While not everything in a Maryland assistant coach Q&A is super fresh at this point (they were all conducted Aug. 6, with the thinking they could be dropped in throughout camp), it’s still curious to see what the perceptions are of a variety of players.
That includes the outside linebackers, who are coached by long-time Randy Edsall assistant Lyndon Johnson.
1. You have Alex Twine and he got his career off to a pretty good start last year. What’s your take on how he’s handling his spot in this defense?
LJ: I think he’s excited about it. He finished very strong. He started off a little bit shaky at first picking up the new concepts, but I thought he ended off fairly well. He’s coming into camp very confident. He has a decent feel for the defense. Now, he’s in a competition between him and Kenny [Tate] to see who that guy’s going to be. He understands that and I think Kenny does as well.
2. It’s not quite the same spot he was in last year, and you didn’t have a chance to see him in the spring, but how do you feel Kenny can adapt to this defense?
LJ: I think mentally, I don’t think it will be a problem at all for Kenny. From a mental standpoint, I don’t think that’s something you ever have to be concerned with with Kenny Tate. He has all the tools mentally. He’s got a very good grasp of the defense. The one thing he did, since he couldn’t practice in the spring, he put in a lot of time in the meeting room to really learn the defense.
The biggest thing is going to be ‘How strong is that leg?’ Can he handle the rigors of camp? That’s probably going to be a big part of the deciding factor. I know he can play. I know Kenny can run and tackle and do all those things. It’s just a matter of how healthy he is.
3. Darin Drakeford on the weak side, I recall that being described as one of the critical spots on this defense. What makes him such a good fit there?
LJ: The biggest thing is his ability to rush the passer. That’s the one thing we found out in spring ball. That was his first time really being at outside linebacker and the thing he did that we didn’t anticipate was he has some natural pass rushing skills. He’s going to challenge guys on that weak side. Left tackles are going to have their hands full dealing with him, so that was a nice little surprise.
4. Marcus Whitfield and Clarence Murphy are there, moving from end to outside linebacker. Is that a major move for them and how did you feel like they fared during the spring?
LJ: A little bit. The good thing that worked out is that’s the position Whitfield played in high school, so he brought a lot of familiarity to the position. Standing up was not a big issue for him, and the same thing with Murph. They were outside linebackers when they were in high school, so it was very familiar for them. They have to get bigger, stronger, faster, all those things, but I think they’ll be good enough there to push Drakeford to make him continue to develop. You never know what will happen. You get those long seasons, somebody’s going to get banged up.
5. You have a couple true freshmen there. Is it going to be tough for them to crack the rotation
LJ: It might be. Obviously, the biggest thing for them is going to be the mental part, going from high school to college. Things happen a lot faster. We saw that issue with Alex Twine last year. He can kind of speak to them from experience. That’ll be the big thing. Physically, both Roman [Braglio] and Avery [Thompson] are well weight-room trained kids and so they have those attributes. It’s just a matter of how quickly can they transition into the college game.
—- Patrick Stevens