When Jared Bernhardt came to play lacrosse in College Park, he not only chose against playing quarterback for a top Navy football program, but he also knew he would start his Maryland lacrosse career playing out of position.
As an attackman his whole life, Bernhardt played on the first line midfield on last year’s national championship-winning team. In doing so, he was often the fifth or sixth option to initiate the offense. But due to the graduation of seniors, a hole in the offense has given Bernhardt an opportunity to shine early on this season.
“We’ve had so many guys that we lost, not only with their production and their ability, but their leadership,” head coach John Tillman said. “We had a lot of alpha males on that team and so getting guys to fill those roles not only on the field but off the field has been hard.”
Specifically, those alpha males made up the “DMC” attack trio. Senior attackmen Dylan Maltz, Matt Rambo and Colin Heacock comprised one of the most potent attack trios in the nation last season. That meant that there was no room for the freshman to come in to play his preferred attack position.
“As a freshman I felt like Jared maybe deferred a little too much, but that’s a compliment to him,” Tillman said. “He was just trying to be apart of those six guys. And at times we were on him to be a little more assertive and aggressive, and yet I think he was just concerned about stepping on other people’s toes.”
Despite this, Bernhardt still managed to score 20 goals to go along with eight assists during his rookie campaign. However this season, Bernhardt has been more aggressive, garnering 19 points in the first four games, good for eighth in the nation.
“I think going back to attack has really helped Jared,” Tillman said. “I think Jared did a really good job for us last year playing out of position, [which] was his first time playing midfield.”
Senior captain Connor Kelly isn’t very surprised about Bernhardt’s early season production.
“It was only a matter of time until this played out on the field,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous athlete, a very smart player to play with and very unselfish. It’s been awesome to see what he’s been able to do lately and I’m looking forward to what he has in store.”
Bernhardt, who was a standout QB in high school, almost played football for Navy. Instead, he chose to follow in his older brothers’ footsteps to play Maryland lacrosse.
Still, Bernhardt recognizes the similarities between playing the QB position in football and playing like a QB from behind the cage in lacrosse.
“You have to make quick decisions out there, it’s a fast-paced game,” Bernhardt said. “That’s the biggest thing, making those quick decisions and not really hesitating.”
While playing either sport, Bernhardt has always been able to use his athletic ability to his advantage. Check out some of this football highlights to see how well he can scramble and make plays down the field.
The Florida native uses the same type of dodging abilities to get past defenders from behind the cage. Bernhardt said that while senior midfielders Connor Kelly and Tim Rotanz have both helped support Bernhardt to be this aggressive early on this season, he also soaked in all the knowledge he could from last season’s attacking trio.
“Luckily last year I had some pretty good leaders and I was able to watch them play,” Bernhardt said. “Obviously Rambo, Heacock, Maltz all those guys I was able to take some things from them and try to transition that to this year.”
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