It takes lot of different components to make up a good defense. A great scheme certainly helps, and Brian Stewart's 3-4 has shown an affinity for red zone stops and pressuring the quarterback. You definitely need some push on the defensive line, to get to whoever happens to have the ball. You need a reliable secondary to make stops on passing downs and contain any explosive weapons the opponent might have.
But what if you can have a player who can do both things? Someone who could, I don't know, provide nearly perfect coverage of slant routes and other plays over the middle while also containing the field from quarterback scrambles and draw plays, forcing turnovers and punts whenever third downs went his way?
Linebacker Marcus Whitfield and safety Sean Davis may have posted the gaudiest stats, but there was another player who came up with big plays when the Terps needed them and dominated every aspect of the defensive game -- Matt Robinson.
Coming into the year, Robinson had a complicated injury history, and many feared his career would end up much like Kenny Tate's -- a safety moved to linebacker due to injury who can't adapt to the new position. That proved not to be the case, as Robinson retained his speed and pass coverage abilities from his own position and combined them with a hard-hitting ability that allowed him to make plays to stop the run.
In reality, the role Matt Robinson played this year for Maryland was the one the Terps wanted from Tate when they moved him down from safety. At first, it might come as a surprise that it was Robinson who succeeded,and not Tate, but it does make sense -- while both played strong safety, Robinson was much more of a hitting-based defensive back, and that allowed him to make the switch to linebacker a bit more easily.
Robinson finished the year ranked fourth on the time in tackles, with 70, and had ten for a loss with a fumble forced, two fumble recovers and three pass deflections. All three of those pass deflections came at big times for the Terps, and the fact that he was able to be a strength in coverage and get ten tackles for a loss on the year is simply astounding.
If you want more proof of Robinson's importance, just take a look at what happened in the Virginia game. Maryland nearly lost to a team that went 2-10, largely because Robinson was not there to cover tight end Jake McGee, who posted a season-best performance of eight catches for 114 yards. The other game Robinson missed? Wake Forest, where Mike Campanaro 11 passes for 122 yards without support from Robinson over the middle.
Robinson was a junior this season, and is one of a handful of key defenders who will return next season for Big Ten play. Along with Cole Farrand, Lorne Goree, Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil, Alex Twine and Yannick Ngakoue, it could be one of the fiercest units in the conference.