There was more than a little concern going into this season about Maryland’s defense and its collective ability to get to opposing quarterbacks.
The departure of All-ACC player Joe Vellano and Darin Drakeford -- who each had six sacks last season -- as well as A.J. Francis (4 sacks), Kenneth Tate (4) and Demetrius Hartsfield (3.5) left many in College Park wondering where the Terps were going to get sacks.
Three games into the 2013 schedule and heading into Saturday's game against West Virginia at M&T; Bank Stadium, the answer is apparent for a team that leads the country with 4.67 sacks per game.
Enter outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield stage right.
Enter fellow linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil stage left.
Whitfield’s 5.5 sacks leads the country and Cudjoe-Virgil’s 3.5 sacks rank second in the ACC this season.
The three sacks Whitfield had against Connecticut on Saturday doubled his career output and were the most in a game by any Football Bowl Subdivision player this season. Cudjoe-Virgil (Towson High) is a Division II transfer who sat out last season.
Whitfield doesn’t take all the credit for being the leader of the sack.
“It’s based on our defensive scheme, if we’re able to make the play we make, everybody’s helping from the DB’s [defensive backs] to the linebackers to the defensive line,” Whitfield said. “Definitely the coverage gives us the time to get back there.”
A 6-3, 250-pound senior, Whitfield doesn’t know if it’s a matter of having a chip on the shoulder or “just getting out there and showing how well we really do play as a team, have people start looking at us.”
Whitfield said he hasn’t yet checked out his national ranking.
“People do tell me [that I'm leading the country in sacks],” Whitfield said. “Numbers do tell a lot, but I just look forward to playing in the next game. I try not to worry about that stuff too much.”
Coach Randy Edsall said his team’s sack production is “a combination of a number of things."
"You’ve got to have guys who have a desire to get to the quarterback, you’ve got to have guys who have more than one move, guys that can do things from a technique standpoint that’s going to allow them to come back with things that the offensive linemen are doing in terms of protection," he said.
“I think it helps when you have guys on either side [outside] and then plus you have guys who have speed and quickness and power in the middle. I think it’s a combination of a lot of guys working together and guys taking lot of pride in trying to get pressure on the quarterback with four guys. I think it’s an attitude and guys that have ability and take pride in trying to get to the quarterback and getting sacks.”