Impact Player: Wesley Jefferson

Playing middle linebacker at Maryland has to be one of the best situations in the ACC.

Guaranteed to get a lot of tackles and the opportunities to make big plays in Maryland's scheme, the spot has produced three of the last five ACC Defensive Players of the Year (E.J. Henderson in 2001 and '02; D'Qwell Jackson in 2005).

This year the position is manned by Wesley Jefferson, arguably the highest-rated defensive prep prospect to ink with the Terps.

A three-year starter and letterwinner at middle linebacker for Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md, Jefferson was the consensus No. 1 prep linebacker in the country in 2002. He notched 149 tackles (88 solo) as a senior to go along with 10 sacks, one interception, nine forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. All this after recording 168 tackles, 39 TFLs, 13 sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions as a junior.

A Parade All-American, Jefferson was selected to play in the 2003 U.S. Army All-American Bowl after being named first team All-USA by USA Today and rated the No. 1 linebacker in the country by SuperPrep.

Jefferson inked with Maryland over offers from Miami (Fla.), Ohio State, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Virginia, among others and felt he would have the chance to contribute right away for the in-state school.

As you can see, Jefferson entered with lofty expectations, but his career start the way he had hoped.

He ended up redshirting the 2003 season, as he was named Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year. In 2004, he played in eight games after missing three with an injury, and finished with 22 tackles with one tackle for a loss.

It would be 2005 before Jefferson saw extensive action at linebacker. Playing alongside Jackson, Jefferson played in all 11 games, starting two as he finished the year with 57 tackles, the highest total for a non-starter.

Rotating between weakside and strongside linebacker because of Jackson's dominance inside, Jefferson never seemed comfortable playing on the edge, but this year he is getting a chance to make plays and he is doing just that.

Through six games, Jefferson has tallied 52 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks to pace the team in all three categories. He is one of the league's top tacklers and at 6-foot-2 and 233 pounds he has the speed and athleticism to pressure the quarterback when blitzing.

He is coming off perhaps his best game of the season, as Jefferson posted a game-high 12 tackles in Maryland's thrilling 28-26 victory in Charlottesville.

With NC State coming to College Park, the Terps will be looking to slow down the Wolfpack's ground game, as sophomore tailback Andre Brown is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. This is where Jefferson can make an impact.

For NC State to be successful, they better find Jefferson and block him. If they can't, anywhere you see the Wolfpack's No. 22 or No. 24, you will see Maryland's No. 35.

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