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One of the more under-the-radar changes this offseason that could end having the greatest effect is the transition to inside linebacker for Demetrius Hartsfield.
Hartsfield and fellow backer Kenny Tate are the top two tacklers returning on the defensive side of the ball for the Terrapins. In 2010, in his second season starting at the WILL (weak side) linebacker, he finished behind only Tate and Alex Wujciak, his predecessor, with 88 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, fifth on the team.
Entering his junior campaign, Hartsfield is a preseason Dick Butkis Award (nation's best linebacker) nominee and an All-Atlantic Coast Conference preseason All-Star selection. He is seventh among active ACC defenders in total career tacklers with 152, 10 behind Tate.
As a star at Southeast Raleigh High School (N.C.), Hartsfield was rated the 52nd-best weak-side linebacker by Scout.com. As a senior, Hartsfield earned all-state honors for compiling 132 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Touted for his aggressiveness, speed and instincts, Hartsfield was inserted into the Terps' starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2009, playing in 10 games and drawing the start in seven. He finished as Maryland's fifth-leading tackler (64), third-leading sacker (3.4) and tied for third in tackles for loss (6.5).
It was not a shock that first-year head coach Randy Edsall wanted Hartsfield to inherit greater responsibility in his defense.
""I'd like him to play a little bit more physical than what he is right now. I think some of that has to do with the fact that he is learning a new scheme and maybe he's not playing as fast as he will be playing," Edsall told reporters in a teleconference in early April. "But he's got the skill set and the size you look for in a middle linebacker."
In his debut at the annual Red-White Spring Game later that April, Hartsfield tallied six tackles, right around his 2010 average of 6.7 tackles per game. Hartsfield averaged more than six tackles per game in each of his first two seasons.
While Hartsfield shifts to the middle, 2010 top reserve Darin Drakeford will replace him on the weak side and Tate will move even closer to the line of scrimmage in his STAR role. The linebacking corps on a whole currently has zero starts at their current positions.
The depth behind Hartsfield include three players without a down of football under their belts on the Division-1 level.
Lorne Goree, a redshirt freshman, followed in Hartsfield's footsteps, switching from the WILL to MIKE linebackers spot during the spring. At C.H. Flowers High School (MD), Goree was considered the no. 35 weak-side linebacker by Scout.com, choosing to come to College Park despite offers from Illinois, Syracuse and West Virginia.
Also adding depth behind Hartsfield is Ray Lynn, a junior college transfer from Franklin & Marshall. Lynn served as a reserve quarterback and defensive back in 2008 before transferring and thus sitting out a season due to NCAA rules. At the Landon School (MD), Lynn was a three-year letter-winner in both football and track.
Garrett Lederman was one of the three Terps walk-on additions announced earlier this summer along with Lukas Foreman (DB) and Ryan Carter (WR). As a Briarcliff Bears, the 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker averaged more than nine tacklers per game. He finished his senior season with 74 total tackles.
Now manning the middle of the Maryland defense, added responsibility and slim depth behind him, Hartsfield will be yet another key veteran determining how potent this collection of players will be in 2011. Hartsfield is one of seven returning defenders and is amongst the most proven, consistent performers. With a more prominent role, Hartsfield is a breakout candidate and should vie for all-conference honors.
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