Donnell Brown is always the first up among Maryland football’s defensive lineman when waiting for a drill to start. He exudes an eagerness to improve.
That enthusiasm first flashed this summer, when left tackle DJ Glaze said Brown quickly became one of the stingiest pass rushers to face in practice. Glaze knew then the impact the Terps’ new addition would have.
“We have some good battles, some good back-and-forth,” Glaze said.
Brown transferred to the Terps after three seasons at St. Francis, where his accolades included an NEC defensive player of the year award and two FCS All-American honors. The Upper Marlboro native returned home for his fourth college football season and has turned into one of Maryland’s top pass rushers.
Despite starting just one game this season, Brown is second on the team with 12 pressures, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten among players with fewer than 100 pass rush snaps on the season.
A slight change in position powered Brown’s emergence. He played linebacker at St. Francis, but now mostly plays as a down lineman over a tackle or tight end. Brown could “freelance” in his previous role, he said. At Maryland, his assignments and responsibilities are more structured.
“[I’m] starting to get more comfortable in myself,” Brown said. “Just figuring out what lanes I can take, what rushes I can actually do depending on the call or scheme.”
Brown has provided Michael Locksley a deep defensive line group, which allows the coach to cycle through players and prevent overworking them — eight defensive linemen have logged at least 100 snaps this season. Maryland is third in the Big Ten with 21 sacks.
“At the beginning of the season, we [were] a little slow as far as starting to rush as a team and figuring out what our rush lanes need to be and our individual jobs,” Brown said. “Now, it’s just starting to get more comfortable.”
Terps getting healthier
Maryland is slated to return a number of its injured starters ahead of its game at Northwestern Saturday after its week off.
Locksley said he expects Tarheeb Still to play this week. Still missed the last two games with a lower body injury he suffered in Maryland’s win over Indiana. With him out, cornerbacks Ja’Quan Sheppard and Corey Coley Jr. played expanded roles in losses where the Terps struggled to slow opponents’ passing games.
Safety Dante Trader Jr., tight end Corey Dyches and guard Corey Bullock have also returned to practice over the bye, Locksley said.
Trader exited the Terps’ loss at Ohio State early and did not play against Illinois. Dyches and Bullock were also sidelined against the Fighting Illini — Maryland was missing four starters in the defeat.
Ramon Brown is also in line to make his season debut on Saturday, Locksley said. The running back has not played this season after appearing in 11 games last year as a freshman.
Neeo Avery has yet to play this season, and Locksley is still unsure when his debut will come. The freshman linebacker, a former four-star recruit from Our Lady of Good Counsel, has been sidelined the entire fall. Avery has not been given permission to begin football activities from the team’s medical staff, Locksley said. As the season winds down, the possibility of redshirting Avery grows by the week.
“When they tell me people can play, I start preparing for them to be able to play,” Locksley said.
Upcoming opponent under investigation
Michigan comes to College Park on Nov. 18 and is currently under investigation for alleged sign stealing.
Connor Stalions, a Wolverines staffer, bought tickets to more than 30 games over the last three seasons to record opponents’ play call signs from the sideline, ESPN reported. Stalions has since been suspended. It’s unclear to what extent Maryland was impacted.
Locksley, who said he was surprised by the news, said the Terps have “anti-spying techniques” in place. Maryland will consider changing its signs or using wristbands to get play calls to Taulia Tagovailoa when the Terps face Michigan later this season.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Locksley said. “It goes on in college football, maybe not as elaborate as that … We’re a no-huddle team, so we signal a lot.”