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November 29, 2013

Maryland personnel has changed, but not style

The Maryland offense has gone through an overhaul the last few weeks.

Starting wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long both broke their legs against Wake Forest on Oct. 19, and starting left tackle Mike Madaras left the team and school Oct. 29, causing a reshuffling on the offensive line.

Raleigh native Nigel King and Levern Jacobs, both sophomores, and freshman Amba Etta-Tawo are the new starting trio of wide receivers. Wake Forest, N.C., sophomore native Ryan Doyle made the move from right tackle to left tackle, with freshman Michael Dunn going from right guard to right tackle, and sophomore Andrew Zeller taking over at right guard.

NC State defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable said the Terrapins are still operating business as usual despite all the changes that have occurred.

"It's pretty much the same, but with some different personnel doing it," Huxtable said. "Right now, they are doing a nice job on offense and are really multiple in their formations. They have a nice little scheme."

Maryland 27 points in a pair of games — a 40-27 loss to Clemson and 27-24 win at Virginia Tech — but the Terrapins also couldn't muster a touchdown in a 20-3 loss to Syracuse since the upheaval in the lineup.

NC State has faced teams with some similarities to the Terrapins' offense during the season, cutting down on some learning this week.

"There are some things that Maryland does that we've seen already this year," Huxtable said. "We are familiar with those things, but working hard on the things we haven't seen as much. The guys have had great focus and I like how they've come out to work."

Maryland redshirt junior quarterback C.J. Brown gives a running dimension to the position. NC State has faced scrambling quarterbacks such as Tajh Boyd of Clemson, Tanner Price of Wake Forest and Terrel Hunt of Syracuse this season.

"He is a very competitive guy with the ball in his hands," Huxtable said. "He is strong and does a really good job with the offense."

Huxtable and the defense will be saying good-bye to senior starters D.J. Green and Robert Caldwell at linebacker, Dontae Johnson at free safety and Darryl Cato-Bishop at defensive end. Reserves Forrest West, Deylan Buntyn and Zach Gentry are also seniors.

"Zach, Robert and D.J., being in that room with them, they've had great attitudes," Huxtable said. "Things haven't gone the way they had hoped it would go. They have a great work ethic and I'm proud of those guys."

Green missed last year to suspension and Caldwell barely saw the field at linebacker last year. Every game has meaning to them, hence motivation for Senior Day against Maryland won't be an issue.

"They have all played a lot of football for us on defense and I'm very proud of them," Huxtable said.

Huxtable is also working with some freshman linebackers during the season. Jerod Fernandez, Artemis Robinson and Josh Jones, are all redshirting this season. The trio will join junior returning starter Brandon Pittman, junior backup Rodman Noel and sophomore backup M.J. Salahuddin, as the new wave of linebackers.

"[The freshman] are an exciting group to work with," Huxtable said. "The developmental practice where we've worked with those guys, they've worked really hard this fall. They've been giving our offense a look [on Scout team]. I've been talking to them a lot about developing their fundamentals at their positions.

"I have seen those guys improve and they have a good attitude and work ethic. They are hungry and excited to get to the spring."

The spring will help determine who is the new leader at middle linebacker. Salahuddin played middle linebacker for parts of fall camp before moving to the outside. Caldwell and Gentry made the all the defensive calls this season while playing middle linebacker.

"Brandon has gotten better in the last few games, and he has tremendous ability," Huxtable said. "He is great athlete, who is sudden and quick-twitched. He is young in playing experience. This was a good year for him. I expect him to have a great year next year.

"Rodman has done a nice job of filling in for D.J. M.J. is a guy that really had a good spring and fall camp. We moved him from Mike linebacker. All three of those guys, I'm looking forward to them being leaders in the room."

The ultimate departure will occur Saturday to coincide with NC State's Senior Day. Maryland is playing their last ACC game before making the move to the Big Ten.

"I remember when I was at Georgia Tech, and we went up there and it was one of the coldest games and the field was real slick," Huxtable said. "That's one of the games I'll always remember."

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