COLLEGE PARK -- The shot-gun snap was delivered but before the quarterback could collect himself and get into his drop, Melvin Keihn had knifed (untouched) between the left tackle and tight end and tagged off in a blink, drawing the ire of Terps offensive line coaches and GAs, but the delight of the defensive staff.
It was day four of Terps August camp this month, and Keihn, the former Gilman (Baltimore, MD) four-star standout and onetime Virginia Tech outside 'backer, was already gaining on presumptive starting BUCK edge presence Jesse Aniebonam, the former Good Counsel star expected to come into his own at the pivotal new spot in the 3-4 odd-man front.
Keihn, who sat out last season after transferring home, is all sinewy muscle (at 225 pounds still), but with cat-like quickness that has enabled him to climb the charts this month, and shake-up the possible starting front four in DC Andy Buh's new scheme.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore, who played in a handful of games as a true freshman at Blacksburg, was all smiles after Friday's workout, one of the very last players to walk off the steamy turf field and into media sessions in the shade at the Terps practice complex. Head Coach D.J. Durkin and staff hand-selected which players the media could speak with in Week One, and Keihn has more than proved his worth after arriving at College Park as still kind of a position-less guy, caught between defensive end, where he remains on the depth chart, and outside backer, which probably suits his size better.
But he is a play-maker, just like his days back at Gilman playing for his adoptive father, Greyhounds former Head Coach Biff Poggi, now on the staff at Michigan. But more on that later.
"Coach (D.J.) Durkin's defense, and Coach (Andy) Buh's defense, it's a lot of different things we do out of that," the versatile Keihn said after practice on Friday. "I am in a three-point stance, a two-point stance. I am a defensive end, an outside linebacker. It's pretty good. And Coach (Rick) Court did a great job of helping me get stronger, faster, keeping weight on. I have been at 225 pounds constantly the last three weeks."
On that same day, Keihn jumped into the first-team rotation and showed his quicks, athleticism and instincts at the BUCK spot throughout drills, making plays in the backfield and chasing down ball-carriers from behind.
"The 'BUCK' position, the hybrid D-end," he said. "Me and Jesse are going back and forth, we compete every day, and we're just trying to get better every day."
Keihn had to toil last year as an NCAA sit-out transfer, and last fall in practices many wondered how he could ascend the edge spot at his body weight. He has since added 10 pounds, but not lost any quickness.
"That kind of thing can be tough," he said of the transfer. "Playing as a true freshman at Virginia Tech, then coming back and having to sit out here as a sophomore. But honestly I loved it. It was an opportunity for me to get better, get stronger, get faster, and learn a lot from the upperclassman last year. And I know what I expect out of myself now, and what the coaches expect out of me now, too.
He has reunited with a cast of former Baltimoreans and Gilman grads, which he said has eased his transition as well.
"Oh, it's good, good to be back home. And good to be back playing closer with guys that I know like (former Gilman standouts) Kenny (Goins) and Shane (Cockerille). And guys I played against like (former McDonogh standout) Josh (Woods). All them boys. Now I can go home when I have the time on the weekends, see my family, then come back. And it will be even better to play before this home-crowd team when that time comes."
Keihn is another athletic edge guy thriving in the new attacking scheme Durkin installed, which promises multiple fronts and stunts and the like.
"Melvin just has such a high motor, he's an effort guy. He's got really good ability,” Durkin said. “He can run and do a lot of different things. The number one attribute is his motor. I think it’s contagious to his teammates. He's one of the hardest workers on the team and definitely shows up every day."
"It's the intensity. The one thing Coach Durkin and his coaching staff really highlight is intensity, man. And getting to the ball. Get to the ball, be the attacker, take on blocks. You can't be afraid to get your head in there and make a play.
"And the one thing, and especially watching film, is we try to get better playing really fast and against up-tempo offense. And I think our offense being up-tempo helps actually us on defense.
"And I love the BUCK position. I mean, that's me as that's like me being in high school. Just wind me up and let me go and make a play when it's time to make a play. So it's like, 'let's go.'"
Keihn said he is still getting used to what it will be like to go up against his adoptive father and brother when the Terps tangle with Michigan in the Big House this year. Biff Poggi was also offered a coaching staff position at UMD last winter before he chose Michigan, in large part because his son is there.
"Its very strange as he is the reason I am what I am. The reason where I am where I am right now," Keihn said of Biff Poggi, the longtime Gilman coach. "He helped me through high school, he helped me with everything, he is my father, he's my father away from home. In high school he was my coach on the field, and when I come home now he is my father there.
"But now he is at Michigan. And it's the B1G Ten. And my brother (H-Back) Henry (Poggi) is playing at Michigan. And my little sister Mellie (Poggi) is up there at Michigan, too," Keihn added. "But honestly, it's going to be a great rivalry and I can't wait. But one thing I know is we can't lose to Michigan because it will be a great rivalry in the house.
"But I am very happy for him. And the one thing is he always texts me, I call him, and the first thing he always says is, 'how are you?' 'Are you okay?' He is always there for me. That's great, and I am glad that he is there. But honestly, I can't wait to play against him (smiles)."