MU quarterback Rakeem Cato, renowned for his Houdini-like escapes from would-be tacklers, certainly has seen those sacks. Then again, the Herd's overriding goal is to keep Whitfield away from Cato altogether. Or from Cato's passes, as Whitfield certainly can drop into coverage.
"It starts up front, and they create some confusion," said Bill Legg, MU's offensive coordinator. "One of the ways they are able to do so is they give you multiple looks because 41 can play outside linebacker in the alley, or he can play defensive end or he can play inside linebacker.
"When you've got a guy who's as multitalented as that young man is, that allows you to be very diverse - aka, offensively, Gator Hoskins. . . . The other 10 players are really good, but it centers on him because of his ability to do multiple things, and their ability to give you multiple looks from the same package."
Legg rattled off several other top defenders, such as cornerbacks Isaac Goins and William Likely. Likely doubles as a big-time return threat, averaging 12.8 yards on punts and 27.0 on kickoffs.
On the three-man line, end Andre Monroe is a close second in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (14). The other end, Quinton Jefferson has seven tackles for loss and three sacks, while Darius Kilgo is what you want in a 3-4 nose guard - a 6-foot-3, 310-pound load who can tie an offensive line in knots.
"They've got some depth. I'm not saying they've got a full-22 depth, but they've got at least three corners, at least three safeties, at least three inside linebackers and so forth," Legg said.
Maryland's defense is not an ACC powerhouse, statistically - seventh in scoring defense (24.8 points), fifth in total yardage (366.0 yards), sixth in rushing defense (150.2) and sixth in third-down defense (33.7 percent). But with Whitfield leading the assault, the Terrapins are tied with Virginia Tech for the lead with 37 sacks.
Legg sees the capability of a defense that, like the team in general, has regathered itself down the stretch run.
"Even some of the games they've come up on the short end of, with the exception of one, it wasn't exactly like it was a high-scoring game," Legg said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.