Towering Terps a tall order

The Baltimore Sun

Before a few scrimmages and games this season, Joe Cinosky has heard opponents voice the same thing once they get an up-close-and-personal look at Maryland's defense.

"I've heard a couple guys say, 'Man, you guys are big,' " said Cinosky, a senior defenseman who is 6 feet 3, 225 pounds. "It's something we kind of pride ourselves on."

From 6-5, 240-pound sophomore Brian Farrell (Boys' Latin) to 6-1, 190-pound senior Ryne Adolph, Maryland's top seven close defensemen and long-stick midfielders could make up the largest unit in the country. The group averages 6-3, 221 pounds.

Towson coach Tony Seaman, whose No. 15 Tigers will tangle with the No. 5 Terps at 1 p.m. today in College Park, compared Maryland's defensemen to "the giant redwoods in California."

Duke coach John Danowski, the only opponent to tag the 3-1 Terps with a loss this season, agreed.

"They have terrific size," Danowski said. "I think teams in general are getting bigger. We have some decent-sized kids, but not Maryland-sized."

Bulk doesn't necessarily translate into championships, but the Terps are reaping a few benefits of their immense defense.

Since 2005, opposing offenses through the first four games have taken fewer shots on Maryland (105 this season), and the defense's 31 caused turnovers are second only to the unit's 38 in 2006.

Although collecting ground balls is an area of improvement noted by defensive coordinator Dave Slafkosky, the Terps' defensemen are surprisingly swift despite their heft.

"We're not just big ogres," said freshman defenseman Max Schmidt (6-4, 230). "People look at our roster and think, 'Oh, he's 6-4 and 230 pounds. Maybe he's a person we can dodge on.' But I would say that with our defense, we have a few stationary defensemen, but for the most part, our defense moves very well."

The No. 2 Blue Devils, however, might have put a dent in that theory by scoring more than half of their 15 goals in transition. Duke's game plan of not allowing Maryland's defense to get settled in its six-man standard alignment might become a blueprint for opponents.

"I think that's something that teams could try to do, but I feel like our [midfielders] are really good about getting back in the hole," junior defenseman Mike Griswold (6-4, 230) said. "So it's something that we're going to work on, and it's something we're going to improve."

The Terps' next test could come from Towson. Aside from 6-4, 235-pound junior midfielder Bill McCutcheon, the Tigers' offense is composed of small, quick players who need just the slimmest of seams to fire a shot.

Senior attackman Jonathan Engelke, named the Colonial Athletic Association Conference Player of the Week for his hat trick and two assists in a 10-9 win against then-No. 20 Denver on Sunday, leads Towson with seven points (five goals and two assists).

Slafkosky and Maryland coach Dave Cottle are not prepared to liken the current defense to the unit that helped lead the 2005 squad to the NCAA tournament final four.

The potential is there, Cottle said, but the jury is still out.

"Yeah, it's big," he said. "It is the biggest defense I've had, but it's not the best."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

No. 5 Maryland's defense might be the biggest in the nation. The team's top seven close defensemen and long-stick midfielders average 6 feet 3 and 221 pounds. They are (in order of height):

Name Year Ht. Wt.

Brian Farrell So. 6-5 240

Mike Griswold Jr. 6-4 230

Max Schmidt Fr. 6-4 230

Joe Cinosky Sr. 6-3 225

Zach Hinton Sr. 6-3 205

Jacob Baxter Sr. 6-1 230

Ryne Adolph Sr. 6-1 190

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