockerill said.
Since Head Coach Mike Locksley moved Cockerille back to quarterback before the Penn State game, his game plan hasn’t changed a lot.
“I got a few packages where I can go in there and takes the hits off of (Perry Hills). I’m a bigger body, bigger guy and I’m used to that. I enjoy doing that,” Cockerill said.
He is referencing Maryland’s starting quarterback – Pittsburgh-native Perry Hills. As Hills’ backup, Locksley uses Cockerille to give Hills brief spells.
Cockerille has packages within the offense designed just for him, but most of them are running packages. He has completed 11 passes on 23 attempts this season for just 82 yards. The former high school star wants that to change though.
“Whenever they see No. 2 come in the game, they usually aren’t expecting pass,” he said. It was clear he expects to pass and wants to pass more during the rest of his time at College Park.
“When I was playing quarterback (before originally converting to fullback), I was a little younger, a little less experienced with the offense,” Cockerille said.
After Hills was ruled out and backup Caleb Rowe went down with a concussion in the Terps’ 47-28 loss to Indiana, Cockerille got his chance.
Cockerille struggled to move the ball throughout the game, but flashed the ability late in the fourth quarter that made him an Elite 11 quarterback coming out of Gilman.
Time at fullback also allowed Cockerille to acquire a new understanding of the offense – a complete one.
“Now I have a better idea of what everyone is doing out there,” he said.
Actually, Cockerille is hard to classify. He plays on special teams, at quarterback, and still subs in as a lead blocker on occasion as fullback Kenny Goins Jr.’s backup.
But throughout the shifts of position and the accompanying changes – Cockerille said he got his weight up to 242 pounds while playing fullback – one thing has remained invariable. He still wants to hit someone.
“You would die for the guy out there next to you,” Cockerille said of why he plays the way he does.
He’s made two tackles this season on special teams and it’s still his favorite part of the game.
“I like going down there on kickoffs, hitting people, setting the tone,” he said.
In a rough season for the Terps, who are no longer bowl eligible, Cockerille has yet to make a significant impact on the stat sheet. He’s registered just 14 rushing yards on four attempts. But to be expected, the jack-of-all-trades quarterback was more concerned about his teammates than he was himself.
“No one has given up. Everyone has pride and wants to send the seniors out on a good note,” he said.