Terps look forward to new season with healthy QBs
Zeke Riser isn't your typical newcomer, even on a Maryland roster dotted with transfers.
Wide receiver Deon Long played at New Mexico, then set records at Iowa Western Community College before arriving in College Park.
Ricardo Young spent time at Virginia Tech and New Mexico, then settled in at quarterback with the Terps' first-team offense during the spring scrimmage.
Neither has the experience that Riser has accumulated, though.
The defensive end, just about a month shy of his 23rd birthday, already holds an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and Sports Administration from the University of Houston.
He suited up and played in 40 games for the Cougars, sacking eight opposing quarterbacks and racking up 20 stops behind the line in his three years there.
Now he's here to do some graduate work -- both in the classroom and on the field -- at Maryland, with one final season of eligibility remaining.
"I love it [here at Maryland]. It's a lot different from anything in Texas," said Riser.
Amidst a sea of new teammates and coaches, one important face is actually quite familiar -- that of defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, who coached Riser in that same capacity at Houston from 2010-2011.
And while Riser may have to learn a slew of new names, he won't have to start from scratch with the Terps' defensive terminology and playbook -- a big draw when it came time to choose a new school.
"The fact that I already knew the system, with Coach Stewart having been at Houston, and having been successful in that system, that's what really got the ball rolling for me [to come to Maryland]."
Riser, an imposing presence at 6'4" and around 260 pounds, initially thought he would be staying close to home.
“The University of Texas, that’s where I was planning on going from the start," said Riser. "But whenever talks stalled out with them, I looked at other options, and I got in contact with Coach Stewart, and that’s what got me here.”
As for what happened with Texas: "I have no idea...you'd have to ask them."
Riser figures to slot into the Terps' rotation at defensive end, competing with Quinton Jefferson, Keith Bowers, and Andre Monroe for playing time, and admits that playing time was a big factor in choosing to spend his final year at Maryland.
As with any player, every play he spends on the field, and any starts, will have to be earned -- a fact made clear to him during the recruitment process.
"There were no guarantees for him, when we decided to move forward with bringing him here. He knows he’s going to have to compete, he wasn't guaranteed a starting job. Playing time -- he’s going to have to earn that," said head coach Randy Edsall.
"But again, when you can bring a guy who has had experience playing at this level for a few years, it helps. And knowing how young we are on the defensive line, bringing in a guy who is a senior and has experience is very beneficial...I'm glad he's here."
That level of experience and familiarity, regardless of how long a player has worn a particular uniform, often comes with a leadership role, which both Riser and Stewart acknowledged.
"I definitely want to try to take on a leadership role," sad Riser. "I’m not a real big rah-rah guy, I’m not going to go and scream and jump around – I take my leadership role as more of a ‘been there, done that’ kind of thing, and if anybody has any questions, I want to be the guy who’s there to help."
As Stewart speaks enthusiastically of the impact Riser could have on his teammates, it's easy to see that he envisions Riser as a de-facto coach on the field, in the huddle, and in the locker room.
"What’s huge is, he speaks their language. I need somebody in that room that speaks their language…I guess you could say he’s a conduit between me and those defensive linemen, because he’s played it. And now when I say ‘bullets’ and they’re doing something and it’s not quite what we asked, he can say, 'No, use this footwork to get in there.'"
"So that’s the main thing. A lot of people put pressure on him to be a starter. I’m just glad he’s here, because he speaks their language."
After just a couple of minutes, one gets the sense that Stewart is this close to sending the Longhorns' coaching staff a fruit basket for whatever events conspired to send Riser east.
"Huge, that was huge...yeah, you know, I want [Zeke] to be happy," said Stewart.
"But I want to be happy, too," he said with a grin. "So, you know, I’m glad he’s here.”