Aug 31, 2013; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins lineman Quinton Jefferson (99) and tackle Andre Monroe (93) pressure Florida International Panthers quarterback Jake Medlock (12) at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
The Maryland football team had certainly had its fair share of ups and downs.
Coming into the season, all the talk was about how explosive the offense would be and there were many question marks regarding the defense. However, it has been the defense that has been one of the better units in the ACC and has kept the Terrapins in several games. Without their stellar effort, Maryland wouldn’t have kept things close in the Virginia, Clemson, and Virginia Tech contests.
When you look at the numbers, Maryland ranks fifth in the conference in total defense as they’ve allowed 367.8 yards-per-game. That’s truly remarkable when you take into account that the Terps have lost cornerback Dexter McDougle, cornerback Jeremiah Johnson, and linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil t o season-ending injuries. Not to mention that linebackers Cole Farrand, me Matt Robinson, and L.A. Goree have all missed at least one game due to injury.
When you look at the defensive statistics, it’s extremely impressive to see how productive this unit has been over the course of this season. As was evident in Maryland’s seven sacks against the Hokies this past Saturday, the Terps have the ability to get to the quarterback at will.
Maryland ranks in the top three in sacks (3rd with 29.0), tackles for loss (3rd with 77.0), fumbles recovered (tied for 3rd with eight), and fumbles forced (1st with 13). That’s extremely impressive when you consider that the Terps don’t have a ton of big-names on defense. It also is a product of younger players like cornerback William Likely, making a large impact on the field.
Linebacker Marcus Whitfield leads the team with eight sacks, but the player that comes in second may surprise you. Defensive end Andre Monroe has six-and-a-half sacks and is quietly putting together a very strong season. After sacking Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas last Saturday and forcing the Hokies to settle for a field goal in overtime, Monroe moved to the top of the depth chart and is now Maryland’s starting defensive end opposite Quinton Jefferson. That’s what happens when you have a career-high of three sacks against a team of that caliber. Nose tackle Darius Kilgo also helps matters as he occupies a good amount of real estate and can get penetration into the opposing team’s backfield.
Arguably the biggest strength of Maryland’s defense is the linebacking unit. The Terps have a trio of extremely talented linebackers that have been constants all season. Junior Cole Farrand has racked up 74 tackles (37 solo) so far this season. The New Jersey native has a very aggressive nose for the football and has made his presence known in every game he’s played. That includes the Clemson game where he compiled an astounding 22 tackles.
As important as Farrand and junior L.A. Goree are, the most important linebacker could be junior Matt Robinson. When Robinson missed a three-game stretch earlier this season, the Terps defense suffered. In the Virginia game, Cavaliers tight end ran wild (8 catches for 114 and a touchdown). Maryland simply didn’t have a linebacker that was athletic enough to keep up with McGee. With Robinson converting over from the safety position this season, he has the speed and athleticism to be able to run with bigger tight ends and supply blanket coverage for the Terps.
The Terps have had an impressive year on the defensive side of the football. Aside from the first two games against Florida International and Old Dominion, Maryland’s defense played at an extremely high level and arguably were responsible for several of their wins. In order for the Terps to make an appearance in meaningful bowl game, this unit is going to have to keep up their stellar play.