Maryland's defense was a bright spot last season, but losing six starters left the unit without any true senior leadership. The defensive line alone lost two cornerstones: Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, and the unit took another hit when Justin Anderson decided to leave the program following the spring season.
Then in July, Maryland assistant Brian Stewart reconnected with one of his former players from his days as the defensive coordinator at Houston, defensive end Zeke Riser. With one year of eligibility left, Riser chose to reunite with Stewart in College Park.
Now, after a much anticipated few weeks, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound lineman is happy to get back to the grind.
"It definitely feels good to actually be established and to be doing things with the team, instead of talking about it and seeing pictures," Riser said. "It's pretty cool because it hasn't differed much team wise and teammate wise. It's pretty comforting to know that no matter what team you go to there is always the same kind of people. Whether you are dividing it by position group or class, these guys are really similar to what I was coming from."
Riser, who will be the lone senior on the D-line, will provide guidance and experience to a unit that was hit hard by graduation and attrition.
"The main reason I was excited about Zeke wasn't necessarily that I want him to be a starter as much as I needed him to be the conduit between me and the d-line. Somebody who knows exactly what to do verbatim because he's done it," Stewart said. "So now, he's in the room and if I m saying something that they (the other players) don't understand or if coach Gattuso says something that they don't understand he can talk their language."
As for Riser, he knows what they coaches are expecting of him, and he is embracing the challenge.
"Its definitely a little different because most of the time when guys are new they are usually freshman. I might be new but the coaches really emphasized that they want me to take a real leadership role right away," said Riser, who had 38 tackles last season tackles. "Especially with the young guys. The terminology might be new for some of those guys but for me, it's kind of just like riding a bike."
Although Quinton Jefferson and Keith Bowers are listed as the starters heading into the camp, Riser will have a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation.
"Right now I think I am projected for the right end spot because not many people can get in the left handed stance," Riser said. I have been in the left handed stance for a few years now, but I can really play on either side."
Riser might be familiar with the people and the terminology, but there are a few noticeable differences.
"It's definitely an upgrade technology-wise because we have things like iPads for our playbook and things of that nature. Those kind of things make stuff like access to film a lot easier," Riser said. "Since we need to watch as much film as we can it's definitely been a huge advantage for us, just having the funds to do things like that."
Another difference? The weather. Yesterday the high in Houston, Texas was 99 degrees. In Maryland, the high was a breezy 79-degrees.
Riser said he is still looking for his "go-to" barbeque joint, and a quality country music station, but the climate, well that is something he can get used to.
Riser Embracing Change
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