Terps' Mr. Everything: Sophomore WR Stefon Diggs
Although it officially still is summer and the feel of cool air only recently started to invade our September mornings, the Maryland Terrapins football program (3-0) already has accumulated more victories than it did all of 2012.
The reasons are numerous. A competitive roster, a healthy starting quarterback (C.J. Brown) and perhaps the most dynamic, game-changing player in the history of Maryland Terrapins football, receiver Stefon Diggs.
Diggs worked hard to improve upon his 2012, which earned him ACC Freshman of the Year honors. Diggs is now on the Heisman Trophy watch list and although he is a long shot to win the award, his name is becoming known across the country.
From an early age, the hype surrounding Diggs was legendary. It followed him from the youth league fields in Montgomery Village, Md, where he often played and dominated against kids two to three years older, to Good Counsel High School (Olney, Md.), where he helped solidify the program as a national power.
A five-star recruit following his senior season at Good Counsel, he had offers from nearly every major college football program. Although there were whispers he had an interest in staying home to play at Maryland, perennial BCS Bowl programs like Ohio State and Florida wanted him desperately.
Maryland fans know (and somewhat accept) the history of five-star recruits form the area who leave to play for the upper-echelon programs.
The school brought head coach Randy Edsall to College Park because of his recruiting abilities, and landing a talent like Diggs was his top priority. It was a groundbreaking coup that would — as he understood — pave the way for future talent in the Maryland/DC metro area to stay home and play for their community. He landed Diggs and now the hype is becoming a reality for the Terps.
To understand the rise of Diggs, I asked local Montgomery County, Md., sportswriter Brandy Simms of The Sentinel Newspapers (who has followed Diggs’ emergence since he was a youth) to describe what stood out to him about the exceptionally gifted player at an early age.
“His confidence in his own abilities,” Simms said. “He knew he was a special talent, but not in a cocky way. He just went out and dominated the way he should have.”
Simms saw certain skill sets in Diggs that he witnessed in other future pros he’s covered in high school.
“I watched Joe Lefeged (Northwest HS/Colts), Tanard Jackson (Bullis HS/Redskins), and Marcus Mason (Georgetown Prep/Redskins) and I knew they’d play on Sundays. Diggs is right there with them and has a higher ceiling," Simms said.
The ceiling for Diggs must rise to that of the Sistine Chapel. Following a freshman season at Maryland, during which he finished eighth in the nation in all-purpose yardage (172.4 per game), he has started his 2013 campaign averaging 176.7 all-purpose yards per game.
Opponents are aware of Diggs and the skill set he possesses. He’s not sneaking up on anyone. Still, game-planning to limit the impact of a specific player and actually doing it are separate issues.
Diggs is double teamed when he lines up as a receiver. Opposing kickers squib the ball downfield to limit his effectiveness on kickoff returns, while punters directionally kick toward the sidelines to corner him.
He is one of those players who can change field position, game momentum, and the final outcome without touching the ball.
This isn’t about hype or building the reputation of a specific player. Diggs already has done that for himself. This is about a rare, special talent whose impact to the University of Maryland will last long after he stops playing on Saturdays, but rather showcases his phenomenal skills on Sundays.