COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The large tattoo across his ample belly reads '1992' -- honoring the year of his birth -- and to some it almost seems like Terps junior defensive end Andre Monroe has been at College Park that long.
Monroe, finally slotted at No. 1 defensive end this spring after a career checkered with injuries and lost seasons, also has a shaggy beard that could be just as old as well. He began growing it last fall, but admits once the weather warms it will be going.
But there is nothing stale about his game, the whirling-dervish, 5-11, 282-pounder with the low center and gravity and great quickness up front for Maryland, where last season, despite a late start, led the team with 9.5 sacks.
"I thought I closed on a very good note, just basically playing the best ball that I can play. And just having that hunger, that feeling that I still had something to prove," Monroe said on Saturday at Terps spring practice.
Monroe has battled knee and foot injuries, has moved from three-technique to end to nose and now back to end, during his career. And now he hopes to have finally found a home starting for new Terps D-line Coach Chad Wilt, alongside stalwarts Darius Kilgo and Quinton Jefferson, as the Terps eye their BIG Ten transition this fall.
Monroe said his mission this fall is to fine-tune his technique, mostly his tackling and attention to details, which can raise his game even more. On Saturday he was up to his old tricks, twice sacking/touching off on quarterback C.J. Brown in drills.
"But there were times last season where if I would have paid attention to the details, like my footwork or my hand placement a little bit better, well I would have made even more plays," Monroe said.
As for tackling, Monroe said his feet still need work, and his goal by the end of the spring "is to be a great tackler. When I looked at film, it would have got me a couple more sacks because there were a couple sacks where I had the guy but I didn't run my feet and the guy was able to get loose."
Said Randy Edsall over the weekend:
"Andre plays with a good motor. He is continuing to learn more technique and getting better, and he is a guy that has to have a good year for us. But he's been working extremely hard and he's a guy that's going to be counted on quite a bit to have a productive year for us."
And like his new position coach Wilt, Monroe is a bundle of energy. While he may not fit the stereotypical starting end mold (that 5-11 listing is highly generous), he makes do with his energy, burst, and ability to dominate in tight spaces those bigger, more slow-footed opponents.
Monroe said Wilt's "really, really energetic" personality is something the line needed as a unit. He said they met during winter session for the first time and he told him of his expectations.
"What jumped out was the enthusiasm part, having the energy, always being electrifying. That's the main thing I am taking from him right now," Monroe said.
Monroe was at 275 lbs last season and is now up to 282, though he said "it's all good weight."
Last season, despite only starting the final four games, Monroe led the team with 9.5 sacks, while also rating first in TFLs with 17. He also had two forced fumbles and a PBU. His top performance came in his first start, in Maryland's upset of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where he had 3 sacks and 3.5 TFLs. His game-high for tackles came against Marshall in the Military Bowl, where he registered 7.
But it's been a tough road for the former St. John's (DC) standout, who missed his sophomore season due to a knee injury suffered in fall camp. The year before, he had made Freshman AA and Freshman All-ACC after playing in nine games, including four starts, and posting a team-high five sacks despite missing three games with an injury. He tied all-ACC pick Joe Vellano with the team lead in TFLs with 7.5.
His Terps career has also been defined by moving around the D-line, filling holes for a depleted unit at times. As a redshirt freshman he was a three-technique, then moved to end, got hurt, and is now back at end.
"I see the D-Line, a lot of experience coming back with us. But one thing I see is the togetherness, and we have the willingness to push each other all the time," Monroe said of the experienced senior and junior group. Monroe said the line scheme and technique has not changed much under Wilt, who has much experience in the 3-4.
This past season, Monroe got off to a slow start due to another leg injury, but finished as the fastest-rising Terp with his team-leading sacks and disruptive play. He will graduate in May, but plans on another season next fall at College Park.
Music production remains his dream vocation down the line, and he enjoys tinkering with the craft back in his dorm room.
"I make music, stuff like that, and I am always looking to take it to the next level," said Monroe, who plans to intern in the field soon.
Meanwhile, kid brother Ayron, a standout defensive back and track athlete at St. John's, has a Terps offer and a growing list of suitors as his recruitment has gone more national than his older brother, who has a completely different body type to say the least.
"It is going good for him. But honestly what I tell him is all the offers are good but the main thing is take care of your grades, maintain them. Focus on that, and then secondly the technique and football aspect of things. That's what you need to do."
As far as Wilt and his expectations for him, Monroe said simply:
"Just continue to make plays."
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