Maryland held its spring assistant coach availability Wednesday afternoon, two days before the spring football game. Basically, it’s the only opportunity to talk with the positional coaches until preseason camp opens, so plenty of nuanced observations emerge.
Look for various posts to trickle out over the next few days, but here’s some quotes from the defensive portion of the media session. Check back tomorrow for the offensive highlights.
Brian Stewart, defensive coordinator/defensive backs
On the front seven
The linebackers, they just all need reps right now. We need to see all the situations an because of what we do offensively, we have opportunities to see two backs, one back, a little empty. As long as we can see the different variations we have an opportunity for those guys to learn.
On LB Matt Robinson’s injured shoulder
Matt’s been healing pretty good. You’ll have to talk to [trainer] Wes [Robinson]. Right now we’ve got him with the yellow jersey, shadowing, doing some fo those things. He’s been doing a good job of that.
On DL Andre Monroe’s injured knee
Andre hasn’t been out there, so there’s not telling. Like I said, Wes would be a better person to ask about the injuries.
On whether his spring game team will beat offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s
I don’t like to talk mess, but it’s been a long time since I lost a spring game.
Keith Dudzinski, inside linebackers
On progress this spring
Good. We’ve got a little bit of work to do with the younger guys. We’ve got three freshmen trying to line up, and getting them squared away. But they’ve been pretty consistent. They have their moments, but the older guys have done a great job. Lorne Goree has been really consistent all spring. I think he’s done a really good job playing the Mo. I think he’s really taken that on, and with Demetrius [Hartsfield] leaving, he seized the opportunity and I think he’s been very good. He’s gotten better and better.
With Cole [Farrand] coming off the injury [left ankle fracture], I think Bradley Johnson got a chance to go in there and I thought he did an outstanding job in the first couple weeks. Now we’re trying to implement Cole, trying to limit his snaps but he’s done a godo job,a nd I think he’s getting a lot more confidence. Those three guys will give us good leadership and experience. And we have to really figure out who our next guy is going to be, whether it’s going to be Shawn Petty or Abner Logan or Brock Dean making the jump. But one of those three will have to do a good job and just keeping better and better. We’re just looking for consistency with those guys.
On Farrand’s limitations
We’re just being smart with the reps. He’s come out of the last couple practices, hasn’t been as sore as he was when he first got there. I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence. I think when you watch him run around, you don’t see him limping or doing any of the things he was when he first got back. Last Saturday we tried to limit, wanted to get to somewhere between 20-25 snaps, and again he came out of that, wasn’t real sore. We’re going to be smart. We’re not going to make him go out and do the whole scrimmage, but he’ll get a good number of plays.
On whether Petty gained defensive knowledge from playing quarterback
Playing is playing. There’s always good things about getting on the field and getting that experience. Even a guy like Shawn Petty, he played quarterback last year but he got out on the field and now he understands the speed of the game, and what you have to do to get yourself ready to play. I think that’s been a real positive for him, and it’s been a real positive for Lorne. Lorne’s a lot more comfortable now that Meat’s gone. He feels like he can be the guy, and I think he’s done a really good job.
I think it always gives him a near perspective. Here’s a guy who’s been on the offensive side of game plans and coverages. I think that helps him on the defensive side. Sometimes I think he tries to guess, and I think he needs to be more disciplined about things, but I think it definitely helps him. I think he has a better understanding of concepts. He’s made a couple plays.
Greg Gattuso, defensive line
On returning the same 3-4 system
I think it’s critical. We watch film today, and it’s funny, you sit there watching the practice tape, and the conversations we’re having are totally different. Not only is that true of the kids, but it’s true with the three of us and Brian. For me, I was a 4-3 guy who’s been converted, and happily converted to this defense because I think it’s a great defense.
And the kids, they understand what the words are, the verbs are, the actions are, what we’re trying to get done. I think it’s huge. I think it makes a huge difference. We’re blending a lot of youth into this defense, but the knowledge is something that makes it work. That’s the single most important thing for the defense right now. Everyone understands what we’re trying to get done.
On leaders, with A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano gone
The thing that’s been interesting about the defensive line room is, and everybody knows I love Joe and A.J.., Joe and A.J. were very domineering personalities. They answered every question in the meeting room, not in a negative way. Great leaders. They’re incredibly knowledgeable so what happens is the younger guys in a room don’t get a chance to learn and express themselves. And what I’ve seen in this room is, everyone’s answering questions now.
Lyndon Johnson, inside linebackers
On the starters
Marcus Whitfield would be the Will and Matt Robinson would be at the Sam. We’ll see how his shoulder holds up. Coming back from those two surgeries would be a concern, but he seems to be progressing along well, and schematically he’s ready to go.
On Robinson’s transition
I think he has the skillset. Being a strong safety last year, he played right behind us. He had to know what the Sam was doing at all times so he could play fast. In that regard, I think he’ll be fine. The physicality part of it will be the test, to see how his injuries hold up to those. The size part of it, he’s up to about 240, 245. He’s got the size you want at that position. We’ll see how it holds up once we get the pads on.
I don’t think Yannick [Kudjoe-Virgil] is a surprise. Since the moment he’s gotten here, he wasn’t in our two-deep last year because of his transfer status, his work ethic is off the charts, he’s got a non-stop motor, he’s one of the stronger guys on the team. I expected him to do the things he did this spring.
The whole group is a surprise to me. They picked things up a lot faster, and we’re playing faster than we were at this time last year.
Marcus [Whitfield] has been here a long time, he’s been through defensive positions. For a while he was a defensive end, now he’s back to being a linebacker. But he’s feeling very comfortable in what we’re doing schematically. We’re moving him around, he’s coming from a lot of different places, and he has such a great grasp on the defense as a whole.
Avery Thompson, he’s still a young kid, we were forced to use him last year as a freshman. You would have loved to have redshirted him, but we had to use him. Avery’s got a long, ranging body. I’m excited about the things he can do as he continues to get stronger. As he gets stronger and faster he’ll just keep getting better and better.