Back on defense, Terps’ Shawn Petty started first game at linebacker vs. Syracuse

November 13, 2013

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

On Nov. 9, 2012, Shawn Petty was traveling to Clemson, S.C., for his second career college start with the Maryland football team. Even though he was recruited to College Park as a linebacker, he would be the Terrapins’ starting quarterback against the Tigers after four players at the position were knocked out by injuries.

On Nov. 9, 2013, Shawn Petty watched his picture appear on the video screen at Byrd Stadium, announcing him not as the starting quarterback but as a starting linebacker. Next to his smiling face was his class year: sophomore.

Internally, however, Maryland’s coaches consider Petty still a freshman, one who redshirted for half of last season before leaving the defense. Petty believed the quarterbacking experience helped bring a fresh perspective once he returned to linebacker after last season. But his perspective at linebacker wasn’t fully developed yet, either.

“We as a coaching staff have so much respect for Shawn and what he did last year, and now what he’s doing,” Coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday. “We’ve got to get Shawn to understand that he’s really a freshman as a linebacker. …  Shawn has done a good job of picking things up at linebacker. He’s only going to get better. He’s a true freshman playing linebacker, because he was a quarterback a year ago.”

Petty started Saturday against Syracuse only because inside linebacker Cole Farrand, the team’s leading tackler, suffered a concussion against Clemson the week before. He made six tackles, one for a loss.

“He’s learning,” defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said Wednesday. “He’s a work in progress. He’s doing a good job, trying to put everything together. The game’s fast. He’s a true redshirt freshman. We want to say he’s a sophomore because he had to play last year.”

Farrand met with reporters on Wednesday and said he is healed from the concussion, with plans to play Saturday at Virginia Tech.

“I’m pumped up, ready to get back on the field, ready to help my team win,” he said.

Farrand’s 23 tackles against Clemson was the program’s best mark since 1990, and he will be counted upon to man the second level against Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas. Petty may have enjoyed a successful debut start, but Farrand’s experience was missed, Stewart said.

“Hopefully getting him back, that’ll be one of the things that will help, his leadership when it comes to making the calls on the field,” Stewart said. “Anytime you have all your starters in, you’re going to fit the run the best. When you don’t, there’s going to be some second guessing. Same thing with offense, blocking, defense, tackling. The best guys, there’s a reason why they’re the starters.”

>> No update on cornerback Jeremiah Johnson, who continues to recover from his fractured toe.

“I think it’s a day-to-day thing,” Stewart said. “When he’s ready, he’ll be out there. Just hoping and praying to get him out there.”

This week, Stewart was asked?

“Just hoping and praying to get him out there,” he said.

>> Dexter McDougle continues to serve as a meeting room influence, even has he navigates a lengthy rehabilitation process from shoulder surgery.

“Dexter’s around every day,” Stewart said. “He’s in meetings, he doesn’t miss anything. He’s around, does a good job talking to Isaac about how to look at film at that position, what to anticipate by the split. He’s been a tremendous help.”

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 | November 13, 2013