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With new approach, Terps' Jake Wheeler finds new role at left tackle

COLLEGE PARK — The process has been gradual for Maryland left tackle Jake Wheeler, the growth from a 235-pound freshman in 2010 into a 315-pound redshirt senior capable of holding up physically against Big Ten defensive linemen.

Wheeler's rise from little-used backup to the Terps' starting left tackle also can be attributed to a change in approach.

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Teammates said Wheeler plays and practices with a nastiness and mean streak that he didn't have in previous years, a new attitude that led to Terps coach Randy Edsall putting him into the starting lineup ahead of last week's game against Michigan.

"Being the last year, I decided to not really care about who liked me and who didn't like me and just going out there and getting after it," said Wheeler, a 6-foot-7 native of Hollywood, Fla. "And if I had to start a fight or two, I would just to get things going, get the emotion high in practice especially."

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Aided by Wheeler, the Terps ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns in their 23-16 win over Michigan after rushing for an average of just 1.1 yards per carry in their previous three games.

The Wolverines also had just two sacks after beginning the game tied for second in the Big Ten with an average of 3.3 sacks per game in conference play.

Wheeler "played well," Edsall said, and he will start again when the Terps host Rutgers in their regular-season finale Saturday in College Park.

For me, I've always had great feet and good technique," Wheeler said. "It was just about size and getting bigger. … Just putting on weight to be able to move guys was a big thing for me.

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"It took awhile. But I finally got up to it."

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