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Terps’ Bolston sparking defense
There are few frills to Maryland defensive lineman Conrad Bolston. Teammates don't have a deep collection of anecdotes about hilarious antics, instead simply shrugging about how quiet he is. He measures his words carefully, displaying no brashness that might betray his introverted personality.
So what is he doing playing a position where aggression is a prerequisite and an ornery temperament is sometimes necessary?
"Defensive line is definitely not a quiet position," Bolston said. "There's more than one way to skin a cat. You don't have to be crazy to play D-line, but do you have to be tough and you have to be strong."
Yet Bolston was rather silent on the field in the first six games this season, managing only 11/2 tackles for loss and just a half sack So he approached defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo last week about switching from defensive tackle to nose tackle in the hopes of placing himself in a position to play to his own strengths.
The switch paid off in Saturday's 26-20 victory over N.C. State. The senior, who played nose tackle last year before moving to defensive tackle this season, helped the Terrapins increase their pass rush and move within a win of bowl eligibility.
"I just feel more comfortable playing more of an inside position, so I went to him about the situation," said Bolston, who recorded five sacks last season. "We're doing a lot more blitzing and the tackle does a lot more outside containing. I felt I'd be more effective inside."
The difference was immediate. Even though Bolston was a part of just two tackles, his relentless rush helped push the pocket. That didn't happen often earlier in the season for the Terps (5-2, 2-1 ACC), who frequently were the victims of scrambling quarterbacks eluding pressure for large gains.
With Bolston back at his old position, the Terps generated four sacks for the first time this season and also pressured quarterback Daniel Evans into throwing two interceptions.
"We got great speed-rush off the edge from Rick Costa and David Holloway, which combined with what Dre Moore and Carlos [Feliciano] and Conrad were doing inside, gave us very good pressure for four people," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I don't ever remember us being able to get the pressure we got Saturday with just four rushers and sometimes three rushers."
The byproduct of consistent pressure is relief for a team's pass defense. Maryland frequently found itself forced to maintain its pass coverage longer than expected earlier in the season and occasionally surrendered long plays as a result.
The Wolfpack managed only two pass plays of more than 20 yards, a particularly welcome development for Maryland since it meets Florida State (4-3, 2-3) on Saturday at Byrd Stadium. The Seminoles rank first in the ACC in passing offense.
"It was a big difference," senior cornerback Josh Wilson said. "We had pressure from four-man rushes, and as a guy in the secondary, if you can get a four-man rush and drop the other seven, I'm feeling pretty happy because I'm not in man-on-man all day."
Bolston would like to keep that situation the same. He was expected to anchor a defensive line that was relatively inexperienced despite returning nearly everyone who played a year ago, and Saturday's effort could be the start of a strong finish to his college career.
"I've had some on and off games," Bolston said. "I've had some good games and some neutral games. Certain games are different. Certain teams like to run different plays and attack different aspects of our defense. It was kind of frustrating not to be able to get to the production I wanted to get. Hopefully, the second half of the season I can pick this up."
Notes -- Redshirt freshman defensive end Barrod Heggs' status for Saturday remains uncertain. Heggs has been suspended the last two games for a violation of team rules.
"It's still questionable," Friedgen said. "There is a possibility he could play. He has to do a few things, and if he does that, I'll sit down and make a decision. He hasn't done those yet." ...
Friedgen declined to provide an update on Costa, who suffered a partially dislocated shoulder in the second half Saturday.
By Donald Lambro
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