- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 22, 2009

It was only a few months ago that Maryland was scrambling to fill holes at linebacker.

Now, one of the Terrapins’ traditional strengths might emerge as an effective unit again.

The questions weren’t so much about holdovers Adrian Moten and Alex Wujciak. They were about the dearth of experience behind them. Yet in the middle of camp, Maryland might have a unit capable of matching the one that has three players - Chase Bullock, Moise Fokou and Dave Philistin - in NFL camps.

“If you really want to say it, with the three guys and our backup guys we have, I think we’re almost better than the linebackers we had last year,” Moten said. “We had some great guys, but I think this defense that we’ll be playing now is just exposing our linebackers - but it’s good exposure. We’re faster to the ball.”

It’s largely due to the unexpected emergence of some players. Weakside linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield figured to become a crucial component, but the Terps have filled in their reserve spots with true freshmen (Darin Drakeford and Avery Murray), a sophomore coming off ACL surgery (Ben Pooler), a converted tight end (Drew Gloster) and a walk-on (Hakeem Sule).

“What once looked like we were in trouble has now turned out to be a pretty good situation,” coach Ralph Friedgen said.

Tight end troubles

Maryland’s tight end vacancy wasn’t solved in the spring, and camp hasn’t done much to eliminate the question either.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Who wants it?’ ” Friedgen said. “I haven’t been overly pleased with the tight ends.”

It’s a mostly unheralded group. Senior Tommy Galt has one career reception, and sophomore Lansford Watson hauled in 10 catches during an up-and-down debut season. Redshirt freshman Matt Furstenburg played on special teams in two games last year, and fellow second-year player Devonte Campbell has yet to play at all.

Last year, Dan Gronkowski tied for second on the team with 29 receptions, and it is difficult to tell who might match that production.

“I think Tommy gives us a guy who is very good at catching the ball; I don’t think he has a drop this entire camp,” Friedgen said. “He gives great effort. The other guys are young, not very physical and they have to get a lot more physical if they’re going to help us. I’m a little bit concerned about where we are right now at tight end.”

The great Tate

The biggest star of the first two weeks of camp is sophomore safety Kenny Tate, who shifted almost effortlessly into new coordinator Don Brown’s scheme.

Tate is disruptive in the passing game and seems to snare an interception in each practice. But the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder might possess even greater value as a blitzer, and at times Maryland lines him up at linebacker.

“He’s quick, and then you sit back and try to block the guy and he runs right over you,” Friedgen said. “He’s got the fastball and the curve, and it makes it really hard to hit.”

Ailing Terps

Maryland has not yet lost a starter to injury, but there are some players hurting beyond the standard aches and pains of camp.

Defensive tackle Joe Vellano had surgery Thursday to correct a stress fracture in his foot, and Friedgen said he will be out until October. Offensive lineman Cody Blue, a likely redshirt possibility, is out with an injured shoulder.

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