COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maybe it's the 5-2 mark, the 'Others Receiving Votes' tallies in this week's poll, or that sideline grab versus Iowa that Randy Edsall got some national love for on the networks. But whatever it is, the Terps' head man is opening up a bit more each week, with his comfort zone as well his comments and praise for his players, which usually are pretty measured and spartan.
'"Color" or "sugar" when describing his Terps is rare commentary from the man, but on Oct. 21 Edsall offered up some outside-his-box verbiage describing senior defensive end Andre Monroe, who continues to stuff the stat sheet for the Terps, and is now the program's third all-time sack man with 20 career takedowns.
Said Edsall as the Terps began Wisconsin week, a week they will really need their undersized-stopper-deluxe Monroe (5-11, 282-pounds) up front, with nation-leading rusher Melvin Gordon in their sights:
"It's really interesting. He's [Monroe] going against an All-American tackle last week versus Iowa, and did a really good job," Edsall said. "But the thing with Andre is he's kinda a little bit like a possum sometimes. You don't think that he's kind of not going hard, but all of a sudden he's a lot quicker....people take a look at his size and think a guy's 5-11, with heels on, can't make a play on the defensive line and be as productive.
"But he's got a motor, he's got great quickness, he understands leverage. And you talk about a guy that is playing with a lot of confidence, it's Andre. He's healthy. You know, we had some other things that we dealt with him on that made him better from a sleep standpoint. And he just goes out there and goes hard and wants to play hard.
"But talk about a guy that's come a long way: there's another guy that has really grown and developed in the time that I have been here. It's neat to see."
Not only the "possum" reference, but the "heels" remark, let alone revealing a possible sleep issue, well Edsall stepped out the box. But the kind of season Monroe is having, it may just do it to you.
Monroe, with a team-high 5.5 sacks this season, is on pace to eclipse his team-leading 9.5 sacks last year, which was the best single-season mark at Maryland since Kris Jenkins in 2000 when he had 10. Meanwhile, Monroe's career 31.5 tackles for a loss rank 10th in school history, while nationally he rates fourth this season with 0.69 sacks per game. Against the Hawkeyes last week, Monroe tallied six tackles, one tackle for a loss and a half-sack in the key, 38-31 Big Ten win on Homecoming.
He's doing it all in his improbably smallish package, mostly an under-recruited prospect because of it coming out of St. John's (DC) College High School five years ago, and dealing with a few debilitating injuries along the way at College Park.
But he, along with fellow line-mate nose tackle Darius Kilgo, have seemingly upped their play more each week as the stakes have risen for the Terps in the BIG. Kilgo had a sack and a fumble recovery against Iowa, and received the defensive game ball afterwards from Edsall, as the Terrapin defense bowed up and limited the Hawkeyes ground game well below its average.
But back to that possum analogy, well, it even took Monroe (who on Tuesday looked a bit like a slumbering possum) to catch on to the comparison. He had a little sleep in his eyes, what appeared some bits of grass and twig in his hair after practice that morning, and a bit of bewilderment as he cleared his eyes and processed the description his coach made a few moments before he arrived at Tyser Tower.
In the past, ‘”Tasmanian Devil” has been a mammal analogy used for the bundle of energy Monroe, but this represented new ground in a few ways, which everyone had a little fun with.
“Well….I’m just as surprised,” Monroe said with a bit of a grin. “I’m speechless, I guess.”
Monroe and the Terps defensive line, after getting set and controlling their gaps by the third series against Iowa, limited the Hawkeyes to just 116 yards rushing, well below their 200-plus yard per game on the ground. This week they will have to take another big step up.
“We kinda got into the rhythm, we knew what they were going to do,” Monroe said of the Hawkeyes. “We spent a lot of time on film, seeing their tendencies and what they were going to do. And once we got into the game, I think the most important thing we were able to do was feel out kinda how they were going to play us and get a jump on it early.”
This week the challenge gets stiffer, with a bigger offensive line coming in Wisconsin, as well as the nation’s leading back in Gordon (174.3 yards per game). He’s averaged 217.0 yards per game the last four games.
“One of the big differences is they are bigger. They are a lot bigger across the board,” Monroe said. “And he [Gordon] shows a lot of speed, definitely shows the ability to keep running. And he definitely shows the will to keep running, so he is not the kind of back where he is going to go down after one contact. So gang tackling is definitely important.”
For the season, Monroe has 42 tackles, which happens to be his total for all of last year, while he’s got seven tackles for a loss and one forced fumble. He had perhaps had his biggest game on the biggest stage so far, with two sacks against Ohio State on Oct. 4, while he had eight tackles in Week Two and nine in Week Three. He rates fifth on the team in total tackles, kinda rarefied air for him when considering his numbers career-wise.
Monroe said he has improved as a technician this year with the use of his hands, which he said are more active than ever. He said Coach Chad Wilt has taught him to keep his hands tighter inside his body. He also said his father, Andre, Sr., instilled in him growing up to always use leverage because he can play lower with his body type, and “always be relentless.”
“I think that is a big part of the reason why I am playing better this year than I have ever played,” Monroe said of his hands.
Monroe said he’s looking forward to the first visit to Camp Randall Stadium. He said the biggest factor now, as a unit, has been better communication, which improved last week as the Terps had all their starters back including senior outside linebacker Matt Robinson.
Monroe also said Yannick Ngakoue, the sophomore outside linebacker who is coming on like gangbusters and ranks second in the Big Ten in tackles for a loss per game, gets bigger each day and soaks things up like a sponge.
“He’s like my little bro', he calls me big brother,” Monroe said. “Whenever he needs something I am always there. And it shows on the field, because when he asks me something, I give him feedback, he goes out there and works on it out in practice, and it shows up in the games.”
And like Monroe to Ngakoue, Monroe took to former Terps defensive lineman Joe Vellano, who he saw at the Iowa game and continues to get pointers from, via text or in person.
“He basically…all he could say is, ‘you all just keep what you all doing. Keep doing what you all doing,’” Monroe said.
Monroe said in closing that his most significant play against Iowa came when he pressured inside to set up a Kilgo sack, taking more enjoyment in providing the assist than climbing the Terps' record books.
Monroe Adds To List of 'Superlatives'
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