Amid one of the Maryland defense's strongest 30 minutes of the season, defensive tackle Andre Monroe cobbled together the Terrapins' best pass-rushing performance in nearly seven years.
The redshirt freshman had 2.5 sacks in Saturday's 31-10 loss at Wake Forest, all in the first half as Maryland managed to remain tied with the Demon Deacons at the break. He'll likely start Saturday when the Terps (2-9, 1-6 ACC) close out the season with a visit to N.C. State (6-5, 3-4).
It will be the last competitive look at a Maryland team for nine months. But when the Terps return next year, Monroe looks like he could be a major component in the efforts to bolster a flagging defense.
"I feel each and every game, I've been looking to improve and I've done that, and that's been my main goal as a freshman," Monroe said. "Also, I just wanted to win. We're not exactly winning, but I'm getting better. We're getting better, and because of the guys around me getting better, I'm also getting better."
Take a quick look at Monroe, and he doesn't cut the figure of an imposing defensive tackle. He's listed at 6 feet and 275 pounds and arguably isn't that tall.
But he's elusive, much like fellow defensive tackle Joe Vellano. Wake Forest struggled mightily to handle Monroe in the first half, and his sack total was the largest single-game total for a Terp since Shawne Merriman had 2.5 sacks in the 2004 season finale against Wake Forest.
"He's got a great motor. He's really quick — extremely quick," Vellano said. "He's got moves and works real hard in practice, and it carries over to games. He's a great pass rusher."
Monroe's emergence can't be considered completely unexpected. He was Maryland's defensive scout team player of the year while redshirting last year, and he entered preseason camp atop the depth chart at one of the defensive tackle spots.
He had sacks in a reserve role in the Terps' first two games but suffered an ankle injury while making his first start Sept. 24 against Temple. He missed the next three games, then played with limited effectiveness over the following three games.
But Monroe managed a half-sack against Notre Dame, and last week reclaimed the starting position that's rotated among him, A.J. Francis and Maurice Hampton throughout the season.
Clearly, the lingering impact of the injury is gone.
"It had a little bit of an effect," Monroe said. "If you go back and watch the film from some of the early games when I came back, you can decide there. I just never let it hold me down. I kept working at it and kept going to treatment three or four times a day. Now, it's like it's not even there."
Monroe, however, has established a significant presence. He leads the Terps with five sacks and is only the third Maryland freshman to record five sacks since 2001. Merriman (five in 2002) and Adrian Moten (5.5 in 2007) are the others.
"When he's been able to be 100 percent healthy, he's played really well," coach Randy Edsall said. "Now he's back to being full strength. When he's full strength, he's productive and can make plays for us. He's a guy that we missed."
NOTE: In addition to Monroe's elevation on the depth chart, the Terps also are expected to start sophomore De'Onte Arnett at left guard in place of Pete White. It will be the first career start for Arnett, who switched from defensive line to offensive line last season. White started the past six games in place of injured senior Andrew Gonnella.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.