Terp receivers present challenge
MORGANTOWN – Dana Holgorsen watches footage of Maryland’s football team, and one player he sees reminds him of a player who used to wear No. 1 for the Mountaineers.
Stefon Diggs, like former Mountaineer Tavon Austin, wears No. 1 for the Terrapins, and like Austin, carries big-play potential whenever the ball is in his hands.
“Tavon and Diggs are pretty similar,” Holgorsen said. “They’re both from Baltimore and (are) receivers and returners. (Diggs) has proven to have big play potential. He’s probably a little better at downfield play than Tavon. Tavon didn’t have the downfield potential. His thing was to get the ball and go score.”
Through three games, Diggs has caught 16 passes for 387 yards and three touchdowns. His 24.2 yards per catch tops the Atlantic Coast Conference and is fourth nationally. He also leads the ACC with 176 all-purpose yards per game.
“Stefon Diggs is a guy we need to set a back stop on,” WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “Oklahoma had some pretty good receivers, and they are very similar to Maryland’s. They are pretty big on the boundaries and a vertical threat.”
A name that should be familiar to Mountaineer fans also ranks among the ACC’s best receivers.
Deon Long, who originally came to WVU but left without ever playing a game, has taken quite the route to joining the Terrapins. Long first went to New Mexico, then to a junior college program at Iowa Western before returning to his home state of Maryland.
Long has pulled down 15 passes through the Terrapins’ first three games. Nine of those catches, good for 110 yards, came in the season-opening win over Florida International.
“We haven’t faced a passing attack like this yet,” Holgorsen said. “Do we feel better about where we are defensively? Yes, absolutely. Do we have it all figured out? No. Maryland is going to bring some bigger challenges. They have the ability. Oklahoma State and Baylor, our next two opponents, are also going to have a lot of ability. So this will be the game where we see where we are at.”
Patterson, however, cautioned against focusing just on the receivers and quarterback C.J. Brown.
“They are very balanced and are putting up 520-some yards a game, 290 throwing it and 230 rushing it,” Patterson said. “You have to make them one-dimensional, and that will be one of the keys to the game. The difference is the run game. There are many options, so it is a challenge. You cannot let them get balanced.”