After key block vs. WVU, OL Andrew Zeller earned his starting spot

October 2, 2012

Weaving and juking through the West Virginia defense, trailed by a line of helpless Mountaineer defenders like a mother duck leading her chicks across a busy highway, a sprinting Stefon Diggs glanced back and though to himself, “There are some guys missing on the field.”

The obvious answer was that Diggs had simply outrun everyone, another solo effort for the highlight reel. True, but replays showed something more.

All eyes were on Diggs, who bounced to the far sideline, in front of the West Virginia bench, and wound up by the near pylon for a 56-yard touchdown. What West Virginia’s defenders never saw was Andrew Zeller, who came charging off the line and launched himself from the West Virginia 45-yard line. His helmet clipped the thigh of one Mountaineer. Two others stumbled over his massive legs. And Diggs was sprung free.

“Hopefully he brings that every week,” Diggs said of the redshirt freshman. “Three guys out of the play every game? Then that’s a pretty good play for us. He did a great job when I watched the film, they all had the angle on me to make the tackle. That’s what we call a hustle play. He didn’t have to run down the field, and he did. Hopefully he gets the opportunity, hopefully he gets his shot.”

Zeller’s time will come Saturday at Byrd Stadium against Wake Forest. He’s penciled in as Maryland’s starting right guard in front of De’Onte Arnett. True freshman Mike Madaras, Diggs’s high school teammate at Good Counsel, will start at left tackle in front of Nick Klemm after appearing in all four games this season.

“It’s just stuff that you see in practice and you see in games,” Coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday. “Just taking a look at some of the things that transpired in the , we’ve seen guys play, then also in practice last week, I just felt that this was the best move for us as a team, to be the best that we can be, and so that’s why I made the move. It’s a move precipitated based on what I saw out of Andrew and Mike, and thought that would give us the best opportunity to move forward and be better.”

Protection will be paramount against Wake Forest’s “50” defense. Quarterback Perry Hills has gotten sacked 16 times this season, and both switches in Maryland’s starting lineup seem to be in response.

“The main thing is, improving communication and technique,” left guard Bennett Fulper said. “I think this last bye week helped us out a lot. The main thing is being consistent. There will be some times when you realize that’s how supposed it’s to look like every play. Then you have other plays where people aren’t on the same page.

Defensive end A.J. Francis described Zeller as “annoying as hell” to face in practice, a persistently stubborn lineman like Arnett who just keeps blocking no matter what. “You could push Zeller, throw him on the ground, and he’ll get off the ground and block you again,” Francis said.

As for Madaras, a quiet, “good kid” at 6 foot 5 and 290 pounds, according to Diggs, Francis says he just “looks weird out there,” playing without gloves or wrist tape.

“Both of those guys are really blue-chip guys, very hard workers and athletic,” Fulper said. “I think throughout the week, they’ve been progressing ever since camp started. I’m looking forward to playing next to Madaras next week and seeing Zeller get reps.

“Both of those guys, you could notice it back in this summer. Zeller and Madaras, both of those guys are finishing atop the group in vertical jump and stuff like that. They both bring a lot to the table. Going back to last week, you could see how they could move.

In Zeller’s case, it was a move and a dive that gave Diggs open space for his second of the afternoon, and earned himself a starting spot  on the offensive line after the bye week.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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