Fresh(men) Challenges

It's youth against youth as West Virginia's defense challenges Maryland's offense on Saturday.

And, as per typical with a young team, the Mountaineers are focusing less on Maryland and more on themselves. That's been the idea through the first two games, and it has served well. Defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said he has been pleased with the progress, enough that WVU plans to add to its packages entering the contest.

"We'll have some tricks up our sleeve, I promise you that," he said.

DeForest, like Maryland head coach Randy Edsall, understandably wouldn't elaborate when pressed for game plan details. But one should assume that an emphasis has been placed on finishing blitzes. Several defensive coaches noted that WVU, if it has simply finished sacks when it had the chance, would have 15 right now, which would lead the country.

"We have to get him on the ground," defensive line coach Erik Slaughter said of UM true freshman quarterback Perry Hills. "We have five sacks, but we probably could have 15. We have hit the guy, but let him get out. We have to be more disciplined in our rush lanes. I thought we did a great job of getting after the quarterback, but we have to get him on the ground. That's what our defense is based around. You have to get around them and get them down. Young quarterbacks are a lot less effective when you're around them."

Even finishing half of the missed sacks would still leave the Mountaineers in double digits in the stat at this point. It'll be a major key to slowing a solid, if not spectacular, Maryland offense that plans to use ball control and run clock to both keep WVU's offense in check and limit potential self-inflicted mistakes by its young players. The Terps have thrown four picks and actually won their first two games despite committing more turnovers than their opponent. That's something that can't happen against a high-powered offense West Virginia's Air Raid, so getting off the field on third down and limiting UM's possession time will be paramount.

"I think you have to do whatever you can do," DeForest said. "It's not what they can do or can't do. It's what you can execute. I think we are at a point now going into our third game, we have made such great progress from game one to game two, if we can continue that trend, we can start putting more pieces of our defense in. That means putting in an extra blitz or an extra coverage or something each week, we can really build towards the middle of the season."

Besides Hills, the first true freshman to start under center for Maryland since 1999, the Terps rely on fellow freshmen Wes Brown (124 yards, 5.9 ypc) and Stefon Diggs (16.2 ypc in '12, 223 all-purpose yards vs UConn) to lead the running backs and receivers, respectively. DeForest said Maryland, while young, has skilled wideouts that should test the West Virginia secondary. The Terps average 21 points and 258 yards per game. The passing numbers are solid at 37 for 69, a completion rate of 53.6 percent.

"So far, that's the best receiving corps we have seen," said free safety Karl Joseph, himself one of six freshmen to be listed in the Mountaineers' defensive two-deep. "We just have to stay focused and read our keys."

In all, UM lists 14 true freshmen in its two-deep – fourth most in the FBS – and Edsall has already played 12, the ninth most in the FBS. Two of the other three schools that list more are Big 12 foes Texas and TCU, with 15.

"We are pretty young, ourselves, so that will be a challenge," Slaughter said. "They are getting better every day, and we expect them to come here and play well."


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