Injured Maryland cornerbacks still contributing in meeting room, on practice field

September 18, 2013
Dexter McDougle, shown here at left breaking up a pass during camp. (Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post)
Dexter McDougle, shown here at left breaking up a pass during camp, will be called upon to help out, even after his season-ending injury.  (Doug Kapustin for The Washington Post)

As quarterback C.J. Brown rehabilitated his torn ACL and watched the Maryland football team cycle through four other signal-callers last season, he became a player-coach liaison of sorts, functioning as an intermediary between the two sides. If his fellow quarterbacks had a question they didn’t want to ask the coaches, they sought out Brown for guidance. The same went for the coaches: Randy Edsall would consult Brown about player issues, allowing him to carry the message into the locker room.

Terrapins defensive coordinator Brian Stewart is facing a similar dilemma this season, and he expects his two injured cornerbacks to answer the call. Jeremiah Johnson, who fractured his toe in the opener against Florida International, has become another coach for the secondary over the past two weeks, helping freshmen like Will Likely and Jarrett Ross prepare to step into more productive roles.

And though Dexter McDougle hasn’t returned to Gossett Team House since his shoulder surgery on Monday, the ranks of player-coaches will again grow by one.

“I expect him to be as helpful as JJ has been,” Stewart said.

Stewart, like Edsall did on Tuesday, expressed full confidence in his backup-turned-starting cornerbacks in senior Isaac Goins and Likely.

“I think everybody’s preparing well,” he said Wednesday. “Everybody’s excited about their opportunities and thinking about taking advantage of those opportunities. I think we’ll be fine. Those guys know the seriousness of this. At any given time your number could be called for you to play.”

Against West Virginia on Saturday, Maryland will face a spread offense similar to to the one it saw on Sept. 7 against Old Dominion. But the Mountaineers are also averaging 195.3 rushing yards per game. Running back Charles Sims topped the century mark against both William & Mary and Georgia State.

Last weekend in a 41-7 home rout of the Panthers, new West Virginia quarterback Ford Childress debuted with 359 passing yards and three touchdowns. He stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 25 pounds more than any Maryland quarterback, so his size could at once be an asset for West Virginia and a bull’s-eye for the Terps’ pass-rushers.

“I really can’t tell,” Stewart said. “A lot of people said that about [Ben] Roethlisberger form Pittsburgh, then I see him throwing the ball and people hanging on him. If they can’t get you down, they can’t get you down whether you’re running or standing tall.”

>> Both Stewart and Edsall shrugged off the idea that they should limit Likely’s special teams opportunities to avoid injury and save him for defense. Likely filled in for Stefon Diggs last weekend against Connecticut and averaged 36.7 yards on three kickoff returns.

“I’ve always, as a defensive coach, I want the best guys out there because then it helps us when we get on the field, we’ve got the best guys running down our kickoffs, then we’ve got an opportunity to pin the opposing team,” Stewart said. “I like having the best guys on those teams.”

Said Edsall on Tuesday: “They can get injured doing anything. They can get injured playing defense, they can get injured doing a lot of things. I’m not going to take somebody off something that I know might be so much more superior than the person we’re going to put in there. You don’t’ want to coach from a standpoint where you don’t want to coach scared. We’ll look at that.”

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Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · September 18, 2013

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