ACC: Brian Stewart

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September, 26, 2013
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MARYLAND

If you’re just joining us, this series looks at the unranked teams in the ACC as either contenders or pretenders heading into the 2013 season. Florida State and Clemson are not included because they are the only two teams from the ACC expected to be ranked this preseason. Those rankings automatically qualify them as contenders.

Maryland? The Terps still have a long way to go.

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What do you expect out of Maryland in 2013?

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Why they're a contender: If the Terps are going to make some noise this season, they are going to have to rely on their offense out of the gate. Maryland has seven starters returning, including dazzling freshman Stefon Diggs, who finished No. 8 in the nation last season in all-purpose yards. The Terps have what they hope to be a nice complement at receiver as well, with transfer Deon Long, and what looks to be plenty of depth at the position. Their top two rushers are back in Brandon Ross and Wes Brown. And what's more, Maryland is hoping to avoid a repeat of the quarterback nightmare it had to navigate last season, when it ended the year with a linebacker playing the position. C.J. Brown is expected to be back and healthy for the start of the season. It goes without saying that his return is absolutely huge for this program. One more factor to keep an eye on: There is finally some staff stability, as both offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart are back for Year 2. A jump in production should be expected.

Why they're a pretender: There are some pretty major holes to fill on defense, with only five starters returning. Gone are All-ACC stalwart Joe Vellano, along with A.J. Francis, Kenneth Tate, Darin Drakeford, Eric Franklin and leading tackler Demetrius Hartsfield. There are definitely guys returning with playing experience, but how they all mesh and fit into starting roles remains to be seen. Also, who emerges as the leader of this group? The defense was the definite strength of this team last season -- ranking No. 3 in the league in total defense -- so there is work to be done. Then there is the offensive line, which was not very good last season. Coach Randy Edsall knows this is an area that needs some major improvement if some of the talent he has assembled on offense is going to do what it is capable of doing.

Final verdict: Pretender. I think Maryland has the capability of getting back to a bowl game this season after two straight losing campaigns, but I don't think the Terps will be able to contend for an ACC title in their final year in the league. There are too many question marks on defense and along the offensive line to stamp this team as a contender.

More in this series

Midseason report: Maryland

October, 16, 2012
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MARYLAND

Record: 4-2, 2-0

It is safe to call Maryland the most pleasant surprise to emerge in the ACC at the midway point of the season. After all, the Terps were not given much of a shot to compete this year, let alone contend for the ACC championship game, after they were picked to finish last in the Atlantic in the preseason media poll. That was before starting quarterback C.J. Brown went down for the season with a torn ACL. Things looked pretty bleak in College Park in August.

While the offense has indeed struggled with freshman quarterback Perry Hills and a nonexistent running game, the defense has been simply outstanding and a big reason why the Terps are leading their division right now. Maryland has thrived in the 3-4 scheme new coordinator Brian Stewart has installed and ranks No. 9 in the nation in rushing defense and total defense. This stat will tell you how much the defense has bailed the offense out: Maryland is ranked No. 110 in the nation in turnover margin. The Terps are the only team ranked No. 110 or lower with a winning record.

None of this is to stay Maryland is a perfect team. There are so many young players up and down this roster -- 19 true and redshirt freshmen have played this season for the Terps. That includes Hills, leading receiver Stefon Diggs and running backs Brandon Ross, Wes Brown and Albert Reid. Hills became the first true freshman starter at quarterback for Maryland since Latrez Harrison in 1999. Maryland is also starting two freshmen on the offensive line and a freshman at safety.

But this team is playing together and has gotten better as the year has gone on. At this point, it should not surprise anyone if Maryland ends up in a bowl game and coach Randy Edsall gets coach of the year consideration.

Offensive MVP: Diggs. The true freshman has been truly remarkable for the Terps this season, ranking No. 8 in the ACC with 21 catches for 453 yards and three touchdowns. He is averaging 21.6 yards per catch, tops among ACC receivers ranked in the top 10 in the league. But he does more than catch the ball -- Diggs leads the ACC in all-purpose yards as well (168.8 ypg), which ranks No. 9 in the nation.

Defensive MVP: Demetrius Hartsfield, LB. Hartsfield has been a tackling machine for the Terps, ranking No. 9 in the ACC with 51 total tackles (8.5 a game). He also has three sacks and two fumble recoveries to lead what has been a really solid defense so far this season.

Maryland defense comes up big

October, 10, 2012
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Maryland defensive end A.J. Francis grew up a huge Cowboys fan and remembers watching Brian Stewart lead the Dallas defense back in 2008 and 2009.

Francis loved the way Stewart coached. So imagine his surprise when Stewart was named defensive coordinator at Maryland back in January. Francis could hardly believe his luck, and was eager to get coaching advice from somebody he had grown to admire.

Their relationship blossomed in the months that followed, so much so that Francis said of Stewart, "He’s the best defensive coach I’ve played for and my favorite coordinator I’ve played for." It is hard to argue with the results Stewart has gotten out of Francis and every other Terrapins defender this season.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Francis
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireMaryland defenders A.J. Francis and Kenny Tate should be giddy. They're part of a unit that ranks No. 7 nationally in total defense.
The worst defense in the ACC has blossomed into one of the best, this despite a coordinator change and a defensive scheme shift. Headed into their game at Virginia (2-4, 0-2) on Saturday, the Terps (3-2, 1-0) rank No. 2 in the ACC in total defense and No. 7 in the nation. That group is a big reason why Maryland has already surpassed its win total from a year ago.

"Usually it takes at least a year to be comfortable in a new defensive scheme, but this scheme we have this year, I’ve never seen us get as comfortable as we have been as a team," Francis said in a telephone interview. "I feel like everybody feels great in their role, and everybody’s willing to accomplish anything that’s put ahead of them. There’s no task too tall. We feel we can make all the plays."

Francis points squarely at Stewart, along with the return of nearly every position coach on the defense. Both have allowed players to feel good about what they are doing on the field.

"Playing for the same guy who coached my favorite player, DeMarcus Ware, I felt like that was an honor that not a lot of people get to appreciate and so I knew as soon as I got the chance, anything he told me to do I’d be willing to do it without hesitation," Francis said.

He is not alone. Consider these outstanding stats:
  • For the first time since 1999, Maryland has held its opponent under 300 yards of total offense in four of the season’s first five games. West Virginia was the only team to go over 300 yards. But, consider Maryland held the Mountaineers to a season-low 363 total yards of offense and a season-low 31 points.
  • The Terps rank seventh nationally in total defense (257.2 ypg), seventh in rushing defense (81 ypg) and 15th in passing defense (176.2 ypg). They are holding opponents to 2.3 yards a carry to rank third nationally.
  • Last week, Wake Forest managed just 45 yards in the second half, including only 4 in the entire fourth quarter. Maryland has been at its best in the second half all year, giving up an average of just 121.4 yards in the second half.

When asked whether he thinks Maryland has the best defense in the ACC, Francis said, "The stats say Florida State is the best in the ACC. Until the stats say so, we’re not."

Maryland is considerably better than a year ago, when it ranked last in the ACC in total defense (457.2 ypg) and scoring defense (34.2 ppg). But nobody is allowing themselves a moment to look ahead at a possible bowl berth. There are too many areas of concern that remain, particularly an inconsistent offense that has turned the ball over too much and cannot get its ground game going.

Still, the headlines out of College Park these days are not the negative ones that filtered out at a rapid pace a year ago. Coach Randy Edsall seems to have his team looking ahead, not back. If they keep up their current pace, the Terps could end up being one of the most pleasant surprises in the ACC this season.

"You don’t go to a bowl game off three wins," Francis said. "Everybody told us we were going to be bowl bound after getting back to 2-2 last year. Things didn't work out the way we thought they would and I think that’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. It’s hard to win football games. Every game from here on out is an ACC game -- everybody is going to be familiar with us and our personnel. They’re going to be pretty good teams. We have to be ready to go out and get the wins."

ACC's lunchtime links

September, 20, 2012
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See you in Tally.

Opening camp: Maryland

August, 6, 2012
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As ACC teams begin to start practicing again, Heather Dinich and I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. The series concludes Tuesday with Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Next up ...

School: Maryland.

Start date: Today.

Predicted finish at media days: Sixth, Atlantic Division.

Biggest storyline: Putting 2011 behind. I know how excited everybody in College Park must be to just put 2011 to rest. The only way to do that is to get started this year, and coach Randy Edsall believes he has players onboard who want to do just that. The big headlines in the year-plus since Edsall arrived have been all about the defections, with 25 players leaving. Local and national columnist ripped Edsall every way you could possibly imagine. But Edsall has done his best to put on a happy face. He has new coordinators in Mike Locksley (offense) and (Brian Stewart) defense, and he does have one of the best interior linemen in the league in Joe Vellano. The nonconference schedule is not that imposing, either, with games against William & Mary, Temple, Connecticut and West Virginia. Maryland could very easily surpass last season's win total during its nonconference slate alone.

Biggest position battle: Running back. The Terrapins have to replace Davin Meggett, who led the team with 896 yards rushing and four touchdowns a year ago. Meggett was an incredibly reliable back for this team, so he leaves behind pretty big shoes to fill. Factor in the transfer of D.J. Adams, and it is really apparent Maryland has to find a starter and depth at the position. During the spring, big Brandon Ross (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) and Justus Pickett (5-10, 185) competed for the starting job. Ross redshirted last season, while Pickett ran for 274 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman. But you have to figure incoming freshmen like Wes Brown and Albert Reid are going to get a shot at playing time this season.

Who needs to step up: C.J. Brown. All eyes are going to be on the quarterback, for various reasons. Brown is now entrenched as the starter, but will have to make the transition to more of a pro-style offense. Does that mean there will be fewer opportunities to run, something he did so well last seaosn (574 yards, five touchdowns)? If Brown is going to be sitting in the pocket and throwing more, he has to work on his completion percentage (49.4 percent) and cut down on the mistakes (seven touchdowns to six interceptions). Brown was clearly thrown into a difficult situation last season, but now he is the man right out of the gates. How much he progresses and how well he learns the new offense will be critical for Maryland this season.

One good reason: Maryland

July, 9, 2012
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MARYLAND

Welcome back. Last week we began a series taking a look at one good reason each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs like Maryland that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order.

The series continues today with one good reason why …

Maryland will go bowling: The defense is legit. It starts with first-team all-conference lineman Joe Vellano, who could play both noseguard and end in first-year coordinator Brian Stewart’s new 3-4 scheme. Nine starters return on defense, and the Terps rotated enough players up front last year that there will be plenty of experience returning. Senior Demetrius Hartsfield, who ranked second in the ACC and fifth nationally in tackles with 108, leads a talented group of linebackers. The secondary will lean on junior cornerback Dexter McDougle, who had 44 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups before suffering a season-ending injury last year. Senior safety Eric Franklin made 106 tackles last fall. The secondary has to replace two starters, and the Terps need to build depth at every position, but overall, the defense should be a strength at Maryland this year.

Why it won’t: Too much turnover. A total of 25 players have left the program since Randy Edsall was hired. Not only has the sheer volume of departures hurt the depth, it’s also hurt the starting lineup. Maryland has to replace three starters on the offensive line, including both tackles. Max Garcia started 12 games at left tackle last year, and quarterback Danny O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin. The Terps still have C.J. Brown, who started five games last year, but there is no experience behind him. Maryland also hired two new coordinators and is switching to a 3-4 scheme on defense. Coordinator Mike Locksley will run a pro-style offense with spread principles. For the second time in two seasons, Maryland will have to adjust to new coordinators, schemes and terminology. The Terps also need to find a new leading rusher. Starting fresh isn’t a bad idea after a 2-10 finish, but instead of building something in College Park, it seems like Edsall is still picking up the pieces this year.

More in this series

Video: Best of spring -- Maryland

May, 29, 2012
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Heather Dinich talks about the defensive changes under first-year coordinator Brian Stewart.

Maryland spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
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2011 overall record: 2-10
2011 conference record: 1-7 (6th, Atlantic)
Returning starters: Offense: 5; defense: 10; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
LG Pete White, RG Josh Cary, C Bennett Fulper, TE Matt Furstenburg, WR Kevin Dorsey, DE Marcus Whittifield, DE Keith Bowers, NG Andre Monroe, DT Joe Vellano, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, LB Darrin Drakeford, LB Lorne Goree, LB Kenny Tate, CB Dexter McDougle, S Eric Franklin, S A.J. Hendy

Key losses
LT R.J. Dill, RT Max Garcia, LG Andre Donnella, QB Danny O'Brien, RB Davin Meggett, WR Quintin McCree, CB Cameron Chism

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Davin Meggett (896 yards)
Passing: Danny O'Brien (1,648 yards)
Receiving: Kevin Dorsey* (573 yards)
Tackles: Demetrius Hartsfield* (108)
Sacks: Andre Monroe* (5)
Interceptions: Dexter McDougle*/Cameron Chism (3)

Spring answers

1. Defense has come a long way: The unit passed with flying colors in its first public test under new coordinator Brian Stewart and his 3-4 scheme. It overpowered the offense in the squad's spring game despite missing Joe Vellano and Kenny Tate. Both players should be back for the fall, giving the defense 10 returning starters.

2. Who is there and who isn't: Spring No. 2 is in the books and the remaining players are on board with Randy Edsall, giving the program a chance to push forward with less doubt regarding those who may not be all-in. After the Terrapins' spring game, senior Justin Gilbert told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: "I hate saying it, but now that the guys who don't want to be here are gone, we can really focus on next season. We don't have any distractions anymore. Everybody who's here wants to be here. I really saw that this spring with guys. The chemistry was better. There was no cancers on the team. Everybody was all together."

3. C.J. Brown holding steady: Brown was the only quarterback this spring who had any actual game experience, so he received most of the attention. With five starts under his belt, Brown, whom colleague Heather Dinich has labeled the conference's most indispensable signal-caller, survived the spring and enters the fall as the No. 1 guy.

Fall questions

1. Will anyone challenge Brown? Despite said strengths, Brown, who rushed for more than 500 yards last season, is switching from a spread attack to new coordinator Mike Locksley's pro-style system. Recruits Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe enter this summer and, depending on Brown's transition, could challenge for some snaps.

2. How will the new coordinators transition? We said this earlier with Wake Forest: Things have gone smoothly this spring, but the ultimate test comes in game action this fall. How Locksley, Stewart and Andre Powell (special teams) adjust in-season will ultimately affect the ruling on the reshuffled staff.

3. Everything else … It would appear, at this moment, that the defections have subsided. Two dozen players have left Maryland since Edsall arrived, none bigger than quarterback Danny O'Brien. Some were calling for Edsall's job after Year 1, and a debut season that featured just one win over an FBS team didn't do the program any favors. The spotlight is on College Park this season for the wrong reasons, and how the program adjusts this fall can possibly dictate its fate.

Most Important Player: Maryland

April, 30, 2012
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Our series continues today with the Terrapins, who are looking to rebound from a rocky 2-10 season in Year 1 of the Randy Edsall era.

For a complete recap of the series, click here.

Maryland: LB Kenny Tate

2011 stats: One of four team captains last season, Tate's campaign was cut short after just four games because of season-ending knee surgery. He recorded 35 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble.

What he means to the Terrapins: Say what you want about the offense, which has just one quarterback with any experience and was outplayed in Maryland's spring game, but the Terps' recovery will start on the other side of the ball. Maryland finished 108th nationally in total defense last season, and it was 111th against the run. New coordinator Brian Stewart's 3-4 system should help fix that, and a healthy Tate could ease the transition. Tate sat out this spring but was granted a medical hardship waiver and will be back for a fifth season this fall. He played safety for three years before 2011, and his 2010 campaign (100 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three picks) earned him All-ACC honors as a junior. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder moved to linebacker last season and has 21 total starts at Maryland, notching 197 tackles, seven picks and five forced fumbles in 40 career games. Linebacker and captain Demetrius Hartsfield led the charge in the spring game for the defense -- which was also missing All-ACC end Joe Vellano (foot) -- and the health of the unit could play a big role in Maryland's climb out of the cellar of the ACC.

Weekend spring game recaps

April, 23, 2012
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Sadly, spring football season is over, leaving us almost five months until we all get to see live football again. Unfortunately for Virginia Tech fans, it will feel like even longer than that after the way this weekend went in Blacksburg.

Here are the recaps of the last round of ACC spring games.

GEORGIA TECH
The Yellow Jackets' defense dominated the line of scrimmage Friday, recording sacks on three straight plays at one point in the White team's 31-7 win over the Gold. This, of course, was due in large part to four offensive linemen missing the contest because of injuries.

"Tonight was a little hard to tell because we wanted to stay fairly vanilla, and we couldn't do much with our injury situation on the offensive line," coach Paul Johnson said. "We were down to 10 guys. We had guys playing guard who have been playing guard two days."

Better than 18,000 showed up for Georgia Tech's first Friday night spring game, which Synjyn Days managed to play in despite hurting his left wrist two days earlier. He ran 15 times for 79 yards and a score but was ineffective passing the ball, going 5-for-15 for 71 yards. He fumbled twice, with one being returned for a touchdown.

Vad Lee completed 9 of 17 throws for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Returning starter Tevin Washington went 4-of-6 for 46 yards and carried it 14 times for 67 yards and a score.

"I think all three bring something to the table," Johnson said. "It's really a matter of who can improve most [by the opener]. The guys behind Tevin both bring different things."

MARYLAND
The Terrapins' defense dominated in a 67-53 win over the offense Saturday, recording 13 sacks and allowing only two touchdowns. (To be fair, it was a one-hand touch rule on the quarterbacks.)

Still, the defense had to like what it was able to do without players such as Joe Vellano and Kenny Tate, especially in its first public test in coordinator Brian Stewart's 3-4 scheme. Ranked last in the ACC a year ago, the defense sacked C.J. Brown nine times. Brown, the only quarterback with any experience, was 17-for-33 for 199 yards and a pick, and his line likely didn't benefit from the eased defensive rules.

"The guys had a lot of fun out there today, and they had the chance to go out there and play the game again with their teammates," coach Randy Edsall said. "Overall I thought we’ve had a really good spring. I thought the guys have done a really good job since January, getting started doing all the things we need to do to be better come August."

Maryland also announced that its 2012 captains will be Brown and Kevin Dorsey on offense and Vellano and Demetrius Hartsfield on defense. Hartsfield had 12 tackles, two for loss and a sack Saturday. Vellano was a captain last season as well.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE
David Amerson picked up right where he left off in the fall, intercepting Mike Glennon in the second quarter Saturday of the Black team's 32-7 win over the White team. More importantly, the crowd of 24,797 at Carter-Finley Stadium helped raise more than $26,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

The Black team consisted of the first-team defense and second-team offense, with the White team fielding the opposite.

"These guys are coming out here and getting after it," Amerson said. "Defense, we're all about winning. We're competitive and we're out here to compete. We don't like to lose."

Glennon went 12-of-20 for 154 yards and a pick, and the offense struggled throughout much of the day. The Wolfpack defense recorded three interceptions, one coming from safety Earl Wolff, who returned a pick off Brian Taylor 46 yards for a score. Safety Isaac Swindell added a sack for the Black team.

"I thought we were competitive," coach Tom O'Brien said. "We didn't do as good of a job protecting the quarterback today as we did a week ago."

VIRGINIA TECH
Inclement weather forced the Hokies to cancel their annual Maroon-White game.

"There was more bad weather behind this one, and we looked at every situation -- whether we could get in a couple of quarters and it didn't look good for that, or reschedule for [Sunday], and it didn't look good for that, or reschedule for Monday, and it didn't look good for that," coach Frank Beamer said. "So in the end, we had to cancel it."

Roughly 4,000 fans had to be cleared from the stadium as thunderstorms and lightning hit the area. Players were warming up for the 4 p.m. kick before the field emptied, and the game was canceled more than an hour later. Beamer said he was most disappointed for his end-of-roster guys who didn't get one last opportunity to showcase themselves before preseason practice.

Logan Thomas and Luther Maddy were named the Hokies' spring offensive and defensive MVPs, respectively. The program's website lists all of its spring award winners.
What will we do without live, open football to look forward to between now and September?

I don't want to think about it just yet, so let's take a look at the remaining ACC spring games, which will be completed Saturday. (We looked at Georgia Tech on Thursday, since the Yellow Jackets play Friday night.)

As a reminder, two of these games can be seen live on ESPN3.

Maryland (1 p.m. ET)
Quarterback depth is an issue for the Terrapins, as the transfer of Danny O'Brien to Wisconsin leaves C.J. Brown as the only signal-caller with any experience. Transfer Ricky Shultz looks like the No. 2 quarterback at the moment, with two more coming to Maryland in the fall. Head coach Randy Edsall was pleased with Brown and the offense during a recent intrasquad scrimmage, but the defense was less than stellar. Still, with plenty of young talent, it will be interesting to see how the unit progresses under new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart's 3-4 scheme.

North Carolina State (3:30 p.m. ET)
There is no more shadow of Russell Wilson lurking every day in practice. The Wolfpack are Mike Glennon's team now, alleviating concern at the biggest position and allowing for the talent behind him to be a bigger priority in the spring game. Protecting the signal-callers should not be a problem, as NC State brings back a veteran-laden offensive line. Keep an eye on Manny Stocker, an early-enrollee signal-caller capable of making plays with his legs.

Virginia Tech (4 p.m. ET)
The Maroon side is already down 21-0 to the White squad, as coach Frank Beamer has spotted the second-team a three-touchdown lead before a snap is taken Saturday. Michael Holmes appears to be the leader in the clubhouse to fill David Wilson's spot as the No. 1 running back, but keep in mind several freshmen are on the way as well. The defensive line has played exceptional at times this spring, returning every significant contributor from 2011.
Maryland's third week of spring practice has given way to two notable position changes, though the biggest news may revolve around a player standing pat.

Kenny Tate will play the strongside linebacker position for the Terrapins in 2012, coach Randy Edsall said. Tate played safety for three years before moving to linebacker last season, a move that produced mixed results.

"We've talked to Kenny and he knows that's where he's going to be," Edsall said. "He'll be in the meetings there. He likes it and understands that's what's best for him and that's what's best for us."

Tate recorded 35 tackles and two picks in four games last season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery. He is not participating this spring, though he was granted a medical hardship waiver for the upcoming season.

An All-ACC selection in 2010, Tate recorded 100 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions as a safety. It was unclear where Tate would play this season in new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart's new 3-4 system.

Meanwhile, Nate Clarke has moved from offensive guard to nose tackle and A.J. Hendy has moved from safety to cornerback.

Clarke redshirted during his freshman season last year after playing on both sides of the ball during his prep career.

"When you took a look at Nate, you saw a guy who was struggling a little bit on offense," Edsall said. "And then when you take a look at what we have on defense and what we’re trying to do defensively, you see a guy that you say, 'OK, he's probably going to be better with less to think about and less to do.' "

Hendy had 30 tackles and a pick last season as a freshman.

"The big thing with the spring with the players who are here is it's a chance to evaluate them and make sure they are in the right spots," Edsall said. "As we sat down and evaluated, [we said] let's go ahead and take a look at A.J. there and he looks a little more natural [at cornerback]."

Terps' D ready for an upgrade

March, 9, 2012
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Of all of the new coaches who have been hired in the ACC this offseason, Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart has been tasked with one of the more difficult jobs -- at least on paper.

Stewart inherited the nation’s No. 102 scoring defense (34.25 points per game), No. 111 rushing defense (219.75 yards per game), and No. 108 total defense (457.17 ypg).

“I never look at rankings,” Stewart said. “If you get caught up in the rankings, you can get discouraged, or you can start patting yourself on the back. First of all you have to believe in your system, you look at the people who are going to play in your system, and you look at the guys who are going to teach your system. If you can get those three things to jive, then you’ve got a chance to be successful, and that’s how I look at it.”

Based on what he’s seen this offseason, Stewart said he already has two thirds of the equation solved, as coach Randy Edsall and the other assistants are all on board with switching to a 3-4 scheme. Only when the Terps start spring practices on Saturday, though, will Stewart learn if the players are also buying in. The first few practices will be filled with a lot of installation, and will be pivotal in revealing how quickly the players can learn the scheme and how it’s being taught.

“Once people believe,” Stewart said, “they make it work.”

The good news? The only way for Maryland to go is up.

Stewart will introduce a pressure defense -- not just blitzing on every play and every down, but pressure meaning when the receivers are trying to catch the ball, the defensive backs are in a place where they can contest every catch, and the opposing coordinator and quarterback can’t tell who’s coming and who’s not from the seven players at the line of scrimmage.

Stewart said he has tried to evaluate the skill sets of the players he has inherited as opposed to the previous system they were playing in. Stewart said he was specifically interested in how his defenders fared against Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and West Virginia.

“I look at it every day,” he said, “over and over.”

On Saturday, he’ll finally get his first live look.

Eleven of Maryland’s top 13 tacklers from 2011 return, including linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, who had a team-high 108 tackles, and safety Eric Franklin, who was second with 106. Six of the top seven sack producers from 2011 also return, including Andre Monroe, who had five, the second most by a Maryland freshman in the past nine years. Maryland also welcomes back Joe Vellano, who led the FBS last season in tackles by a defensive lineman with 7.8 per game. A total of 16 defenders have starting experience. It was a young, injury-laden group in 2011 that now faces a much-needed overhaul.

“We just had a defensive meeting [Tuesday] morning and just the way [Stewart] is really upbeat is really good,” Vellano said. “We are really working on getting this defense down and getting that work in off the field as well. We have a lot of new guys in positions to make plays and I think it really just fits us personnel-wise."

Video: Maryland DC Brian Stewart

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
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Heather Dinich talks to Maryland’s first-year defensive coordinator Brian Stewart about his philosophy heading into spring ball.

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