Learning process for Terps true freshmen Stefon Diggs, Wes Brown

First-year players show tantalizing potential, but must limit turnovers

September 09, 2012|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

Stefon Diggs allowed himself a weak smile. Maryland had just defeated Temple, and Diggs had accounted for 135 yards on punt and kickoff returns, rushes and receptions.

But Diggs had also fumbled a fourth-quarter punt. "I took my eyes off the ball — lack of concentration," he said.

Now he was putting it all into perspective.

"We're freshmen," Diggs said. "Freshmen do make mistakes."

It's a truism that Maryland knows all too well.

Through its first two games, Maryland (2-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) has eight turnovers (five fumbles, three interceptions). Each one was committed by a true freshman.

And yet the Terps have survived. If it defeats Connecticut (1-1, 0-0 Big East) at Byrd Stadium on Saturday, Maryland will surpass last season's win total in just its third game.

Coaches knew the team was in for some rough moments in the early season. Maryland entered the year with 14 true freshmen on the two-deep depth chart.

Maryland's hope was that the freshmen would counterbalance their inevitable early miscues with big plays. That's what has happened — at least so far.

True freshman quarterback Perry Hills had three interceptions in the season-opening win over William & Mary. He fumbled against the Owls, but he also threw the first two touchdown passes of his college career and scored on an 11-yard run. And he was not intercepted.

"Perry's just going to continue to get better," coach Randy Edsall said. "He's going to be a work in progress throughout the year but I think [with] any rookie quarterback or freshman quarterback, that's what you're going to have."

Freshman tailback Wes Brown also dazzled — and perplexed — coaches during Saturday's 36-27 win.

Brown — a high school teammate (Good Counsel) of Diggs — is Maryland's biggest tailback at 210 pounds. Against the Owls, Brown carried seven times for 50 yards, a 7.1 yard average. But he fumbled twice.

Asked about Brown, Edsall told reporters afterward: "This is college football. This isn't Good Counsel football anymore."

But the coach also said: "We're not going to be down on Wes. He's out there trying and it's a learning experience. That's why we put him back in there. It's a learning experience."

In high school, Brown said he and the excitable Diggs — who can be animated on the field and the sideline — helped keep each other composed when things weren't going right.

"If he's mad, I calm him down. I treat him like he's my little brother," Brown said during the preseason.

After his fumble, Diggs said his teammates were supportive.

"They've got my back," he said.

Edsall said his players are learning on the fly.

"They're learning the intricacies of college football and how you have to protect the football and have good ball security," the coach said. "I told them [Sunday] we can't go on having this many turnovers and continue to expect to win."

Notes: Fullback Tyler Cierski, an important blocker, left the Temple game early and headed to the locker room. Edsall said Maryland would have information on the sophomore later in the week. … Defensive lineman Keith Bowers returned from a knee injury Saturday and was on the field for about 15 plays. He had one tackle. "He plays with such high energy and a good motor," Edsall said,



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