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New-look Maryland defense will be tested by Miami
Question of the Day
COLLEGE PARK, MD. (AP) - Maryland’s defensive players don’t want to hear about how much Miami will miss suspended quarterback Jacory Harris.
Harris is one of eight Hurricane players who will sit out Monday night’s game at Maryland for taking improper benefits from a former booster. Harris started nine games last season, throwing for 1,793 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He did not play against Maryland last year, though, sitting out that game with the aftereffects of a concussion. Instead, true freshman Stephen Morris made the first start of his college career against the Terrapins.
Morris, who’ll get the call again Monday night, passed for 286 yards in last year’s 26-20 Hurricane victory, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson with 37 seconds left.
“I know he threw a touchdown pass at the end of the game last year to beat us,” said Maryland coach Randy Edsall, who will be making his coaching debut for the Terrapins after leaving Connecticut.
“He’s a good athlete. He can run. When you’ve got a guy like that, it makes it a little bit tougher. We’ve got a guy we’re going to deal with who’s capable of winning ballgames.”
The opening game will be a big test for Maryland’s defense no matter who Miami has available.
The Hurricanes have two running backs _ Mike James and Lamar Miller _ who averaged better than 5.7 yards per carry last season. Miller gained 125 yards and scored a touchdown in the narrow victory over Maryland.
Maryland’s defense is missing one of its returning starters, lineman Justin Anderson. Six other starters return, but Maryland will have a new look anyway.
Edsall brought in a new defensive coordinator in Todd Bradford, and Maryland won’t be as blitz-happy as it was under Don Brown.
During early practices, Edsall fretted that the defense wasn’t adapting quickly enough to the new system. But his concerns have been allayed as the players have adapted to the new philosophy.
“Everyone’s all on the same page,” defensive lineman Joe Vellano said.
One of the biggest changes for Maryland involves the graduation of middle linebacker Alex Wujciak. Wujciak, a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, had more than 100 tackles three seasons in a row.
Edsall hopes that shifting senior Kenny Tate can help compensate for Wujciak’s absence. Tate, an All-ACC pick at safety after making 100 tackles last year, will move to a hybrid linebacker-safety position this season.
That will allow him to move around more in Maryland’s defensive alignment. The shift will make it more difficult for opponents to keep tabs on him, because he could be rushing the passer on one play and dropping back in coverage the next.
“It’s unpredictable,” Tate said. “I love the freedom to mess with offenses and use my talents to our advantage.”
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