COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- On the first day of spring camp this week, two of the three Maryland players brought to post-practice interviews (as determined by staff) were former Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, D.C.) standouts.
Get used to it.
The gang is altogether now, so to speak, from the local prep power, with linebackers Cavon Walker and Jermaine Carter fully healthy again; Yannick Ngakoue the new starting "Bandit" rush end; and prized redshirt freshman Derwin Gray the new starting left tackle. Then there’s also junior running back Albert Reid, back from a knee injury. In the summer there will be yet another, prized four-star guard/center signee Quarvez Boulware, when he arrives on campus.
And do they ever stick together, and have a “sixth-sense” and intuition about one-another.
The sophomore Carter, the Terps most promising ‘backer in camp as he takes over at the MIKE spot, will lead the new 4-3 attack and make the calls. And he shows leadership both on and off the field, especially when it comes to his FCA brethren.
Last season, in the early game against West Virginia when his former prep teammate and Terps SAM ‘backer Walker broke his foot early in the game on special teams, he confided in Carter first, who had to encourage him to go tell Edsall he was hurt.
“We are just so comfortable, you know when they are guys that you know like from high school you know them inside and out,” Carter said. “Cavon, he didn’t want to tell Coach, he wanted to keep playing on his foot. I told him you got to tell him, it’s not going to be good for your health down the road. He was like crying. When you have that bond you can talk to each other like that.”
Meanwhile, an Honorable Mention all-Big Ten performer last fall, the junior-to-be Ngakoue is the one of the most prized players on all of the defense, leading the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss last season as well as 6 sacks, which ranked second. He will be a centerpiece of the new attack, with his hand in the dirt “and getting down and dirty” up on the line, Randy Edsall said.
Ngakoue, who is a ripped 253 pounds, played the “Bandit” spot back in high school at Carroll, which he attended before FCA. He’ll be a Big Ten and All America candidate come the fall. He moved his squat up to 430 pounds in the weight room this winter, and his bench to 380.
“I took the news in and adjusted with it and took it in stride,” Ngakoue said of first learning of the defensive scheme change in a team meeting last month, the same meeting when Brian Stewart was announced to be leaving. “It’s kind of refreshing a little bit because I like putting my hand down in the dirt because I feel I get more explosion off the ball.”
“Yannick will be fine. He just has to learn with his hand in the dirt,” Edsall said. “But he was excited about it when we told him what we were going to do, and where he was going to play. You are just going to see him and Jesse [Aniebonam] just getting better and better each and every day this spring. We’re going to be able to take advantage of their skill set a little bit more now.”
Terps new defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski agrees.
“I think he can get off the ball. You got a guy, if you are going to run a 40 yard dash you are better to go from a three-point than a two-point stance. A guy who can get off the ball and hopefully create some havoc in the backfield,” Dudzinski said.
Ngakoue, who Carter said has been “all business” of late, said he has to be more violent and precise with his hands. What he likes best about it is it should help stop the run better. He said all the new terminology and wrinkles should be completed by the end of spring.
“Because you snap your hands quicker when you are in the dirt when the targets coming to you, than when you are standing up when you have more freedom. So now you have to be more disciplined and stuff like that,” Ngakoue said.
Dudzinski called Carter a “throwback” type player and a “natural born leader.” Last spring in a scrimmage at North Point High School, Carter partially tore his knee, but not as badly as the others. He’s known Ngakoue since the ninth grade. Ngakoue is big and strong enough to take on blocks, but quick enough to rush the passer.
“And if the defense is good for him, then it’s good for us,” Carter said with a laugh. “He used to be a joker, now he is just all business, working to perfect his craft and really focused totally on football.”
Ngakoue said he’s all about helping the younger players get on the same path he’s been on in his first two seasons, which has been a quick trajectory, “and leave my mark here. And now just basically refine my technique, refine my get-off, things like that.”
On the FCA movement, and everyone back healthy again, he said:
“I am happy we are all healthy, and that Derwin is getting an opportunity to show what he can do, showcase his skills. I like how he has more focus. Last year I feel as though he was going through the motions a little bit. But now you can tell he’s stepped up and matured a lot and it’s going to be a great year for him.”
On the newly configured offensive line, the former Under Armour All American Gray is the “one to watch” this spring, just like so many of his former FCA teammates at other key spots. And Walker will push spring No. 1 Jalen Brooks at the SAM 'backer this month for sure in one of the closer spring battles.
FCA Gang Altogether Now On Field at UMD
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