When the Terrapins football team arrives in Bloomington to kick off Big Ten play this weekend, a familiar face from the ACC will be waiting for them.
Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr spent the last three seasons in the same position at Wake Forest, where his teams won twice and lost once against the Terps. Last year, the Wake Forest defense shut down Maryland's offense for the game and, on some level, the rest of the year. The Terps arrived in Winston-Salem with a 5-1 record, but Knorr's defense stifled the Maryland offense in a 34-10 Demon Deacon victory. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long were each lost for the year with injuries that day, and nose guard Nikita Whitlock wreaked havoc on the Maryland offense all afternoon.
Knorr coaches a 3-4 defense and brought that base formation with him from Wake Forest to Indiana. Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said he expects to see similar defensive sets this weekend to what the Terps encountered against Knorr over the last few years.
"I see Wake Forest from the last two years," Locksley said.
He added, "I'm glad they don't have that Nikita Whitlock kid over there, but they've got some really good players up front, big bodies that can move, and they do a good job on defense, and I think that's why they went out and got him."
Defensive tackle Bobby Richardson leads the Hoosiers with three sacks and 3.5 tackles per loss. Linebacker T.J. Simmons leads the unit with 22 total tackles. Through three games, the defense has three takeaways, on two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Locksley said Maryland would use the zone-read option to neutralize Indiana's run defense, giving C.J. Brown the chance to keep the ball or give it to one of his backs. The Hoosiers have allowed an average of just 126 rushing yards per game, on a 3.8 yard average.
In pass defense, Locksley said Indiana can bring pressure from a variety of angles. Indiana's secondary, while plenty experienced, has shown vulnerability so far, ceding an average of 287 passing yards per game and five scores through the air.
Center Sal Conaboy said he expected to see less blitzing from Indiana than the offensive line had to deal with last weekend against Syracuse, although nobody on the offense seems to expect the Indiana defense to simply sit back.
"Going into Syracuse, we knew that they were going to throw a lot of stuff at us, so we really prepared for that. We know what was coming, so we prepared for it. And I think we were ready for it."
Against Indiana, he expects a different kind of game: "They've got a good defense. I don't think it's going to be anything like what we saw last week, but you always have to be ready for whatever," he said.
Lately, Brown has mentioned often the role that he and Conaboy, together, play in directing the offense near the line of scrimmage, particularly as the Terps have faced a string of high-pressure defenses. Both seniors, they've been together for years, and Conaboy said he has relished taking on a leadership role.
"I love it. I love being in that position," Conaboy said. It feels good to be able to, when guys turn to you and ask you questions, and I'm able to help them out, point them in the right direction, tell them to look at this or look at that. And then on the field, for C.J. and I to work off each other, it's working well.
"I know him really well, and he knows me really well, so it's a good combination."