It was the first day of camp and safety Travis Hawkins found himself in the middle of the field during a drill. The quarterback opted for a fade far to Hawkins' right.
"He flew all the way over there and jumped up and made the play," cornerback Cameron Chism said. "I'm guessing he likes exactly where he is."
That's an understatement. After a redshirt year at cornerback, Hawkins is back at the position he played for much of his high school career and prepared to make far more of an impression than he did a year ago as a scout team player.
Hawkins was one of Maryland's most coveted recruits in its 2009 class. But even as 10 true freshmen made it onto the field, barely anything was ever said about Hawkins, who became something of a forgotten man in his first year in College Park.
"Coming in, I really didn't think about redshirting," Hawkins said. "It was really a big shock to me. Out of all the years I played football, I never took a year off. It was kind of a shock to me. Sometimes, it was depressing not even traveling. Going into spring, I knew I had a chip on my shoulder to get better."
In retrospect, Hawkins believes the redshirt season was good for him. He learned the defense far more thoroughly than he otherwise would have, and also got a jump start academically.
But the biggest difference in Year Two is the move to safety.
Hawkins' greatest strength is his ability to run all day, something that is only a part of a cornerback's skillset. For a safety, it is among the most valuable traits to have.
Yet when Hawkins was recruited out of Quince Orchard High School in Montgomery County, coaches wanted to see him play cornerback. And so he moved there as a senior and remained at the position in his first year of college.
"Some of the things some recruiters were saying to me if I switched my position was getting to my head a little bit," Hawkins said. "I didn't think the transition would be that bad."
The move back certainly worked out. He recorded an impressive interception in Maryland's spring game, and will enter this season as senior Antwine Perez's backup.
As for after 2010? Hawkins could be looking at a long career as a starter, and so much of it has to do with speed.
Coach Ralph Friedgen recalled a moment in the offseason when defensive coordinator Don Brown wondered if a growth on Hawkins' toe was inhibiting his movement. Hawkins, when he was called into Friedgen's office, emphatically disagreed.
"Travis said ‘Oh, I can run. I’ll run for you right now,’" Friedgen said. "So I got Don and took him up to the field house and he ran 4.53 right out of the chute. I guess he can run. On testing day he ran even better than that. ... He has very good range. He may have the best range we’ve had since we’ve been here. He’s made some plays at free safety that I haven’t seen anybody make."
Maryland should get a chance to see it this year. Only three experienced safeties --- Perez, Kenny Tate and Eric Franklin --- return, and Hawkins owns the advantage of going through spring practice in the system over true freshmen Matt Robinson and Titus Till.
Besides, Brown is known to play plenty of defensive backs. Hawkins, then, could be seen quite a bit even if he doesn't start.
At that point, he's certain he'll do something to earn attention.
"I feel like when it's game time, there's a switch that just turns on for me," Hawkins said. "I feel like I run faster, jump higher, just get to the ball quicker. I don't know. There's just something about game-like situations."
Especially when he's at a position he's particularly well-suited for.
"I think he’s going to be pretty good player," Friedgen said. "The thing I'm really proud about Travis, I worried about him academically and he's done very, very well. He's come in and just does his work and done very well academically. I think that's helped him because he succeeded in one area [while] maybe he was struggling in an area that he loves. I think that gave him a little more confidence, as it usually does. He’s kind of got it going now. I think he’ll be a big factor for us this year."