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Terps look forward to new season with healthy QBs
Standing on a balcony overlooking the south end zone of a vacant Byrd Stadium wearing a team-issued polo shirt, black athletic pants, and red shoes peppered with Under Armour logos, Terps all-conference wide receiver Stefon Diggs had to have known that he was the center of attention at Maryland's annual media day Monday in College Park.
He did, after all, catch 54 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns last season, a dual threat who ranked in the top ten nationally in all-purpose yards during his freshman year.
But there he stood, a stripe shaved into his hair that reached from his forehead to the back of his neck, calmly fielding questions, some with a television camera in his face and others with only a simple voice recorder.
Diggs is now not only the undeniable offensive focal point of this Maryland team, but also a newly anointed leader. Head coach Randy Edsall and his staff operate with position-specific "leadership counsels," a new hierarchy that names players as leaders at each spot on the field.
Diggs was selected to represent the wide receivers.
"Being a leader on a football team, people take notice of that," Diggs told Comcast SportsNet. "It's a role I accepted from Coach Edsall. Coach Edsall said, 'I'm going to put you in this position and I know you're going to do a good job.' And I don't want to let him down."
Edsall spoke glowingly not only of Diggs the receiver and kick returner, but also as the person assuming a role that has less to do with his on-field talent directly and more to do with how that talent can emanate outward.
"I don’t think he’s ever been in that type of position," Edsall said Monday in front of media gathered in College Park. "Those are the kinds of things that are the next step for him."
But there also comes another "next step," one that Edsall alluded to that has more to do with what goes on days other than Saturday, days when Diggs isn't wearing pads and a Maryland jersey.
"The thing with Stefon was when I brought him in and talked to him," Edsall said. "He understands the position he’s in as a student-athlete at Maryland and what goes with the publicity and the notoriety that he’s garnered because of his play on the field.
"We talked about how he has to conduct himself and how he’s going to be watched," Edsall continued. "He’s taken a very mature approach to these things. If he’s doing things a certain way, other guys will follow and will fall in line. The sky is the limit for him."
Whether Diggs just knows the right answer to the type of questions that inevitably follow a rookie campaign like the one he had or if he is speaking freely about his future, his rhetoric echoed Edsall's.
"I try not to get ahead of myself," Diggs told CSN. "Draft stock and all of that doesn't happen until I'm ready to go to the league. I'm going to do my four years like everybody else."
Four years, of course, referring to four years in college, which would mean delaying his entry into the NFL Draft until 2016.
However likely or unlikely that is, this upcoming sophomore season for Diggs has the potential to be even better than his freshman year.
Edsall implored reporters to "look at his arms when he comes in here," citing a rigorous offseason weightlifting regimen that has allowed the Maryland native to add muscle.
"Stefon is a special athlete. He has tremendous ability and tremendous talent," Edsall said. "He's a guy you talk about somebody who has a lot of confidence. He thinks that every time he touches the ball he can take it the distance."
Diggs will have the added benefit of stability this season at the quarterback position, with Edsall naming senior C.J. Brown the team's starter. That comes one season after a carousel of quarterbacks kept turning, slotting different players in behind center because of injury.
"C.J. is back and C.J. is our guy and he's going to do a great job," Diggs said. "I look forward to it and C.J. will do some great things. It's only going to get better in training camp."
And Brown seems to be enjoying the idea of having an all-conference talent as a target on the outside.
"He's being more vocal," Brown told CSN. "He's kind of stepped up and become more confident in his ability because this is his second year in the offense so he's more comfortable too."
"It's in God's hands. I'll take it one day at a time," Diggs said. "I feel like God has a plan for me and hopefully good things happen."
Maryland opens its season on Aug. 31 against Florida International.