Better Know a Terp- Joe Vellano

Sophomore Joe Vellano has used a healthy spring and hard work to vault his way to a possibly starter.

Throughout spring practice, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has repeated one name as the player who has improved the most from previous seasons - defensive tackle Joe Vellano. Vellano has been able to launch himself into the competition for starting on the defensive line through hard work and incredible physical talent, and the team hopes that his performance will be able to carry over in to next season.

The oft-injured Vellano is competing for playing time with fellow sophomores A.J. Francis, Zachariah Kerr, Justin Anderson, and Masengo Kabongo, as well as redshirt freshman De'Onte Arnett. Vellano said he is looking forward to playing with Francis, and says their experience together will help out the team.

“We actually play really well together,” he said. “We run the stunt and stuff, we do it pretty well, so I like playing next to him. It would be good if I could start, and then take it one game at a time and stay healthy, and win some games for us as a team.”

The focus for Vellano this spring has been to stay healthy, something he has been able to do consistently in his career as a Terp. He says that the fact that he has been able to repeatedly practice with the team is the reason why he has been able to be successful this spring.

“It's more that I used to get a week in and then get hurt,” he said. “And you can't really gain any technique in a week, I would keep starting from scratch. Now, you mess up on one thing, you can fix it the next week, you can fix it the next practice, I'm just trying to play quick, and keep going. I'm pretty strong right now, but I feel like I can get a lot stronger.”

Coach Friedgen has been surprised by Vellano's development, and says he is extremely pleased with the defensive tackle's development.

“He's been hurt for most of his career,” Friedgen said. “He came in and played okay last year. He's not particularly fast, but he's very quick and he has very good hands. I see him running by guys he's not supposed to be running away. The ball's snapped, he's going 100 miles an hour. I've been very encouraged by him, seeing how hard he plays.”

One of the biggest advantages for Vellano as a result of playing consistently is a more advanced knowledge of coach Don Brown's defense. While the defensive tackle said he was able to pick up a lot of the defense last spring during meetings, it's a completely different world for him when he's able to actually practice the plays on the field, because “repping it out makes it a lot easier.”

Maryland has already started preparation for their first opponent of the 2010-2011 season, Navy, and a bulk of that falls on the interior defensive line. The Midshipmen run an unusual triple option offense that requires more mental strain on the defensive line to try and see where the ball is going.

“Yeah, we've run option drills and stuff like that,” he said. “It's a different technique for us, you've got to know your responsibilities, you've got to work on your deflecting and cut blocks, stuff like that. I like to get by guys, and get to the quarterback, but I've got to give it up for one game.”

“They're a tough team, it's going to be a challenge,” Friedgen said.

With Vellano on the line, the challenge will be that much easier for the Terps.

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