Maryland linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil sacks Connecticut quarterback Chandler Whitmer. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Through three games, any preseason doubts about the Maryland football team replacing its pass-rushing production have been chewed up and spit out by Marcus Whitfield and Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil. Fans fretted, and rightfully so. Neither Whitfield nor Cudjoe-Virgil had proved much of anything at this level, and both were tasked with succeeding Darin Drakeford at the “Will.” Drakeford led the Terrapins in sacks last season with six, a critical edge blitzer in coordinator Brian Stewart’s 3-4 scheme.

After a 32-21 win over Connecticut last weekend, one-fourth of the way through 2013, Whitfield already has 5.5 sacks. Cudjoe-Virgil has 3.5. The single-season record is 13. Both are scheduled to shatter that.

Even if they fall off the pace, Whitfield and Cudjoe-Virgil have been two of Maryland’s biggest defensive standouts this season, and certainly the two best playmakers in the front seven. Whitfield had three sacks and Cudjoe-Virgil had 2.5 against the Huskies, supporting a Terps offense that struggled to find the end zone. When Connecticut needed yards, quarterback Chandler Whitmer found himself stuffed into the grass instead.

But what makes Whitfield and Cudjoe-Virgil so effective, and how does Stewart use them? We reviewed Saturday’s ESPN broadcast and charted every snap Whitfield and Cudjoe-Virgil played at Rentschler Field. The results reveal clear trends in Maryland’s usage of its “Will” position, and some screengrabs will help illustrate how Whitfield and Cudjoe-Virgil, first- and second-stringers according to the depth chart, are actually most effective when playing together.

“It all starts with them,” cornerback Will Likely said. “They make our job easier. You have to stay on your guy and attack the ball.”


Whitfield’s evening started off innocently enough. He blitzed off the left edge twice on Connecticut first possession, dropping into zone coverage and making a run tackle on second down. On the Huskies’ second drive, which resulted in a 5-yard touchdown run and the game’s first points, Whitfield blitzed on five of six downs, but Connecticut kept attacking the opposite side.

Whitfield made his presence felt on the third drive when he blitzed off the left side and stuck a hand in Whitmer’s face just as the quarterback threw. Maybe it had little effect on Dexter McDougle’s ensuing interception, but the pressure was there.

“It’s all the excitement,” Whitfield said. “When you see somebody pick off the ball … you’re taking another step. Shows you the defense is going to work. It’s exciting to see all the other players around you do well.”

The first screenshot comes from Connecticut’s fourth possession, on third and 8 from the Huskies 27-yard line. Whitfield, circled in red, stares through the B gap, an unusual pre-snap spot for him. (The “X” marks his usual location, just outside the tackle. Also, all directions are from the defense’s point of view.) 

On the snap, Whitfield will curl around the edge while the defensive end — in this case Quinton Jefferson — stunts inside.

Both beat their blockers easily. Connecticut’s offensive line had problems all night with the speed of Maryland’s front seven, and it shows here. As Jefferson (blue) hounds Whitmer from the right, Whitfield (red) closes the gap. They force Whitmer to throw it harmlessly out of bounds and punt away.


Connecticut’s fifth series brought a brief respite for Whitfield, who gave way to Cudjoe-Virgil for 10 straight snaps. On seven, the Division II transfer blitzed from the left side. But with the Huskies marching into Maryland territory, on 3rd and 11 at the Terps 30-yard line, the two outside linebackers teamed up for a massive sack, booting Connecticut from field-goal range and forcing another punt.


As you stare at the third-down conversion chart, notice how Maryland will rush just one down lineman. Towards the bottom of the screen, Whitfield, encircled in red, prepares to blitz. Cudjoe-Virgil, also in red, does the same at the top.


It’s not even fair. Connecticut’s tackles have no answer for the linebackers, who breeze by their blocks and collapse onto Whitmer. That little blue line, if you can spot it out, is Whitfield’s arm at full extension, grabbing onto the quarterback and dragging him down for a 10-yard loss.

Stewart’s 3-4 scheme creates these matchup problems. Quicker tackles might contain Whitfield and Cudjoe-Virgil, but for a lumbering group like the Huskies, the Terps can feast.


Another Connecticut drive. Another third-down situation. Another combo blitz from Cudjoe-Virgil and Whitfield, this time resulting in Cudjoe-Virgil’s first sack.


Once again, they flank the offensive line together, Whitfield on bottom and Cudjoe-Virgil on top. (A handy tip for identifying them on laggy streams: Whitfield wears forearm tape and Cudjoe-Virgil usually has a towel swinging from his pants.) Again, just two down linemen blitzing for Maryland. It’s pressure comes from the outside.


It’s hard to see, so bear with me here. The red line represents Whitfield. The blue line is Cudjoe-Virgil. Both have blitzed so deep into the backfield that the pocket collapses. Whitmer has nowhere to run except slide-step forward. The side exits are closed.


Besides, with Maryland’s edge speed, it doesnt’ really matter. Whitfield and Cudjoe-Virgil both turn the corner hard and burn past their blocks. Cudjoe-Virgil gets their first, but Whitfield was waiting two yards ahead. That yellow circle is three offensive linemen currently blocking no one, rendered helpless and watching the sack unfold.


No real explanation necessary here. A third straight Connecticut drive ends with a third-down sack by a Maryland outside linebacker. This time, facing third and goal from the Terps 8-yard line, the Huskies decided to let senior tackle Kevin Friend block Whitfield one-on-one.

Bad idea.



First, the result. Whitfield is circled in red. The blue circle represents four Connecticut offensive linemen and one tight end, blocking the wrong people. So, here’s what happens: 

Marcus Whitfield will swallow your face.



Two more examples. First, the intentional grounding penalty in the end zone that resulted in a safety and padded Maryland’s lead to 29-13. 

Colors aren’t necessary. You know the drill. Cudjoe-Virgil blitzing from the right, Whitfield from the left, sandwiching two down linemen, on third down. They combo-blitzed 10 times against Connecticut. Eight of those came on third down and one on fourth down.


This went poorly for the Huskies, Whitfield blows by his blocker, who’s left staring into space, and has a straight path towards Whitmer. The quarterback backpedals, panics and grounds his pass into the grass. Both Cudjoe-Virgil and Whitmer applied pressure post-screenshot.


Connecticut came within 11 points after a 75-yard touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion, but Maryland’s outside linebackers ensured the deficit remained at double digits.


Here, again on third down but without Whitfield’s safety blanket on the opposite side, Cudjoe-Virgil blitzes off the right edge. Connecticut’s left tackle and running back appear in his path. The Huskies have learned. 

Nevermind. Nose tackle Darius Kilgo (blue) gets solid push on his blocker, shoving him backwards into Whitmer’s path. Meanwhile to his right, Cudjoe-Virgil stunned the left tackle and caused him to stumble for a split second, allowing Cudjoe-Virgil to sneak through a small gap and onto Whitmer.


The sack, his second of the night, set up fourth down when, fittingly, he and Whitfield combined to drop Whitmer and end the game.


Here are the final numbers. Obviously, this is just a one-game sample size, and reviewed to peel back the curtain on Maryland’s blitz success. Also, I’m blaming three missed plays on the broadcast, which cut away from the action so I missed the pre-snap lineup.

But notice several things:

>> 80 percent (8 of 10) of combo blitzes came on third down. Four of their five sacks came on such blitzes.

>> 62 percent (18 of 29) of Whitfield’s solo blitzes — meaning without his partner-in-crime Cudjoe-Virgil — came on first down.

>> 100 percent of Cudjoe-Virgil’s 11 solo blitzes happened on the right side, but his were spread evenly over down.

>> Whitfield dropped into zone coverage, either wheeling to defend the pass or moving laterally to guard the run, on 36 percent (22 of 61) of snaps.


Total snaps: 61

Solo blitzes (right side): 8

Solo blitzes (left side): 21

Zone coverage: 22

Combination blitzes with Cudjoe-Virgil: 10


Total snaps: 24

Solo blitzes (right side): 0

Solo blitzes (left side): 11

Zone coverage: 3

Combination blitzes with Whitfield: 10


Whitfield blitz left, Cudjoe-Virgil blitz right: 6

Whitfield blitz right, Cudjoe-Virgil blitz left: 4

Down breakdown

Whitfield left

Whitfield right

Cudjoe left

Cudjoe right


1st Down






2nd Down






3rd Down






4th Down