Maryland linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield is a big reason why the Terrapins rank as one of the top defenses in the nation this season.
Hartsfield leads the team with 51 tackles, with three sacks and two fumble recoveries. Coach Randy Edsall has praised his senior leadership in particular as a huge key for the defense.
I had a chance to catch up with Hartsfield this week to ask about his play, and the performance of the entire defense headed into their big game against NC State on Saturday. This is a little of what he had to say.
What has been working so well for you in particular so far this season?
Demetrius Hartsfield: I’ve played in the ACC a couple of years now, so that helps, and I think one of the things is I’ve been playing with more confidence and just knowing I’ve got to step up for the defense.
Did you put that on yourself, to step up?
DH: All summer, I just worked hard every day, and just led our team in workouts and practices throughout the summer and spring and just made it a goal to help my team and my defense to be the No. 1 team on defense in the ACC.
You are almost there, No. 2 behind Florida State. Why have you been so successful?
DH: It starts with our coordinator. Coach [Brian] Stewart has done a good job implementing the new defense. He’s done a great job also getting us as players in the right positions and just motivating us every week to play to higher standards. As players, we’ve done a great job at just playing consistently, going out and playing a full 60 minutes.
So what is the biggest difference between this year and last year, aside from the scheme and coordinator change?
DH: We’re playing with a lot more confidence, and having a lot more fun out there. I think it’s evident when people see us playing that we’re playing with a lot more fun, a lot more swag and just going out and believing in the system and playing an aggressive style of defense.
How fun has it been to be more aggressive?
DH: I love it. There’s nothing better than knowing at any point you can get a sack or a big TFL to change the game.
Where can the defense be better?
DH: I think one of the things we have to improve is getting more turnovers. That’s the No. 1 thing we’ve got to improve on. With having such a young offense, we have to get them the ball as much as possible.
Your team is alone in first place in the Atlantic Division. A lot of people are surprised; did you guys think you’d be in that spot?
DH: Of course. That’s one of our goals. I feel like if you’re playing college football and you’re expecting to lose, then there’s no point in playing. Everybody has the same aspirations of going to the ACC championship and that was one of our goals. Right now, what we’ve got to do is take it one game at a time and make sure that each and every one of us gives it our all and does whatever we can to help out our team.
You are facing a good quarterback in Mike Glennon this week. What will it take to slow him down?
DH: I think Mike Glennon is a pretty good quarterback. We’ve faced Geno Smith at West Virginia, so I think one thing we did with him is put a lot of pressure on him. We have to do the same with Mike because a quarterback like him, you can’t give him all day to sit in the pocket or he’ll eat you up all day. Our crowd is going to help us. We have to play with a lot of confidence also. That will help. If we do those things, we’ll be fine.