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Finishing 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season, the Maryland pass defense needed to be revamped and improved.
Enter Randy Edsall.
The defensive-minded head coach made headlines with his considerable positions swaps during the offseason, including the return of David Mackall to defensive end.
"I think they are right in the exact spots for their abilities and what we want do schematically on defense, and [to] get our best 11 people on the field," Edsall said of Mackall, Kenny Tate and Demetrius Hartsfield, for whom he titled "the big three" during a teleconference in early April. All three veterans changed positions this spring.
In his first season, Mackall played a dozen games as a reserve linebacker, finishing third on the team with three sacks, adding three tackles for loss as well. With the graduation of defensive end Drew Gloster, a new scheme being implemented and the team finishing seventh in the conference in total sacks (28), Mackall seemed to be a perfect fit for Edsall's pass-rusher.
"I have a real positive outlook on the move," Mackall told reporters following the annual Red-White Spring Game. "At first I was a little bit upset about the move, but at the end of the day it's not about the individual it's about winning. With the move I could be more of an asset to the team. Knowing that, I embraced it and played as hard as I could throughout the spring and made a lot of progress."
Mackall finished the Red-White game with a tackle for loss and an interception.
Before coming to the College Park, though, Mackall was a three-star defensive end prospect out of Edmondson-Westside High School (MD). Touted as the no. 83 defensive end in the nation by Scout.com, Mackall tallied 91 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles during his senior season.
Now he will have a chance to sharpen his craft under Edsall and first-year defensive line coach Greg Gattuso.
Since 2002, Connecticut's debut season in the Big East, Edsall's Huskies led the conference in total defense and finished among the nation's top 20 three times (2002, 2005, 2008), including sixth in 2008.
Gattuso, who left Pittsburgh to coach alongside Edsall, honed two of the country's top pass-rushers a season ago. Big East Defensive Player of the Year Jabaal Sherard and Brandon Lindsey finished their 2010 campaigns with nine and 10 sacks, respectively. The season prior Greg Romeus and Mick Williams earned the award. Romeus, with 11 tackles for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles, earned first-team all-conference honors. Williams led the Big East with 17 tackles for loss, in addition to his five sacks and three forced fumbles while playing on the interior of the defensive line.
The depth behind Mackall is as deep as any on the team, as pass-rushing seems to be a focal point on Edsall's defense now and for seasons to come. Backing up at the left end spot are two upperclassmen, Isaiah Ross and Alvin Thomas, as well as sophomore Marcus Whitfield and true freshman Keith Bowers.
Ross, who played as a reserve defensive lineman his first two seasons, has recorded 2.5 sacks and five tackles for loss during his career. His freshman season, though, was cut short by a knee injury.
A transfer, Thomas sat out during the 2010 season due to NCAA transfer rules. As a freshman at Albright College, in 2008, Thomas posted 11.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks. A year later he enjoyed a breakout year, registering 31 tackles and 10 sacks en route to being named All-Middle Atlantic Conference honors.
Whitfield, an outside linebacker prospect out of nearby Northwest High School (MD), was considered Scout.com's 63rd-rated strong-side backer in 2009. After redshirting his first season, Whitfield injured his right knee in the team's second game against Morgan State.
Rounding out the depth chart is one of the highlights of the incoming 2011 recruiting class. Bowers, a three-star defensive tackle prospect out of William T. Dwyer High School (Fla.), enjoyed a 74-tackle, 15-sack season his senior year, earning a First Team All-Area selection. Bowers was one of 12 defenders in the 2011 class.
Despite the heap of players listed at left defensive end, it is still Mackall who must show up and perform for the Terps in 2011. It's the pass-rushing ability and veteran prowess Edsall and his coaching staff saw in Mackall that convinced the Maryland head coach to change his position in order to revitalize the team's pass defense.
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