COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- After missing several days of Maryland ‘s fall camp earlier this August in order to attend to his wife, who had a medical issue, junior defensive end Quinton Jefferson is back and seemingly hasn’t missed a beat. The 6-foot-3, 285-pounder had a sack and several tackles during UMD’s open scrimmage Aug. 16, and has had a couple standout practices, holding up at the point of attack while knifing into the backfield on a few occasions.
“I feel like I’m doing good, getting back into my rhythm and everything,” said Jefferson, who is also the father of twins. “She [my wife] was a little sick, but everything is good now. My family is there to support her, and everything is good at home. I know why I’m here [at camp], and I can really just focus in, because I know she has support. When I come here [to camp], I’m ready to work.”
Head coach Randy Edsall threw his full support behind Jefferson during his time away, saying that faith and family come before anything football related. But it’s safe to say Edsall is ecstatic to have his starting defensive end back in the fold.
“I’ve been pleased with Quinton. And again, him getting more reps and getting back [in camp], he’s coming along,” Edsall said. “The last six months he’s been working, he understands the game, it comes to him [easier] now.”
Jefferson will be expected to take a major stride forward this year, a rise similar to senior Andre Monroe’s, who went from rotational end his sophomore campaign to arguably the defense’s best player as a junior. Not that Jefferson disappeared in 2013; he managed to accumulate 47 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. He had a memorable two-sack outing against Virginia Tech in the upset in Blacksburg, Va., and recorded a forced-fumble and a sack in the West Virginia dismantling.
“Every year in the system I know more and more. The plays now, I know like the back of my hand. It makes me more confident and I can play faster,” Jefferson said. “Every day I come out, trying to get better… I needed to get a little bigger to take on double teams and everything, and I gained 20 pounds. Last year at camp I was about 265 [pounds], and now I’m 285 -- and I feel good with it.
“I needed to work on my hands more, get my hands more active, work on my strikes. And at the point of attack, taking on double teams more, and holding my blocks more instead of trying to escape blocks quick. Just being more physical on the blocks, I feel like I have improved on that since last year.”
Terps defensive line coach Chad Wilt wasn’t in College Park last season, but he’s been impressed with Jefferson’s work so far. During the media day session, Wilt said the Woodland Hills High product had a powerful frame, and has held up as an edge setter who could gobble up multiple offensive linemen.
“With my body frame I feel like I can play anywhere you plug me in. I can play over the nose, I can play the 3 [technique], I can play end. Anywhere you need me to play I feel like I can play it,” Jefferson said. “I can rush the passer, play the run, I’m quick. I feel I can do it all.”
Jefferson wasn’t about to leave his linemates out of the equation, however. He said Monroe, nose tackles Darius Kilgo and Keith Bowers, as well as many of the backups like Spencer Myers, give Maryland plenty of talent to work with. Jefferson noted how potent Monroe is as a penetrator; how Kilgo sets the table with his space-eating and run-stuffing abilities; how effective Bowers is whenever he’s in the game; the strength, quickness and raw potential of Myers; and how up-and-comers like Roman Braglio and the youngsters are pressing the veterans.
While Jefferson was back home in Pittsburgh, Wilt acknowledged that other defensive linemen like David Shaw, Kingsley Opara, Malik Jones and Co. stepped up their games with increased reps. And Jefferson himself specifically singled out Jones and Opara for their inquisitiveness, work ethic, and how they “want to be great, they want to get on the field, and I love that.”
“I feel like this is our year period as a whole unit to break out. I feel like people are underestimating us, but if we do what we do we can stop people,” Jefferson said. “The Big Ten is supposed to have the best linemen and I want to see how we can match up against them. We’re a versatile group of guys. We’re not one-dimensional; we can do it all.”
In fact, Jefferson said the defensive line could go six or seven players deep without much of a production drop-off.
“You can’t have three guys playing the whole game. The wear and tear, it really affects your body. If you can get fresh legs in there, it really helps,” he said. “These guys [backups] want to get on the field… They have that drive, and they’re not complacent in their roles. That makes me want to pick up my game, and we all push each other.
“If you can get six guys to rotate in [and perform], man you’ll be unstoppable. And I definitely feel we have that.”
It remains to be seen whether the Terps indeed have six solid Big Ten D-linemen, but with Jefferson back and fully focused it can only help the unit's chances.
Jefferson's Back In The Fold And Ready To Go
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