My player to watch in Week 8 is Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs.
Just how good is Maryland’s true freshman utility man?
“I think he probably has as much impact on the conference this year as Sammy Watkins did a year ago coming in at Clemson,” said NC State coach Tom O’Brien.
That’s high praise from Maryland’s Atlantic Division opponent this weekend, but it’s also well-deserved. Diggs is easily the Terps’ top playmaker, and he’s a leading candidate for the ACC’s Rookie of the Year award. Against Virginia last week, Diggs returned the game’s opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and went on to catch four passes for 89 yards. Over the past three games, he’s averaging 102.3 receiving yards, while his 168.8 all-purpose yards per game lead the ACC and rank ninth nationally.
NC State is No. 26 in the country in kickoff return defense, allowing 18.85 yards per return.
“Certainly you have to know where he is,” O’Brien said. “He's very dangerous in the kicking game. The good thing for us we played Miami, Florida State, who also have guys who are dynamic in the kicking game.
“I know our defensive coaches, they're hollering every day at practice pointing out where No. 1 is,” O’Brien said. “He certainly has our attention.”
NC State’s pass defense has been average-at-best, and the veteran secondary has fallen far below expectations this season. The defense will do what it can to limit Diggs, but Maryland coach Randy Edsall said he’d like to get Diggs the ball as much as he can. It’s just not always possible. Ideally, Edsall said he’d at least like to get Diggs 10-15 touches per game. Anything after that would be a bonus.
“Again, when you play wide receiver, there's only so many ways to get him the ball,” Edsall said. “But the other thing is, there's also times when you have him in there, you're doing some things with him, he attracts the attention of other people, it opens up for the other ones.
“We're trying to find as many ways as we can to get him the ball and get it in his hands, let him do things, “ Edsall said. “… Again, situations will dictate how many touches, as well.”
So might NC State’s defense.