Bye Week Review: Maryland's defense withstanding injury

Bye Week Review: Maryland's defense withstanding injury
September 26, 2013, 12:00 pm
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As the Maryland Terrapins enter their bye week undefeated at 4-0 to rest, recover, and ready themselves for the start of ACC play, Comcast SportsNet takes a look back at each unit of the team and how it has progressed through four games. Next up, defense.

If you missed the first installment on the offense, click here.

Just like on offense, Maryland's defense unit came out of training camp as a young bunch, featuring just two senior starters.

So what would happen when injury would sideline cornerback Dexter McDougle and cut that number in half? Nothing, really.

Helped perhaps by a schedule that has yet to feature a powerhouse but still worthy of due praise, the Terrapins have been able to absorb the loss of McDougle and fellow starting cornerback Jeremiah Johnson without a hitch through four games. But how?

Let's break it down further.

DEFENSIVE LINE-- Keith Bowers, Darius Kilgo, Quinton Jefferson (starters)

Whether coach Randy Edsall wanted to admit it at the beginning of the season, it's not as simple as it might seem to lose two defensive linemen to the NFL and transition seamlessly into the following season. But it has worked so far.

Maryland ranks ninth in the country in rushing yards per game allowed (79.3) and is third in the country with 4.3 sacks per game. The strong linebacking corps helps, but credit goes to a strong push from the defensive line, as well.

LINEBACKERS-- Marcus Whitfield, L.A. Goree, Cole Farrand, Matt Robinson (starters), Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (backup)

Injuries to the secondary have made it imperative that this defense get pressure on the quarterback. No pressure means too much time in the pocket, which means the young cornerbacks filling in for McDougle and Johnson could be left out to dry.

Marcus Whitfield is tied for the nation's lead in sacks with 5.5 and, alongside Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, helps make up what has been a security blanket for both the defensive line in the run game and the secondary in the passing game.

Edsall has talked a lot about Cudjoe-Virgil's development over the first four games after sitting out last season. His big interception with West Virginia pinned deep in its own territory helped Maryland to a win over West Virginia in Week 4.

SECONDARY-- Dexter McDougle, Jeremiah Johnson (injured), Will Likely, Isaac Goins, A.J. Hendy (starting CB), Sean Davis, Anthony Nixon (starting safeties)

Maryland's bad luck with injuries in the secondary isn't quite as incredible as what happened at the quarterback position last season, but it surely seems to be approaching it. 

As senior Dexter McDougle was having the best game of his college career with two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, he severely injured, requiring surgery and sidelining him for the remainder of the season.

A similar story goes for junior Jeremiah Johnson, who broke his toe in Week 1 and likely won't be back until the second half of ACC play. But Maryland has figured it out.

Freshman Will Likely has been a ball hawk, as has backup safety A.J. Hendy when slotted in as a nickel cornerback. Part of the success should be credited to the linebackers and defensive linemen getting pressure on the quarterback, but it can't be understated how seamless the transition to a new group of cornerbacks has been.