COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Hands. Hands. Hands.
You hear it constantly from Maryland coaches and players alike when the subject of new defensive line coach Chad Wilt -- and his impact so far -- comes up.
The Terps first-year assistant from Ball State has turned around a lot of technique for the Terps defensive trenchmen, and it's seemingly started with the use of their hands.
Senior tackle Darius Kilgo, who is hoping for a decorated season in his final go-round, is the Terps stalwart up front. As a junior the North Carolina native had 37 tackles to go with 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one pass breakup, a fumble recovery and a safety as the Terps made the postseason for the first time in four years. Now, with a little help from Wilt, he is hoping to take it to the next level.
"First, he definitely has brought us a lot of energy to the defensive line being that he is a younger coach and he can show us how he wants things done," Kilgo said after the April 2 practice. "We have a lot more energy at practice. He gets hyped when guys make plays, and it just makes us better as a unit. We really appreciate him."
As for those "hands," Kilgo said his needed work. And Wilt has honed in.
"It's one of his main focuses," Kilgo said. "Being able to play up front you have to use your hands all the time. One thing we have been focusing on is striking your hands, being able to get your hands to be able to get off blocks. Simple things like that. And it's been good so far."
Kilgo said getting off blocks has been one of his weaknesses in the past.
"Coach Wilt focuses on using more violent hands," Kilgo added. "Being able to get off blocks and make more plays is something that a defensive lineman can always do. So that's definitely something we are focused on this spring."
Those hands have been noticeable across the board this spring, as seemingly every lineman has had a hand in batted passes at the line each practice or scrimmage, especially Roman Braglio, Quinton Jefferson, Keith Bowers and Kilgo. In the March 28 scrimmage, there were two back-to-back swats at the line that looked and sounded like volleyball spikes from the active group.
Kilgo is the plugger in the middle, occupying offensive lineman so the linebackers can fill and make stops. Meanwhile, he's also added to his own tackling skills.
"I feel like being out there and having a little more experience I know the game more. Reading certain blocks, knowing when certain plays are coming, being able to read stances and finger tips," Kilgo said. "I have just been trying to take that and use that to my advantage. Kinda knowing the game a little bit more, on top of Coach Wilt's teaching us new technique. So I am just trying to put it together as a better football player."
Kilgo had a few stops and two quarterback hurries in the scrimmage at North Point, a night the defense dominated the offense.
"That's one thing we really wanted to focus on, dominating by not giving up big plays, and I felt we did that for the most part," Kilgo said.
Terps head man Randy Edsall said Kilgo has made strides this spring as more of a student of the game:
"I think Darius is getting better. I think he understands there are things he has to work on. The thing I like is we got Darius there and we got Keith [Bowers] pushing him. And those two guys know whoever gets the most reps there is going to be the guy that executes the techniques and does the things that we ask them to do.
"But the biggest thing with Darius is continually getting better with his fundamentals and technique and being a little bit quicker off the ball. Those are the things we need him to continue to improve on."
Kilgo said the experience of the line -- with upperclassmen like himself, junior Andre Monroe, junior Jefferson and the senior Bowers -- has the unit primed for the Terps first season in the BIG Ten.
"We have a lot of older guys coming back. We have a lot of returning starters. So we just want to be able to polish up on little bit more things. We can always focus more on technique and be able to play the game faster," he said.
Kilgo said some of the younger guys have caught his eye of late, like ends Malik Jones and Chandler Burkett, who have made plays on the line as well with their height and length.
Kilgo said he has also taken strides to become a more vocal leader. He went home for the first time in a year last month for spring break to see his family.
He said team success will lead to everyone enjoying the dividends.
"I want to focus on mostly being able to help the defense and the team as much as possible. If we win as a team that gives individuals more spotlight," Kilgo said. "So that's one thing I really want to focus on. I definitely want to have a big year for myself but I also want the team to have a big year also."
The 6-foot-4, 320-pounder said that after football, a career in law enforcement (he graduates in December), with possibly an internship with the FBI or DEA this summer, is next on his docket after the spring semester.
Kilgo is the Stalwart Up Front
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