West Virginia defense to get workout vs. Maryland
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When West Virginia plays its final nonconference game and its only regional rivalry game of the season Saturday against Maryland, the challenge will be tougher than it has been in recent years,
WVU has won the past seven meetings, but this time an old friend (and foe) — coach Randy Edsall, formerly of Connecticut — brings in a high-powered team. The Terps are driven by quarterback C.J. Brown of Seneca Valley throwing to the dangerous Stefon Diggs, whom West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen compares to Tavon Austin, and Deion Long, a one-time WVU recruit.
“Tavon (Austin) and Diggs are pretty similar,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “They're both from Baltimore and receivers and returners. He's proven to have big-play potential. He's probably a little better at downfield play than Tavon.”
That is high praise, coming from the man who coached the electrifying Austin.
“The thing with Stefon is he can hurt you in so many different ways,” Edsall said. “We can throw him the ball, we can hand him the ball, we can fake like he's going to get the ball, and it takes the safety out of the middle of the field.”
Long has had an interesting career. He signed with the Mountaineers in 2009 but wound up Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. In 2010, he enrolled at WVU, staying only three months because he was “feeling out of place socially.”
WVU allowed him to transfer but limited his choices, even making Maryland off limit. Long went to New Mexico, sat out 2010, and played in 2011 for Mike Locksley, now Maryland's offensive coordinator. After leading New Mexico with 46 catches, Long transferred again to Iowa Western Community College, where he became the first junior college player to catch 100 passes, gaining 1,625 yards and scoring 25 touchdowns.
Off he went to be reunited with Locksley at Maryland. The duo will present a challenge for WVU's revamped defense.
“We haven't seen the throwing threat that we're going to see this week,”Holgorsen said. “They've got big-play potential. Look at Diggs, who has 400 yards in three games and three touchdowns and Long, who's got almost 200 yards and a touchdown. This will be a different challenge for us. I'm excited to see how our guys react to it.”
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.